Week 357 // Countdown (10)

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Oh the moon
Shattered overhead
The end is nigh
The horizon turning red

What will you do?
What will you do?
What are you gonna do tomorrow?

Oh the sun
Swallowed from the sky
Forever
And nobody is asking why

But what do you wanna do?
What do you feel like doing?
Hey what are you up to tomorrow?

Notes
It used to be that I couldn’t go a couple of months without writing something about the end of the world. Artistically preoccupied with the apocalypse though I may be, it has been a little while since I put one of these together. Reflecting on a recurring theme, I feel a twinge of regret that I haven’t named my end-of-all-things tracks as a series, like have have done with my “River Songs” — I’m up to four of those, for those of you keeping track at home. Today I rectify that error. Henceforth, songs such as this will be titled “Countdown”. I’m starting at ten and working backwards until I reach zero. Let’s find out if I can squeeze in the entire count before our intrepid regime picks a fight with the wrong hombres, and wipes the whole map clean. Only time will tell.

Some of my previous songs about this topic described the almost religious wonder with which humanity would surely meet its end. This song supposes an alternate collective reaction. In this vision of our end, we are distracted and docile beyond even recognizing what is happening to us. Which fate awaits us? Once more, only time will tell.

~M.E.

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Week 356 // Stupid Questions

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If you could be somebody else
Who would you be?

If you could be somebody new
What would you be like?

Would you be smarter than you?
Would you counter all of the worst things that you do?

Would you be stronger than you?

If you could think somebody’s thoughts
Who would you think like?

If you could stop all of the noise
What would it sound like?

Would you be better than you?
Would you alter all of the weak things that you do?

Would you be stronger than you?

Notes
It is hard not to compare ourselves to other people. Is that person smarter than me? Are they happier than I am? Do they make more money than I do? Would they more easily overcome the challenges I have faced? Would I have been better off if I was in their shoes? Is that person better than me? Stronger than me?

It is harder than ever to keep our thoughts from wondering down the path of self-comparison, because everyone else we know is curating an intricate, and oftentimes fictional narrative about their lives in a public setting for all to see. We consume each other’s successes and accolades like commodities. We tend to leave out the dark stuff, and when we fail to leave it out, it makes people uncomfortable. So we go on asking the questions.

This song indulges the questions. In a corrective gesture, the song title names them as what they are. Of course we can only ever be ourselves. We can be better or worse versions of ourselves, but we will never live another’s life, dream another’s dreams, or think another’s thoughts. These are stupid questions.

~M.E.

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Week 355 // In a Little While

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Someday soon
We’ll be old enough
To tell right from wrong

And in a little while
We’ll be tough enough
To rule the world
All by ourselves

A long time from now
We’ll have strength enough
To say when we’re weak

A thousand years from now
We’ll be kind enough
To rule ourselves
All by ourselves

Notes
This song speaks to the concept that the civilization created by people is an institution that has yet to mature. We talk about being advanced all the time, as if the rapid pace of technological innovation were the best indication of our species’ amazing progress. It isn’t. For all of our scientific wizardry, the same basic problems irk us today that have done so for all of human recollection. Those problems can most succinctly be described as variations on our basic instinct to treat anybody sufficiently different from ourselves like shit. Our civilization is in its infancy, and will remain there until we collectively adjust to the notion that we have to share space with each other.

~M.E.

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Week 354 // Face Home

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All the dark cracks in the Earth
All the little life in the cracks
All the little eyes
Blinking as they’re looking back

As you hold my hand
Remind me sweetly
Eyes to the front
Face home, my love
There’s always a way back home
Oh my love
There’s always a way back home

You could be my late night ride
You could clear the stones from the road
And I will carry them
Any place we need them to go

At the edge of day
Remind me darling
Feet on the ground
Face home, my love
There’s always a way back home
Oh my love
There’s always a way back home
Oh my love
There’s always a way back home
Oh my love
There’s always a way back home

Notes
This week’s entry is a love song about gratitude. There are so many kinds of love songs. There is the fire and excitement of new love. There is the longing and desperation of lost love. There is the nervous anticipation of love yet to be. I have written all of these songs over the years. Lately I find my love songs falling into a different category. Lately I write about the gratitude and safety found only in sustained love. My love is growing up, and that’s the right place to be a couple of years into my marriage. People don’t typically write top-forty hits about this kind of love, but then again, I’ve never been accused of writing a top-forty hit. Thanks very much to Rebecca for continuing to find new ways to be my muse. She holds me up and faces me to the front when I need it. I love her very much indeed.

