Making an album I can’t perform

If you follow me on any social media, you probably know that I released an instrumental album called “Moments” recently. I’ve done (mostly) instrumental albums before, but this one has a tiny distinction that’s important to me: there are no “real” recorded sounds on this album (other than the background noise that fades in and out, which was not recorded by me). Previous instrumentals would always have some guitar or sampled vocals or gritty drum track or something – but not here. Continue reading “Making an album I can’t perform”

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I Am Rooting For You, Opening Band

Dedicated to Shortly, a band from Detroit I did not know existed before last night but nevertheless am now hopelessly devoted to

I’m not on time for a lot of things. Most people know that about me by now, adding a few minutes on to whatever time I say I’m going to arrive to get a better picture of my involvement in an event. There’s only two things I’m incredibly punctual for.
The first is the airport, for obvious reasons. Your friends might forgive you for being a minute or twenty late to the party but the plane will absolutely leave without you and never give you a second thought.

The second is less apparent. If a concert ticket says doors at 6, show as 7 I will be there as soon as I can.

I will never miss an opening band.
I refuse.
Somewhere hidden at the top of the card might be the next band I pledge my life to.
Maybe it’s the old critic in me that constantly wants to find my next love, something that I can share with everyone I’ve ever met.
And that band that plays at 7 when the headliner isn’t going on until 9:30 might just be it. I’ll never know if I’m not there.
And even if it’s not, every band needs someone to cheer for them, to dance, to be a part of the collaborative work of performing.
I’ve dragged friends onto the dance floor to save a band from playing to no one
I’ve had my heart broken as I can see a band make the decision to play their closer a few songs early to get off the stage
And maybe that’s because I’ve been that band too.
I’ve played shows where more people helped us set up than attended, and those that did looked like they couldn’t wait to leave.
I still remember the vacant stares as we kicked into my favorite one of our songs.
It was as if each side of that stage existed in a dimension without the other.

So maybe that’s why I’ll always be there for you, Opening Band.
You’ve made something you love and have taken it on the road to share it with the world
You’re taking incredible risk to even get to this show, driving through the night without the accessories of success.
You’re showing up dead tired to play for people who have never heard of you
Who for the most part aren’t there because they want to hear your songs.
And you deserve better than the roar of an uninvested few.

And so I hope at every show you reach at least one person who won’t stop talking about what they just saw.
I hope you turn into the show people lie about having been to.
“Oh man I saw them when they opened for…
There were like 5 people there. I couldn’t believe it!”
Or at least get to the point where a cult following loudly declares to anyone who will listen that they bought tickets for you, not the headliner
I hope your live show gets even better and that the best songs you write are still to come
I am rooting for you, Opening Band. I hope you know that
And I don’t think I’m alone.

Stability without stasis

Growing up, one of my favorite places was the back seat of my family’s minivan. It would probably still be one of my favorite places if it were around anymore. That seat meant familiarity even as the world flew by – I could fall asleep and wake up in a new state, and the seat was always there, my open backpack on one side and a Nintendo handheld and a couple books on the other.

The back seat wasn’t just a refuge; it was something I looked forward to. Uncertainty anchored to familiarity is exhilarating – it’s the promise of better things and of new adventures. Uncertainty by itself is exhausting. Airplane travel, for example, carries none of the fond memories or feelings of embrace that I associate with that minivan. I’ve never outgrown my fear of airplanes, hope as I might, and it always strikes me how different it feels from something so similar.

Continue reading “Stability without stasis”

The Wonder Years, “Sister Cities,” and finding refuge

There’s a small wooden torii gate in the middle of a busy intersection downtown. I hadn’t paid it any mind until a few months ago when this website’s favorite band, The Wonder Years, released a perfect teaser trailer for their upcoming album and, a few days later, released its title track “Sister Cities.” The song and the album are about interconnectedness in a world that seems increasingly to foster isolation, and since I first heard that single in mid-February, I’ve thought about the gate nearly every day. On the chorus of the track, frontman Dan Campbell sings “I’m laying low / a stray dog in the street / you took me home / we’re sister cities.” The torii gate is a monument to Fujiyoshida, Japan, Colorado Springs’s sister city, and I’ve been wondering if there’s a similar expression of Colorado Springs on the other side of the world, overlooked, but occasionally reflected on. I’ve been wondering if somebody in Fujiyoshida is wondering the same thing right now, their thoughts mirroring mine but neither of us ever knowing. Continue reading “The Wonder Years, “Sister Cities,” and finding refuge”

Album Lyrics – Complacency

Here’s the link to listen: click here

The Plan

(Demetri Martin, from If I)

It was a crazy moment, to have a plan from eleven years old
Every choice, every summer: classes, extra activities, SATs, essays,
Leading to that one big goal, and then being that close to it and realizing,
“I made a huge mistake, I have to admit it, cut my losses, I’m out of here.”

