Week 439 // A Missed Opportunity

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When I catch my breath
On the side of the road
I’m not quite sure where I am

And it takes a while
Before I notice a sign
The road likes to tell you where to go

Follow it this way
All the way home
Just follow it every step
You know where to go
When you pass all the people
Don’t look right at them
Don’t look them in the eye

And the people know
In the dark we will feed
We will take the blood from the earth

And the map will lie
And the neighbors will lie
And I’ll search for the face of a friend

Follow it this way
All the way home
Just follow it every step
You know where to go
When you pass all the people
Don’t look right at them
Don’t look them in the eye

Notes
After listening to this song, I disagree with it. I wrote the lyrics somewhat stream of consciousness, and I arrived at themes of an urban distrust of our neighbors, of strangers, and of others in general. There’s some truth in there, but it isn’t the whole truth. It isn’t most of the truth. I dismissed the quiet smiles on my block, and the simple ways that people help each other out all the time. I missed the bulwark of kindness and civility that makes life in chaotic place possible. This surely exists in some way in every neighborhood of every city worth a damn. It’s mostly the loudest voices that are hostile. I’ll write this song differently next time.

~M.E.

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Week 438 // The Colors You Will Name

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Every day is something new
Oh the world in front of you
Oh the colors you will name
Oh what a day

Feel the motion of the wind
Feel your stirring heart within
Heed the hour without delay
Oh what a day
Oh what a day

Here we are, we walk with you
Here we swear to see you through
Here’s a promise we have made
Oh what a day

In the forest you will grow
Meet the goddess you will know
Mother does not lead astray
Oh what a day
Oh what a day

Crest the hill and meet the rise
See it through your father’s eyes
See it clear and far away
Oh what a day

Feel the motion of the wind
Feel the stirring heart within
Heed the hour without delay
Oh what a day
Oh what a day

Notes
This weekend the world met Eloise and Eloise met the world. She is the daughter of friends so very dear to me. I won’t meet her for a little while, but that doesn’t mean I can’t sing her a song.

She’s a child of Maine, and the daughter of deep and mindful parents. I tried to divine the influence of her mother and father, and to summon her surroundings as I made this song. I wanted her to feel the depths of the power and magic in her world and family. Since she’s a baby, I know that the words won’t mean much for a little while, so I tried to put something ancient and wordless into the drone of my voice. When she’s older, she can tell me how well I did.

Hi Ellie. Welcome to the Earth. Make yourself at home. See you soon.

~M.E.

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Week 437 // The Fake First Signs of a Season

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The fake first signs of a season
Holding up hope to believe in
Holding anything bright
To walk away
Just to walk away
I am awash in the moonlight
I am laid bare in the sunlight
Everything I have obscured
Is plain to see
I am plain to see
I am smaller now
I am honest now
I am golden now
I’m beholden now
And I am open to you

The fake first signs of a season
Holding up hope to believe in
Holding anything bright
To walk away
Just to walk away
I am awash in the moonlight
I am laid bare in the sunlight
Everything I have obscured
Is plain to see
I am plain to see
I am smaller now
I am honest now
I am golden now
I’m beholden now
And I am open to you

Notes
First things first: it’s April Fools Day, and I have to admit that I completely believed the viral news of the day that “Billy Corgan Is Taking Over Nirvana For a 2019 Tour”. I’m not linking the article here because I feel stupid. I had dizzy 90s kid fever dreams of watching the Smashing Pumpkins frontman absolutely demolish Cobain’s immortal catalogue somewhere in a North American arena this summer… until I actually read the article, and noticed that it was a total farce. I hate this “holiday”. But still, the spirit of the day is seasonally appropriate. Spring fools us again and again with false starts and outright lies for weeks on end, until, little bye little, it actually arrives. We, along with the spring, shed our winter defenses in fits and starts. Disingenuously at first, and then with full intention, we husk away the layers and the extra baggage, and we let our guard down.

~M.E.