~M.E.

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Week 353 // Camera Obscura

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Today all my neighbors
Were gathered outside
And out on the fire escape
They looked to the sky
They looked to the sky
Behold the human race

Today my whole country
Beheld the same sight
They parked in the cornfields
They drove through the night
They drove through the night
Behold the human race
Behold the human race

Today in my city
My eyes in a box
I ponder the scale
And my context is lost
My context is lost
Behold the human race
Behold the human race
Behold the human race

Notes
Today, if you live in the same country as me, you probably tried to watch what they’re calling “The Great American Eclipse”. Some of you with great forethought tracked down a pair of sci-fi goggles of some kind or another that allowed you to gaze directly into the sun without cooking your fragile retinas. Others, like me, cobbled together home-made camera obscuras to behold the majestic shadow of the moon on the inside of a simple cardboard box. I can’t say what it was like peering through those darkened lenses at the heavens as they transformed, but I can report that the view was just fine from the cheap seats. It was difficult to angle my phone camera into the viewport of my contraption, but I will attest that the simple photograph I present with this song does not do my experience justice.

While the eclipse itself was certainly a marvel that this generation will cherish into its longest memory, I was particularly struck by the uniquely human behavior uniting those who sought to behold the spectacle. This song isn’t about the celestial event itself, so much as the electric enthusiasm that took root in communities across the land. Life will stumble along after this brief reprieve, but I found it a great relief to take a collective breath, and to let the clockwork of gravity and light dazzle us for a short time. Thank you for joining in.

~M.E.

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Week 352 // Sift

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Gold in the sand of a river bed
Lord I need it so bad I’m losing sleep
When I sift the grains all I find is lead
And I’d leave the gold if it were up to me

I’ve got this
I’ll take it from here

Hand to my heart I’ve got it made
I forget my fortune when I’m losing sleep
I forget the order of the plans we’ve made
And we’d hit the road if it were up to me

We’ve got this
We’ll take it from here

Notes
I didn’t have the courage to write about Charlottesville in this week’s song. I thought about it a lot, but if I’m going to write about that, I will need more time. The reinvigoration of white supremacists operating in the open is the most grotesque expression of our American national identity, and it is a larger subject than I had the power to adequately address here today. Instead I wrote something personal and unrelated. I like this song, but I’m unsatisfied by my reluctance to confront the moment we’re living through. I will circle back to this later.

This is a song about letting yourself rely on somebody. I’m in a marriage, so its a topic I think about a lot. I focused on the sweet interplay of guitars, and I think the vocal performance has the right lilt and sway. Listen to this, and think about working together with somebody good.

~M.E.

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Week 351 // Strange Machines

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Strange machines we are
And it shows
How a photograph
of a figure
In a doorway
Stirs the soul

Make your peace
With thoughts of yourself
For your children
And their children
Shall be under
The same spell

Fall asleep
And dream of the Earth
Let its wonder
And its horror
And its splendor
Hold you deep

Notes
This song is about the fleeting worries that return, the simple senses that move us, and the often complex contradictions in the ways we relate to the world. The lyrics are nearly as simple as the music. Both are meant to be sparse and open ended. I didn’t let myself dwell for long on the source or meaning of the words I sang. I sought only an impression upon listening, rather than a labored depth to the text. I think that all I meant to sing was that people are built to feel things, so we can’t help doing it.

~M.E.