And it was a total crisis, a total crisis of relevance.
Because I was now an adult – yes, okay, it’s cool to be quirky, maybe, on the side.
Do some puzzles, make puzzles, whatever, you learn how to ride a unicycle,
That’s cool when it’s on the side, right? And you have a plan.
What happens when you remove the plan?

Florida Coast

Take me through the everglades
Take me to the top of this mountain I’ve made

Keep your head above water
Keep your head above water, you’ll
Keep your head above water, you’ll
Keep your head above water

I miss places I’ve never been
Got to stop thinking “remember when?”

Get Through

Maybe the sophomore slump will end soon
I thought I could be like Xaphoon
I thought I could write songs like songs “for emma” too
I can’t promise it’ll all be good
But I can promise you we’ll get through

Birds

Circle all you want there
I won’t let you nest in my hair
You’ll keep it up long enough
That’s not belief, that’s fear

Circle all you want there
I won’t let you nest in my hair

Interlude

I revolve around you
Your shadow becomes my shape
My path is mostly yours and my
Kingdom is your tide
My path is mostly yours and my
Kingdom is your sky

Your shadow becomes my shape
My path is mostly yours and my
Kingdom is escape

Sacred Spaces

The places I love are scattered everywhere
They’re sinking and floating
Drowning, dehydrated
I don’t care
They’re sacred

The places I miss are scattered everywhere
They’re haunted and empty
A ghost like me can’t stay
I don’t care
They’re sacred

Reckless

There’s a vast blank wall up ahead
Useless and frightening
The clouds might swallow you whole
With an ominous flash of lightning

No longer staying silent
Your dreams have gotten violent
You tossed and turned last night
Fumbling and shaking
You panic and drop the flashlight

This is as reckless as you’ve ever been
Time and time again
There’s no way to win

I lay on my back
Dreaming of ways
To hide from prying eyes
I grew up under an endless sky
Where sunsets can last for days

Complacency

I could say that I’m happy
But that would be a lie
Under the oppression of a perfect blue sky

I’m trapped
By the light reflected in your eyes
I’m trapped
Under wishes and hopes
I’m trapped by childish fears
And the urge to keep chasing ghosts

Maybe that’s dramatic
I shouldn’t be so dire
But sometimes it feels like I’m the last one
Standing up to the empire

I could be quiet and call it maturity
I’d know that it’s complacency

I was ready to run away
But now I can barely stand
My legs are getting heavy
I’m sinking into the sand

I was ready to run away
But now I can barely stand
My legs are getting heavy
I’m sinking into the sand

Invisible

At the supermarket checkout
A sandwich and a bottle of tea
I’m tired and awkward
But she stares right through me

Standing on the bus I pull the stop
The driver doesn’t hear, I know
I should say something
But we’re already past and I’m too slow

I glance up and he looks away
You walk out when I want you to stay
Maybe I’m invisible today

Late night at work
I walk to the car in darkness
Nobody pauses, nobody steps aside
I’m not bothered, through the crowd I glide

Put on those headphones and press play
They’re staring at me but I’m far away
I know I’m invisible today

Album Lyrics – Paths

I’ve always thought of my own song lyrics as poetry first and music second. I released some songs recently and I’m putting the words here so that people who don’t want to spend 20 minutes listening to the album or don’t like the style can still consume this content.

A Detour

I can’t sleep
It’s the last day off
Before we have to go back
And pretend like we know what we’re doing

I can’t keep
Staying up this late
I’ve got to understand
Before I decide to keep moving

I used to spend summers
Learning curse words in churches’ gravel parking lots
We’re stuck inside now

I can’t keep staying up this late
I’ve got to get my head on straight

Fever Dream

The world is ending and we’re knee-deep in ocean
I just wanted to know that I belong
So let me dream
With the light on

Hurricane

Everything is blue and green
Above and below I see aquamarine
But off in the distance
A hurricane brews
How could we miss this?

Landlocked cities turn away
Why should they care what happens
In the shadow of the ocean’s spray?
It’s gray outside and the lighthouse is out
The grass has turned brown
In the cowering harbor towns

So trees snap
The sky turns black
I want to go back
To a calmer time
You told me everything would be fine
But the hurricane’s finally here
And I need to stop wishing
It would disappear

Morning Rain

I could do without the thunder in the morning
I don’t mind that it’s pouring
But I want to go back to sleep

Let me breathe
Without a crash outside
We shouldn’t have to wonder if we’re gonna survive

I don’t care about making a name
All I need is a cold
Morning rain

Give Up

Maybe it’s time to give up
Maybe it’s time to find out
What’s on the other side of the spout
I don’t care if I’m never the same
But I hope it’s not a drain

Days are numbered
Unclaimed, fleeting
Stolen, seemingly
Someday leaving
Days are leaking away

Thomas Rakowitz Gets Corrupted

I feel like I bring this up every time I write about a Thomas Rakowitz project, but what I love the most about what he does is the moods he creates. From the lonely, lost loops of “I’ll Find My Way Home” to his breakout work on Brian Altano’s Misanthrope, he adds the right color to anything he’s doing to paint something special. More than any technical proficiency (of which Rakowitz has plenty to spare, trust) this is what gets me excited to see what spaces he’s exploring each time he puts out something new.

So when I got around to his Future/Corrupted project, I was excited to see where the concept would take him. The five song EP is set in a post-robot apocalypse world and the music revels in the possibilities of the scene. Album opener “We Came From Fire and Flesh” alternates between sparse, bleak nothingness, possibly a symbol of what the world has become, and punishing heavy riffs, maybe a symbol of how it got there. Either way, Rakowitz’s guitar work shines bright here. The album has a few tricks up its sleeves as well. “Alpha/Omega Protocol (Directed Evolution)” has some vocal work on it that can only be described as unsettling in the best way. There’s an unease to the spoken words that continue to create this post-human landscape.

“Rise of the Machines” is the stand-out track. It’s a blistering 7 minute ride that gives everything you would expect from Thomas Rakowitz. Virtuosity mixed with a little bit of sludge, blasting drums, and a self contained little narrative that is a fitting bow on the project. I’m always thrilled to hear new work from Thomas and you should be too. Check out Future/Corrupted below.

Ocean Eyes and staying warm

Owl City’s Ocean Eyes is one of my favorite albums, and when I search the internet for opinions about it, the well-argued ones are usually blisteringly negative, and the positive ones are usually vapid and full of spelling errors. For whatever reason, people don’t seem to dig deep into Ocean Eyes and connect with it the way I do, and I think the internet needs an opinion on the album that’s positive and seriously considered. Here we go.

Ocean Eyes came out in 2009, and I’ve listened to it on and off in the seven years between then and now. Though it was commercially successful, most reviews around the time of its release were negative, saying that it was sickly sweet or that didn’t have the depth to keep listeners around. Reviewers said that the album floated along on the strength of meaningless pretty phrases and catchy but repetitive instrumental melodies. These criticisms and worse are true of Owl City’s other albums (but Maybe I’m Dreaming is decent). Ocean Eyes, though, is serious and emotional behind its pretty phrases and radio-pop instrumentals. Continue reading “Ocean Eyes and staying warm”

Thomas Rakowitz Finds His Way Home

Sometimes, when you least expect it, the right piece of music drops into your lap. I’ve been in an anxiety funk recently, with potential big things coming up. I’m sitting up writing this knowing I should sleep soon, but I just hit play for the second time on a new track from Thomas Rakowitz because it’s perfect for where I’m at right now and I needed to write about it.

Rakowitz, as you know from following any of the other things I’ve written about his work, has this uncanny ability to paint with his guitar. “I’ll Find My Way Home” is no different. The opening chords are sparse, slowly echoing into nothing before some arpeggios come in underneath. It has this feeling of going in circles, but not because you meant to. Every time they come back it’s that feeling of being lost on a trail because you took a wrong turn and you can swear you’ve seen this rock before. I swear I mean this in a good way.

I don’t know if that’s what Thomas was going for, but that’s what I felt. Each time the picking comes back in under the chords it’s slightly different, building to a moment of clarity at the end of the track that feels like a discovery. I got chills near the end of the song because I heard this hopeful shift in the tones, this anxious crescendo towards actualization. Everything just fits together in this manner that seems to evoke searching for something and the confidence that comes from knowing it’s out there, no matter what the journey’s looked like so far. It’s 7 minutes of self-reflection, and it’s exactly what I needed. Thanks, Thomas.

Listen to “I’ll Find My Way Home” below, and if you like that (you will) you can click here to get Thomas’s double album The Musings of Balance

Secret Project Episode 2

Welcome back to Secret Project! This time Travis and I are talking about Bob Marley, Luke 7, being hope rather than just talking about it, and what happens when helping does more harm than good.

  • Show Notes!
    • Our text for this episode is Luke 7:11-17
    • Travis’s music selection is Bob Marley’s “No Woman No Cry”
    • The book Travis mentions is Toxic Charity by Robert D Lupton
    • As always thank you to The Midnight Sons for our theme song “Variable” off their album Descartes
    • You can talk to us on Twitter! I’m @jmesquire and Travis is @wtewton. Or you can email us at secretprojectcast@gmail.com
    • Please note that we did the first 4 episodes all in one go so even if you have great ideas for us, unless it’s something I can do in post-prod, you won’t see the results of that until episode 5. Thanks for understanding!