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Week 436 // When E’re I Pleased

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I think of it now and then
I had a life up in the trees
I had the animals for friends
I’d come and go when e’re I pleased

And oh my soul
I’d shout to the moon
I’d never grow old
Or so I had assumed

Then I traded this for that
My bargain won both love and gold
I put a feather in my hat
It flew the first wind that took hold of it

And oh my soul
I’d shout to the moon
I’d never grow old
Or so I had assumed

I think of it now and then
I had a life up in the trees
I had the animals for friends
I’d come and go when e’re it pleased me

And oh my soul
I’d shout to the moon
I’d never grow old
Or so I had assumed

Notes
The approximate cutoff between my youth an my maturity occurred sometime around the moment that I emerged from the forest. What I mean to say is that I was fairly aimless and unrefined before I left New England for Brooklyn. It really wasn’t all that long ago in the grand scheme of things; I was a late bloomer after all. Still, back then I knew not of responsibility toward another human being, and I barely knew how to take care of myself. Between bouts of deafening madness, I was having an incredibly fun time. Then I got my shit together, more or less.

I love the forest, and I love that it is the touchstone for my youth in my imagination. I believe it will also be the touchstone for some future moment of my experience. In the meantime, however, I’m left to idealize it. Somewhere in my memory, I’m like a Disney character with birds and squirrels perched on my shoulders. Honestly, it’s not all that far off from the truth. I’ve had profound encounters with nature, and it has informed my view of the world in powerful ways.

This is a song about looking at that idealized encounter with nature and youth with a wry and knowing gaze. It’s also about understanding the great fortune in my personal growth and actualization. Sometimes I miss where I was. I’m glad I’m where I am. I’m looking forward to where I’m going.

~M.E.

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Week 435 // What to Do

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Hey man when the sun comes up
Dig a tunnel underneath the riverbed
And what you find down there
If it’s good you bring it to your foreman
He’s gonna tell you what to do

Hey man when the sun comes up
Dig a tunnel underneath the riverbed
And what you find down there
If it’s good you bring it to your foreman
He’s gonna tell you what to do
He’s gonna tell you what to do
‘Cause man it ain’t up to you

Notes
I play a lot of guitar in my down time, and write a lot of licks and and parts that that never turn into finished songs. Most of the time, I’m playing around in idle moments with a several distinct and fairly developed ideas, but many of the songs that I post to this site are invented from whole cloth in the breath just before I sit down to record them. I put off writing the ones that I really like. I have two ideas percolating at the moment that I wasn’t brave enough to write this week. One of them could be really great, and I put off finishing it last week as well. In its stead, this song is playful and has a good lick. If I wasn’t going to finish the one I really like, I wanted to offer up something enjoyable. It’s about labor and authority. It’s about digging. In the coming weeks I hope to dig a little deeper and finish the other other one.

~M.E.

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Week 434 // Up

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Stay up late at night
You’ve got ’til the morning
Join me when you’re able
I’ll be here

Stay up late at night
You’ve got ’til the morning
Join me when you’re able
I’ll be here

Notes
I’ve written lots and lots of songs about being up late, alone with myself—I did one just a few weeks ago, in fact. This one is is a bit of a role reversal, however. It’s been midterms in Rebecca’s law program, which means she’s been burning the candle at both ends. I’ve been going to bed by myself a lot of nights. This has been a regular thing since she started school, but it it’s not something I had ever had to get used to since we got together. This song is about drifting off while she’s out there doing what needs to be done. It’s a song about a new normal.

~M.E.

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Week 433 // Only Children of the Last Days of Earth

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Been looking back there
To the start of it all
The land was empty
And our thinking was small
I hid my fingers
In a fist in my rage
Swung at a giant
I was bleeding for days

I’d never fought a holy war
I’d never set a fire around belief
I’d never seen the stars before
I’d never known the way I should be

Looking out there
At the fate of the world
The smoldering embers
Of invectives we hurled
We’ll run for cover
We can live out our days
The water’s cleansing
But the mark always stays

I’ll never cast a stone again
I ain’t never gonna leave my post
I’ll whisper to you now and then
I’ll never see a holy ghost

Only children
Of the last days of earth
Your words are startling
And your art is your worth
You hide your fingers
In a fist in your rage
You swing at giants
and they all run away

You’d never fight a holy war
You wouldn’t set a fire around belief
You don’t look to prophets anymore
You don’t ask about the way you should be

Notes
I look around to see that a cohort that grew up just behind me, one that I always thought of as children, has taken a pretty comfortable seat in their adulthood. Not only that, but their fiery youth has tempered, and they strike me as a fairly responsible set—at least the ones that I interact with in my day-to-day life.

