Week 227 // On the Last Snow

March 23rd, 2015

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Weatherman
They could call you an artist
You got a fine spin
On missing the thing

But on the last snow
I said to my darling
Ain’t this the perfect
Way to greet spring

Age old
Scattering moonlight
Dots in the cold
Everyone asking
Where does it go?
Oh my
Where will we go?

Wait up
Screaming out doors
The moment
Insisting it’s yours

Radio
You could call me a pilgrim
I’m spinning round and round
Where you tell me to go

And on the last note
I’ll look to my darling
She’ll give a simple nod
And it means that she knows

Age old
Scattering moonlight
Dots in the cold
Everyone asking
Where does it go?
Oh my
Where will we go?

Wait up
Screaming out doors
The moment
Insisting it’s yours
The picture
Stuck behind glass
The winter
Over at last

Notes
This is a hopeful song. Friday was the first day of spring. Friday was also the day of a pretty decent four or five inch snowfall in New York City. The snow had a hard time accumulating at first, melting as it hit the ground, but little by little this tenacious late winter episode blanketed the city in white as far as the eye could see. The temperature was pretty forgiving and didn’t keep us inside; Rebecca and I enjoyed a snowy run in Prospect Park in the afternoon, and ventured out in the evening to watch performances from our ever talented friends, Nat Osborn and Lyle Divinsky. When we woke in the morning the snow was gone, as if it was never there at all. It seemed a last gasp of winter, and this song posits that it was just that. Perhaps it wasn’t the last snowfall of the year, but its fleeting arrival and departure sure felt like a farewell from old man winter.

Many thanks must go to my parents who alerted me late tonight that I had forgotten to post my song. I finished it Sunday evening, but as I worked on a paper all day it slipped my mind to post it for you all to hear. Crisis averted. It is still Monday somewhere in America after all.

~M.E.

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Week 226 // To Will a Thing Into Existence

March 16th, 2015

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To wear a concept on the outside
To have a better thought about it
To catch a moment of a purely radiant kind
To will a thing
To will a thing
To take the real from all the fiction
To find the truth in all the excess
To seize the order and to fight to make it hold
To will a thing
To will a thing

Notes
I’m pretty tired of creating right now, but that’s OK, because I’ve got a bit of time off this week. I assumed that I’d take the opportunity to write an old-school Mount Everest rocker today, but I found myself embracing entropy as it sunk in that over the past week I wrote approximately one billion words of my master’s thesis. This song is an exhale after holding my breath for a while. The neon lights of the 8th floor of Bobst Library have dulled my vision, and I feel like I should be wearing shades around the house in a bathrobe… This past few weeks weeks were a sheer act of will, and it occurs to me that writing a thesis is a good metaphor for pretty much every other act of will in a person’s life. Anything worth doing takes a bit of effort. Anything worth creating requires an act of concerted will. Even a little guitar song that lasts almost two minutes. I hope you enjoy this one.

~M.E.

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Week 225 // Oh Remedy

March 9th, 2015

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Oh Remedy, One stop and I’m home
My commute was a mess today
Our neighbor got hit by a train
And somewhere the hospital
Counts up the cracks in his bones
Guess the worst of it’s over
The court’ll make sure he gets paid
And it’s a lucky break
He ended up that way
‘Cause if they pay him enough
He’ll never have to ride that train

Come let it raise you up
Come let it hold you up high
Teach the constant expressway
To finally recede to a drone
Come be an animal
Come let the soot in your eye
Let the dust from the overpass in
As you make your way home
And it’s a funny thing
Makes you think that way
Like the soot turns to gold dust
And begs you collect what you may

Notes
It’s probably safe to say that I’m feeling a bit too close to New York’s subway right now. Everyone’s got a daily commute, but I take mine with me. I’ve been working on my master’s thesis, which is about the subway’s soundscape and audio-culture. When I’m not riding the train to school and back, I’m riding it to record its myriad sounds. When I’m not riding the train at all, I’m listening to what I’ve recorded and writing about it. I’ve been riding, recording, listening to, and writing about the subway since last april. I started this project in order to diffuse the anxiety that riding the subway provokes in me by turning the subway into a site of academic inquiry. It worked wonders for a time, but I think I’ve spent enough time with it that I’ve come full circle. I’m feeling pretty fed up with the MTA. This is a song that marvels at how a sooty little apartment underneath the expressway can feel like the hight of peace and quiet. In part have the the subway to thank for the overwhelming tranquility I feel in my home. I don’t hear the cars honking, I don’t hear the sirens wailing, I don’t hear the neighbors making a racket upstairs. The clack of the rails still haunts me, but here I can come close to letting go of it.

~M.E.

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Week 224 // Shrug It Off

March 2nd, 2015

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All the days you’d sit and wonder
If you’d amount to anything
What kind of awful nervous question
What kind of tiny way to think
You used to sing to call the thunder
You used to scowl to egg it on
You used to bare an ugly letter
Took all these years to shrug it off

Notes
I finished this song feeling pleasantly surprised. Actually, it left me with sort of a warm feeling, like I’d been sitting on something like this for a while and didn’t really know it. My process lately has been truncated, to put it delicately. When I devote fewer hours per week to making up songs, perhaps it takes a little bit longer for my most genuine ideas to percolate through the system and rise to the top. That’s not to say there haven’t been some good moments recently, because there certainly have been some. But this one has a solid simplicity that I feel truly takes advantage of the type of quick turnaround that I’ve been working with lately. It arrives, says what it means, and as soon as you’ve given it a good look it’s on its way again. I feel that’s the way a short song should be. This one is about shaky feelings about a misaligned past that seems to have resolved itself. It employs an old convention that used to be standard around here in that every time I say “you” I mean “me”… Anyhow, I sure hope you like listening to it.

~M.E.

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Week 223 // Supposing the Road and the Wind

February 23rd, 2015

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Am I carrying a light load?
No I really wouldn’t put it that way
I’m comparing sticks to stones
And mud to bones
And if you want to know
I’m apt to lose my way

And have I got a short fuse?
I guess that’s something you could say
But worry not, it ain’t for you
It’s self abuse
When every inch gets burned away

Hour after hour
Blowing back to you
Mile after mile
Spinning over me

If you have been the winding road
And I have been the sudden breeze
Then I should be the road for you
And you could be the wind for me

And will I be a good man?
Suppose there’s nothing in the way
Suppose I pray and plan
And make my mark
And understand
Suppose I never lose my way

And if we do the right things
Supposing we know what they are
Suppose we strike the strings
Let loose the choir and hear them sing
Assuming we work real hard

Hour after hour
Blowing back to you
Mile after mile
Spinning over me

If you have been the winding road
And I have been the sudden breeze
Then I should be the road for you
And you could be the wind for me

Notes
This song comes out of a contradictory state that I’ve existed in lately, one of pervasive anxiety and simultaneous relaxed certainty pertaining to the future. I didn’t really know what I was writing when I began, but what came out was surely a reflection of the mounting pressures of finishing my master’s degree by the spring, and somehow helping to plan a wedding and start a bold new future at the same time. I am certain of my course, and have an idea of what must be done, but at the same time all of the particulars completely elude me. Really, this is a song about personal upheaval and mutual support, and that is the real gift of my past year. I’ve always had the personal upheaval. It’s with most of us from day one, and it is part of the price we pay to enjoy being alive on this planet. The mutual support is something new. I’m still getting used to it, but I have to say, it’s pretty nice.

~M.E.

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Week 222 // The Cat

February 16th, 2015

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Little after midnight
Shout a little more
Early in the morning
Right beneath the floor
And it’s a lonesome mercy
That you implore
And up against the furnace
Or clawing at the door
Dreaming of the daylight
And wondering what it’s for
And it’s a mighty burden
That you endure

Notes
There is a cat trapped in the basement beneath our apartment. It is lonesome and suffering, and it wails throughout the day and night. It has done this for months, and despite dozens of phone calls and emails by my fiancĂ©e and me (she baring the brunt of this burden) the cat remains imprisoned and we remain earwitness to its sorrow. We may be inching toward a resolution to this problem. It is hard to say, as the animal is elusive of capture, and everyone we have asked for help has been less than sympathetic to both the animal’s plight and our own. At times I have cursed the little creature, as I tossed and turned in the night, unable to rest. But in the end it is a living thing, just as we are, and I cannot help but root for it. The picture accompanying this song is a photo of the small hole that serves as perhaps the cat’s only window to the outside world. From this tiny breach does it gaze at the traffic and the changing light and dream of freedom? Sometimes it pokes its little face into the hole and we can catch a brief glimpse of it. When I curse the cat in the night, I try to think of the little face in the hole. The cat is not my enemy. We are all in this together until we reach the end.

~M.E.

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Week 221 // Thinkin’ It

February 9th, 2015

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On the back of a letter in your hand
You were writing my name
In my room I could feel your through the wall
You were thinkin’ it over

Notes
Last spring I did this romantic and risky thing where I came home and confessed all kinds of nice feelings to my roommate, who has subsequently agreed to marry me. I’ve written a couple of songs about it in which the story often comes off as a bit of a parable about the value of taking chances and leading with your heart, which it most definitely is. All of those songs have left out an interesting detail, one that for some reason I thought of this evening as I sat to write a new song which (even to my surprise) set out to fill that detail in. Here is the detail: after I told her, we ended the evening still as friends. I spent the night blinking at my ceiling wondering what I’d done, and I can only assume she spent the night blinking at the ceiling wondering pretty much the same thing. Days later we started what would become our relationship, but only after a weekend spent wondering what she would do with the major revelation I had made. The memory of that first night’s suspense stays with me and holds an important lesson, which is that the real thing takes work and careful attention. She gave it just that, and we’ve continued to do so ever since. I think it’s a better story than the simple parable where everything goes just like you’d expect.

~M.E.

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Week 220 // Impossible

February 2nd, 2015

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Things that seem impossible
Things that seem like cursin’ all around
And it’s alright right now

Things that come and raise you up
Things that raise your blood right up
And get you so down right down

Impossible
Impossible, we’re banishing the word

Things that sound like something else
Things that fool you
Getting fooled and fooled again
But it’s alright somehow

Leaving up them colored lights
Never taking down the tree
I gotta leave it leave it upright
No how

Impossible
Impossible, we’re banishing the word

Impossible
Impossible, we’re banishing the word

Notes
I’ve sat on this guitar part for many weeks. I liked it, and I was waiting for the week that I’d have time to make it something really really great. This is a tricky time of year, in a particularly tricky year. I’m not spending a lot of time with Mount Everest and that’s okay. Over the weekend I probably had time to do with this song what I wanted to do, but I didn’t really do it. I sat and fiddled around with it, avoiding taking major steps, doubtful I could bring it home. This evening as I sat to record a song, I thought I’d save this one for next week, yet again, given the impossibility of pushing this idea where it needed to go in the time I had allotted. Then it dawned on me that this song is exactly what Mount Everest is for. I’m supposed to be pushing through my ideas, especially when I’m stuck. I’m not supposed to be treating my ideas as precious. I’m supposed to be releasing them into the wild, not guarding them. So I wrote it, and it isn’t what I imagined weeks ago when I fiddled with it for the first time. But that doesn’t matter, because it is pretty, and perhaps even a little poignant in its best moments. More importantly, it exists, and that is its most sacred duty as one of my weekly songs. Onward to next week. See you then.

~M.E.

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Week 219 // What the Silence Means

January 26th, 2015

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On our vast and crowded islands
Huddled fast against the storm
It’s hard to reckon what your truth is
And wait in line for something warm
You gotta hold on to something good

And on the eve of cataclysm
You hear how still the night can be
You gotta wonder about the silence
You’ve gotta linger on what it means
You gotta hold on to something good

Notes
The bodegas are all sold out of bread. The liquor store has a line around the block. Modell’s is selling record numbers of winter boots, and Rebecca and I have canceled our evening plans in favor of hunkering down and avoiding what would surely have been a most frustrating subway journey. The denizens of this fair city have soggy socks. The blizzard has arrived. I skim social media and read sensational stories about the storm of the century. Yes it is snowing out, but surely the apocalyptic rhetoric is overblown, right? I skim again, and see the cynics scoffing at our collective panic; this is winter — it is supposed to snow. As a son of New England, the land where men, women, and children laugh in the face of nor’easters, I am sympathetic to the cynics. However, I look around New York, and it is as plain as the nose on the Old Man in the Mountain (RIP) that not all is well. Sensational as reports might be, many New Yorkers lack the simple resources to weather this storm. You can see them everywhere you look, seeking solace on warm exhaust vents, in subway cars, and under flimsy awnings. If you find yourself scoffing at sensational reports of a historic storm of biblical proportions, consider your station. If you have what you need, and this storm is a cakewalk, be thankful, not cynical. Be safe and stay warm.

~M.E.

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Week 218 // A Trick in the Dark

January 19th, 2015

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Almighty our god
Is an angry old man
With his hand in his pocket
And his gun in that hand
And if he pulls it on you
You’ll be dead where you stand
so think of that
When you’re saying your prayers

Almighty our god
Is a lamp in the sky
And if you tell enough friends
You’ll switch on when you die
Yeah if you tell enough people
You’ll spend eternity high
So think of that
When you speak to your friends

Halleluja

Almighty our god
Is a word you can’t say
And should he rise to your lips
You must push him away
‘Cause he is jealous and vengeful
And we like him that way
‘Cause he is ours
And says we’re not wrong

Halleluja

but hold on a minute…

Almighty our god
Is a trick in the dark
And although it is hard
We’ll light up with a spark
That revenge isn’t love
And that a god who embarks
On revenge
Is a god who is not love

Notes
What this song is not: an indictment of all religion, belief, practice, or doctrine. What this song is: a critique of many popular religions, beliefs, practices, and doctrines. In the faith of my upbringing, god is love. God cannot both be love and anger. God cannot be both love and divisiveness through superiority of one group over another. God cannot be both love and petty jealousness. God cannot be both love and damning of kind people who disagree on god’s nature or existence. God cannot be both love and damning at all. God cannot be both love and the reason to fight a war. God cannot be both love and an excuse to discriminate against, persecute, and systematically disenfranchise marginalized groups. God cannot possibly be both love and vengeance.

I am unequipped to say what god is. I don’t know that god is anything. I do know that the only god worthy of any of my attention would have to be a loving one. The god I hear people talking about out there is most often not a loving one. I’m thinking hard on this one.

~M.E.

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