Week 245 // The Candle and the Compass

July 27th, 2015

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I wandered like I was condemned
Through shallow seas and canyon walls
Until it struck me

A piece of you was on my mind
For years or more it whispered words
And so we spoke them

I’ll be there right beside you
Weightless, carrying the candle
Way above the earth
Hand in hand we’re falling
Landing like we’re feathers in the grass
And up again

The future may not ever be
A picture in a crystal ball
But this I’ll tell you

It feels like a familiar place
A verandah and a warm embrace
The sound of rainfall

I see you right beside me
Darling, carrying the compass
Way above the earth
Hand in hand we’re falling
Landing like we’re feathers in the grass
And up again

Notes
This is the last Monday before I am a married man. On Saturday we will wed and begin a brand new chapter. I wanted to offer a song that speaks to the serenity I feel with Rebecca and the beautiful optimism that the notion of our marriage evokes in me. This song plays the future against the past a little; they’re both hazy in detail but the future is far more inviting. It didn’t always seem that way. I am going to keep this write-up short, opting instead to focus the remainder of the evening on my wedding vows. Love to you all, and wish us luck!

~M.E.

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Week 244 // When August 1st Arrives

July 20th, 2015

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You sent me back to sleep
Late this morning
And something I could keep
Was right there with me
The end of old July
Won’t come faster
When August 1st arrives
I’ll kiss you on the mouth
And tell you all about
The years all comin’
The seasons in your stride
I’m following you

Notes
I’m battling a fever today, so I must admit that this offering ended up a good deal less ambitious than I had originally conceived of it being. I had imagined three verses, with organ and electric guitar overdubs in the second and third, and perhaps even an additional layer of vocal harmonies here and there. Perhaps it is for the best that some inconvenient (and hopefully brief) summer bug got in the way of this song’s excessive ruin. I like this minute-and-a-half long haiku of a song. It says what it means to, and then it stops saying it. It’s a tiny love poem of a song about wanting to get on to the main event of this summer, which is of course our wedding. I also give you this portrait of a tiny little bird that came right up to me and asked me to take her picture. She seemed dissatisfied with my first few attempts, as she kept returning to let me try again. That, or she wanted a bite of my quinoa veggie burger. I didn’t give her any; I’ve been accused recently of being a reluctant food sharer. Please have a great week, beat the heat, and wish me a speedy recovery!

~M.E.

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Week 243 // Don’t Fear the Sky

July 13th, 2015

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When I was smaller
I spotted faces
In the stars

I can’t remember
The names I gave them
But they always worked me up

They reached down to me
It terrified me
To be small

So I held my eyes
And for nights and nights
How I prayed my voice
Could be big enough
To clear out the room
To keep back the dark
and to scare the faces away

The earth was bigger
A spinning record
Underneath

It talked right to me
Ever so quiet
Told me don’t fear the sky

So I held my eyes
And for nights and nights
How I prayed my voice
Would be big enough
To clear out the room
To keep back the dark
and to scare the faces away

Notes
Like most people, I remember being fearful of the dark when I was small. I slept with a little lamp shining. It was wooden and there were happy people on it. Part of it spun and perhaps it played a song. I think maybe it looked like a tree, or a house or something like that. But I wasn’t quite so afraid of the dark in my room. I was terrified of the dark out my window, of the massive abyss in the sky. There were definitely things to fear up there. Aliens, vampires, ghosts, you name it. My window shuttered closed and fastened with a latch, but that didn’t seem secure enough. I tied it tight with a shoe string which remained for years. The earth was safe, and the sky was filled with danger. That much I knew. I’m not sure what interested me in exploring the fears I had when I was small, but something in the music spoke to that subject. I can hardly relate to being little anymore, and along with my grownup size I have developed grownup fears. Few of them are hovering in the sky, but perhaps I can take a lesson from my younger self. The lesson is that the world doesn’t change when you tie the window shut with a shoe string. Fears are overcome when we open up the window and find there is nothing coming to get us.

~M.E.

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Week 242 // Bend the Light

July 6th, 2015

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You’re driving through the rainstorm
I’m looking out the window
I trust you got this one
And peering through the forest
And somewhere past the wreckage
I think I see the sun
See how the light
Bends around everyone
See how your hand
Guides us back
To the sun

Do me one more favor
Yes, anything for you dear
Be only who you are
And do me one more favor
Yes anything you ask of me
Is granted in the stars
See how your light
Fills the gaps in my heart
See how your eyes
Bend the light of the stars

And can you remember me
The way I was before?
I sure remember you, dear
From so many years before
And can you remember me
The way I was before?
I sure remember you, dear
From so many years before

See how your heart
Bends the course of your life
See how the dark
Leads us back to the light

Notes
So the big thing lately is that in less than four weeks I’m going to get married! It’s a really big deal; the biggest deal. I think it is safe to assume that in the coming weeks this website is going to be a venue for much reflection on life and love. This week’s song is a part of that. The lyrics pick up during a wild rain storm that Rebecca drove me through a couple of weeks ago on our way back from Massachusetts, where we applied for our marriage license. She braved the downpour while I marveled at the twisted remains of the forest on the shoulder of the highway. It looked like a twister had come through. It dawned on me that my life was in her hands, and that I trusted her deeply with it. This song reflects on our long friendship and more recent love, and the deeply intertwined nature of our lives. My light bends towards hers, and hers toward mine. I think this song jumps around a bit through time and space, anchored mostly by a pretty gnarly bass groove, and a few moments of insight. Thanks for listening.

~M.E.

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Week 241 // A Dream Machine

June 29th, 2015

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I ain’t hip to all the latest shit
They’re playing on the radio
I ain’t counting on the relevance
Of anything at all
It’s against the rules
For me to act too cool
At this point

I smell the rain and I imagine
I’m the man I was an age ago
I count my blessings it’s a game
And that ain’t who I am at all
When I set a fire
I know I’ll put it out
At some point

And praying to the radio
And it’s the voice of god that’s singing low
And the frequency rolls over ground
And I’m reaching up to steal the sound
Like this

If I’m being real
You keep what you can steal
You’re in America
And guys like me
Have never stolen much of anything at all
It’s only petty crime
I think I can commit
This time

I’m in the forest
And I listen to it creaking like a radio
I’m in the city and for once
I don’t hear anything at all

It’s against the law
To say something bad
About New York

And praying to the radio
And it’s the voice of god that’s singing low
And the frequency rolls over ground
And I’m reaching up to steal the sound
Like this

Notes
I’m scaling back again this week to an acoustic song befitting of the New England forest from which I just returned. At a time like this when the contrast is fresh in my memory, New York seems so incredibly pointless. Absolutely nothing here is justified when there might just as well be fields and woods and streams. The only lake I can find here is fake. Really dumb. Yes, coming here changed my whole life in positive and self-affirming ways that I haven’t yet really begun to unpack, but the trees are stunted from exhaust fumes, and my cat has never seen a pinecone. The old part of me lives someplace up there, and some new part of me is a creature of concrete. There is a tension between those two men. Even as I marvel at this man made wilderness, I have taken to wearing a belt buckle with a picture of canoes on it. I look at it and long for something. I revel in how uncool it is, and I think about going back there. These and other things are in the song I wrote this week. And something about a radio.

~M.E.

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Week 240 // Dirty Window

June 22nd, 2015

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Stare out a dirty window
Can’t see the place you live in

The sidewalk’s growing over
The city is a garden

Rain down rain down
And we will soak into the ground
If that’s the best we’ve got

Backfire engine smoking
Full moon looks like an orphan

Rain down rain down
And we will soak into the ground
If that’s the best we’ve got

Notes
In the summertime Mount Everest becomes this whole other experience. Recording music requires spending hours and hours locked in my hot office, gradually shedding clothing as I perspire, and losing my bodily sense of self to a act of creative will. I haven’t done Bikram Yoga in some eight or nine years, but in my memory it was much the same as getting through a summertime writing session (I’m sure my yogi listeners will disagree, as it is an incredible notion that my office could possibly be as hot as that). My window must stay shut much of the time to keep out noises and distractions, and so I sweat. This song is drenched in sweat. This week I focused on the guitar and gave the vocal space to breathe. I let the bass ring out in long hot notes, and left the back third of the song to extended instrumental exposition. This song is more about texture than anything else. It is the thick, hot soup of the room in which it was recorded. Enjoy.

~M.E.

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Week 239 // Asteroid

June 15th, 2015

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Sitting in a catapult
Sail into the open air
Burning in the atmosphere
Brilliant like an asteroid

What is it like
Crackin’ at the seams?
What does it mean?
What is a life
Wakin’ from a dream
What can it mean?
What is it like?

Sitting in a taxi cab
Sail into the open air
Burning up the dollar bills
Brilliant like an asterisk

What is it like
Crackin’ at the seams?
What does it mean?
What is a life
Wakin’ from a dream
What can it mean?
What is it like?