Behind them somewhere, rabble rousers are still rousing rabble, and I look to them with perplexed curiosity. I consider them in comparison to my own peers, who shouted with impotent urgency at the heavens (I did this until my throat quite literally bled). Have we already fought our battles? What did we fight for? Did we win? No, obviously we didn’t. The “Only Children of the Last Days of Earth” are the rabble rousers over the next horizon, or the horizon after that, or the one after that. They are the ones who finally win.

~M.E.

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Week 432 // To Be Struck

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When you’re a kid
And you’re in love with your art
You fall in love
With the placemat at the restaurant
You trace the shapes
In the branches of trees
You pledge your heart
To an electric pencil sharpener

Oh I couldn’t see yet
Oh I didn’t see the world yet
Learning to see
Was to be struck with a curse
And to be left in darkness

You see the trees
The loveliest trees in the world
You see the edge of the night
The darkest night in the world
You see the stars
You’re at the top of the world
You touch the sun with your hand
And you’re in love again
You’re in love again
You’re in love again

Oh I couldn’t see yet
Oh I didn’t see the world yet
Learning to see
Was to be struck with a curse
And to be left in darkness

Notes
I saw a movie recently about a little boy who loved to draw. The boy’s life wasn’t like mine in many ways except for that. While all kids who draw use it as an escape, the boy in the film had fair cause to flee his circumstances into the solace of his art. I, on the other hand, was supported and encouraged at every turn. Nonetheless, I found an elemental familiarity in the boy’s closeness to paper and line, and the sound and texture of those things. I drew ceaselessly from the time I could hold a pencil until I reached my mid-twenties. At that point it dwindled, and then it stopped.

There is something in this song about adulthood and the deconstruction of wonder as the antithesis of the feeling I had when I drew. Today, I make pictures on a computer for work. I like making them, and they look nice, but they’re also pretty sterile. I can still find the wonder lost to my visual practice when I play music. Perhaps this is because of the deep physicality of sound; its liquidity and vibration work their way into my body in a way I can’t turn from. But at some point I learned to see the world as a grownup sees it, and I lost some of the sight I once had. This song laments a loss, but also celebrates having had the thing to begin with. I’m so happy I drew, and I hope I draw again some day when the time is right.

~M.E.

P.S. The picture here is a detail from a piece by Harold Lindsey, who is my nephew, and perhaps a budding artist in his own right. It is on our refrigerator and I like to look at it while I cook.

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Week 431 // This Has Been a Dream of Mine (by Lightning Bug)

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Do I consider myself a great thinker?
No.
Do I consider myself a great observer?
No.
Do I consider myself a great writer?
No.
Do I consider myself a great commentator?
Yes!

Do I consider myself a great thinker?
No.
Do I consider myself a great observer?
No.
Do I consider myself a great writer?
No!
Do I consider myself a great commentator?
Yes!!!

Do I consider myself a great thinker?
No!
Do I consider myself a great observer?
No!!
Do I consider myself a great writer?
Hemingway!!!
Do I consider myself a great commentator?
Yes!!!

Notes
After nearly ten years, we finally got the band back together.

A decade ago, I was living outside of Philadelphia with my friends and bandmates, gigging around the region and recording what would have been our first full-length album. As Lightning Bug, we had cut an EP that managed to get on local radio, and were regulars on the schedules of Philly dives of increasing profiles. It was an exciting and rambunctious time. We were all in it together. We were tirelessly creative and on the verge of understanding our art. We felt like we were gaining momentum, and then it all just ended. I wasn’t the only one who left Philly, but I only feel at liberty to discuss my personal circumstances. I had blown out my voice and needed throat surgery. I felt depressed and homesick for New England. We had plans to finish the album and try again after a break. It didn’t work out that way. That was all nine years and ten months ago.

Over the years, we remained close despite the loss of the band. We see each other as often as possible, and remain deeply embedded in each other’s lives. