Our brainstorm activities don’t so much focus on one idea as collate a whole stack of thoughts – all of which will feel absolutely relevant to one or other of your course texts.

  • MUSIC FOCUS: The best new alternative music from Arm’s Length, Carly Cosgrove, Bartees Strange and Chat Pile.
  • ACTIVITY FOCUS: Quick thinking about a whole range of ideas and techniques that will enable a more inventive approach to whichever texts you’re reading at school.

You already know how much the Sound of Pen community loves Maggie Lindemann, Taylor Swift, Bring Me The Horizon, Years & Years, Against The Current and all the other artists featured over the course of the last couple of years. Today’s post focuses on some of the brilliant artists we haven’t yet investigated within these classroom walls!

We have listened to a selection of songs and then summarised one idea from each of those tracks. Once those ideas are on the table, it should be possible to see how they’re relevant to the texts you’re studying at school. The aim is to end up with a splurge of ideas that can then serve as fuel for interesting, exciting and original analytical writing.


Read through the ideas outlined in the reviews below. We have focused on one idea per review. Aim to link each of those ideas to a character or moment within a text you’re studying at school.

Arm’s Length: ‘Object Permanence’

Ooh, the title of this sizzling track from Arm’s Length feels really interesting. Object permanence means knowing that an object still exists, even if it’s hidden; if a toy is placed under a blanket, the child who has achieved object permanence will know it’s there. This idea feels so relevant to the texts we study – it’s as if so many of the male characters don’t feel as if the female characters have ever achieved this state of object permanence. The men hide their affairs, their own insecurities and their unfair advantages in a way that highlights their low opinion of women. The female characters are infantilised to the point of not having even achieved object permanence. How insulting.

Caution: some swearing!

Chat Pile: ‘Why’

Behold the power of the repeated rhetorical question! The more Chat Pile ‘ask’: “Why do people have to live outside?”, the more ashamed we feel. The startling silence – where an answer might otherwise be – gives us a moment to swim in the feeling that Chat Pile have conjured. Too often, we fill the space required for deep thinking with words. Chat Pile’s rhetorical questions force us into speechlessness. Which is absolutely fitting given that the time for excuses is over. The rhetorical nature of the questions reflects Chat Pile’s refusal to listen to any more blathering.

Caution: some swearing!

Carly Cosgrove: ‘Really Big Shrimp’

You definitely have to take note of the Carly Cosgrove singer’s different phrasings – particularly as he moves into and through the chorus. The different line lengths, the shifts in melody at the end of certain lines and the holding of certain notes but not others – all of these things imply a flexibility and a willingness to adapt. These structural techniques build a picture of a songwriter who wants to be understood and is going to vary his methods of delivery in order to give his audience the best chance of being able to access what he’s thinking. This structural flexibility equates to sensitivity. Look at the way your characters speak. Is their speech delivered in a fairly one-dimensional way? Perhaps this makes them seem less flexible? Maybe it makes them appear arrogant and uncaring? Or do the characters speak in varied tones and melodies? Do the sentence structures suggest a character adapting to their listeners’ needs or someone who will only communicate on their own terms?

Caution: some swearing!

Bartees Strange: ‘Heavy Heart’

Let’s look at the lyrics: “You look so nice in a cherry scarf / We should go to Toronto more often.” There’s not much we love more than a carefully shaded image. The cherry colour here is especially significant given the “Toronto” reference. Throughout Japan, the cherry tree is representative of good fortune, new beginnings and revival. The planting of cherry trees in Toronto originated in 1959 as a gift of appreciation to that city’s citizens from the citizens of Tokyo for warmly accepting relocated Japanese Canadians following the Second World War. That “cherry scarf”, then, infers such a deep feeling of connection, respect and appreciation – the person wearing it clearly means a lot to the speaker. How do your course authors make use of colour? You might find it useful to look here and here.


Listen to a song – or songs – that you like. Which of the songwriter’s ideas jumps out at you as particularly interesting or significant? Summarise one idea per song (as we’ve done above) and then connect that idea to a text you’re studying at school.

Obviously, listening to music is the most fun and important thing in the world! We love searching the internet or local music venues or magazines for our next favourite artist! Thanks so much to these amazing music-obsessed dudes for introducing Sound of Pen to lots of new artists: Spinning Thoughts, Get Alternative and Unsigned Pop Punk.