All along the waterfront
Chanting like a sacrifice
Sirens in the summer rain
Brilliant like a symphony

Notes
This week’s song is squeaking in moments before midnight. After a false start, and a day of consternation, I finally got a handle on this one. This was a situation where something wasn’t working in the original guitar part that I had recorded, and I was trying to write around it instead of throwing it away in favor of the better parts I was trying to fit with it. Ultimately I started to understand the song, but much time had gotten away from me. I really like this tune, but there is so much more I would have done with the arrangement. The lyrics are an urban mishmash of summer stream of consciousness. It’s a slow jam because the day was hot. If I had time, I would have fixed the second verse in which I mistakenly sang the name of the popular French comic character, Asterix, instead of the name of the punctuation mark, asterisk, that I had intended. Oh Well. Time is short. Here’s a brand new song!

~M.E.

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Week 238 // A Measure of the Chaos

June 8th, 2015

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There’s a kind of silhouette
An empty thing
That I dream of in the morning
When I focus on the face
I awake, shaken up again
And you say let it all out

On an evening in the spring
I was told
Many stories of the stranger
As I tried to understand
What it meant
To have listened to the rain
You said let it all out

Shaking slightly I’m aware
That everyone’s
Got a measure of the chaos
Floating up above the earth
Two of us
Held together
And you let me get it all out

Notes
Last week I began (in earnest) the project of rehabbing Mount Everest. It wasn’t necessarily broken or anything, just sort of spinning its wheels. I wanted to get back to the type of layered, multi-instrumental arrangements that once dominated my weekly practice on this website, having long been focused on my graduate studies, writing week after week of simple acoustic tunes to keep this project in existence. I hit a creative wall quickly after I began, and resigned to view my effort as more of a study than a complete idea, understanding that one must work to regain the thing he has put away for some time. This week I was resolved to put the in the work, and to find the frame of mind that it takes to write these kinds of songs again. It turned out that all I really needed to do was reach for my bass. It makes sense; it was, after all, my first among many musical loves, and has long sat neglected in the corner of my apartment. It also makes sense because a bass-line is a foundation, and when one needs confidence, one cannot stand upon shaky ground. I put down something solid, and the rest seemed to fall into place. This song didn’t go everywhere I could have taken it, but I’m pleased with what I hear. I hope you are too.

~M.E.

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Week 237 // 5122

June 1st, 2015

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What kind of world you build
What kind of life you fill
Whatever lifts you up
Whatever seed you are
What grows beneath your stars
Whatever fills your cup
What kind of world you build

Notes
I’m trying to get back to something old. This song is really a sketch; sort of a study meant to clear the cobwebs off of a dusty way of doing things. Once upon a time before graduate studies and endless weekends in the library, this website was filled with elaborate, layered, multi-instrumental compositions. I have lived in a realm of simplicity for a long time, writing tiny little guitar tunes to keep this project alive as I pursued something new. Some of those tunes have been very satisfying, but I feel the need to use the time between graduation and gainful employment as an opportunity to build up another kind of catalogue. I am trying to be realistic that I will not write my finest electric compositions right out of the gate. Pivoting metaphors toward my life as casual jogger, the first few weeks are always a struggle. Muscles are sore. Breath is short. Hills seem too high to climb. But gradually, I hit my stride. I aim to do the same thing here. I’m going to work out muscles that have gotten a little soft. This song was a quick few laps. Gradually I’ll go for greater distances.

~M.E.

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Week 236 // Fractal in a Fractal

May 25th, 2015

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On a street corner
Screaming into traffic
Was an ugly vein
Sticking out that way
And it made more sense
To walk right past
Summer came on a Tuesday
And we laughed ’cause
Only weeks before
We had braved the snow
We’d crossed the frozen park
And back again

I was a kinder kind of person
Thinking back to then
And oh what’s the use?
I do the best I can
to cultivate my attitude
He was screaming on the corner
Yet again

Always far off
And dreaming of New England
Always miles away
But honestly
My entire world
Is ten blocks this way
I got moments
I understand a pattern
It’s a fractal in a fractal
As I pull away
I see it all again

I was a kinder kind of person
Thinking back to then
And oh what’s the use?
I do the best I can
to cultivate my attitude
And he’s screaming on the corner
Yet again

Notes
This is a song about feeling settled into a place. Rebecca and I were reflecting on the neighborhood over our typical breakfast burritos at Root’s Cafe — our favorite local morning ritual. We were noticing how many moments we’d lived in that spot, and ruminating on the notion that when we inevitably leave this neighborhood, there will be very familiar things we will necessarily leave behind. There isn’t one specific man screaming at traffic on the street corner. He is a fabricated proxy for the familiarity of strangeness in this corner of the world. On the other hand, the snow really did blanket the park only a few weeks before summer seemingly set in, and I really do dream of New England even when I am so contented in my life here. I’ll leave you to sort out the rest, wishing you a happy Memorial Day, as I spirit myself across the chasm to a rooftop barbecue in the East Village. Be merry, and take pause to appreciate what you’re doing.

~M.E.

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