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Week 350 // An Afterthought

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The car is on the freeway
And the house is an afterthought

You see the tilt of the frame on the wall
But the picture’s an afterthought

And it makes your head spin
The way the past is an afterthought

The words make you queasy
But the scheme is an afterthought

The holes in your chest make you blue
But the gun is an afterthought

And the way we move to the cause
Of course is an afterthought

Praise to the constant ideal
Although we missed it all

Diligently working on myself
You know we missed it all this time

Friends in high places
But history is everything

Yeah, the ice in my drink keeps it cold
But your company is everything

And every conversation
We don’t have the time for is everything

Praise to the constant ideal
Although we missed it all

Diligently working on myself
You know we missed it all

Praise to the constant ideal
Although we missed it all

Diligently working on myself
You know we missed it all this time

Notes
This website has been my constant companion for 350 weeks, which is a large, round number. I have written many, many songs with the help and support (both moral and material) of kind and loyal friends, collaborators, family members, and listeners. Thanks to all of those people (who know who they are), and special thanks to my wife and parents whose constant encouragement has kept me doing this for what has become a very long time!

Mount Everest has been many things to me over 350 weeks. Lately, I must admit that it has sometimes felt more like a habit than a pursuit. I don’t think that is a bad thing at all. Songwriting is a safe and healthy habit. It is kinder on my system than drugs, and way cheaper than therapy! Still, I feel some nostalgia for the early days of this project when my blood bubbled with the mysterious potential of the next song, and every subsequent entry felt like a life-defining success or failure on whatever merit it ranked.

I wanted to agonize over this week’s song a little bit, so that’s what I did. I stopped short of the blistering guitar solo that I had planned to perform just after the first chorus, opting instead for a very simple instrumental break, but my itch was still scratched. The details received their due attention.

Speaking of details, that’s sort of the subject of this song. This song aims to speak to great big details we tend to overlook as we fret over the tiny ones. It is about losing the context of a life as we obsess over the importance of a moment. It is about striving for an ideal without recognizing our unpolished merits. I’ll let the song tell the rest.

If you’ve been here all along, thanks for sticking around. If this is your first time here, this is a project called Mount Everest. I write a brand new song every week, and I’ve done that for a while now. You can expect another one next Monday.

~M.E.

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Week 349 // Finding the Tune

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What have I learned
Staring at the blue?
To you I swear
I’ll be of use

Everyone knows
Night’s coming soon
Fingers on strings
Finding the tune

I have a hand
Make this anew
Palms in the Earth
This I can do

No one expects
Up with the moon
Trying the words
Finding the tune

Notes
Sometimes songwriting is pretty difficult. This week’s effort was full of false starts and frustrating lapses in creative energy. I kept writing songs I’ve written before. I’m sure this is a problem that many songwriters have faced, but 349 weeks into this project, I find it uniquely common to my process. I have to be okay with sounding like myself. Relaxing into that sentiment helped me to finish this little song, which I like very much because it does something that’s fairly new for me, even while sounding very familiar.

The sentiment of this song is not one that I have explored often, which is that many of the central values of my life have come from writing songs. Chief among those values is persistence. Searching for a tune is a task of variable difficulty depending on any number of given circumstances, but there’s always one to be found should you search long enough, and listen deeply enough to yourself. In one way or another, the rest of life is much the same way. We’re all trying to find the tune.

~M.E.

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Week 348 // A National Crisis of Sorts

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You’d better wake up
You’d better wake up soon
It’s a funny thing
That everyone needs to do
But they’d rather not move
From the spot they’re on
It’s a national crisis of sorts
You’d better wake up

And rushing to the window
Each and every afternoon
When the light is best for photographs

The helicopters see it all
And never do we mind
What have folks like us to hide?

You’d better not doubt
You’d better not doubt
What you were meant to do
But all we ever do is doubt
Did I get that right?
Did I ruin it?
It’s a natural question to ask
You’d better not doubt

Pushing through a crowded street
With ringing in your ears
Because the barrier is compromised

The helicopters see it all
And never do we mind
What have folks like us to hide?

Notes
Western civilization as a whole is pretty insecure these days. If the entire nervous lot of us were distilled down into a single person, that person would be a socially maladjusted teenager with a bad skin problem, anxious about possibly failing Geography, overcompensating by cracking loud jokes in the back of the classroom, and lying to his friends about his super hot girlfriend who they would definitely be able to meet except that she lives in Des Moines and only visits in the summer when they’re all away at tennis camp.

This song doesn’t touch on much of what I just described, but I think it is a fair set of fleeting impressions from the world as it exists now, full of bluster, lacking in self regard, and fairly disinterested in challenging conversation.

~M.E.

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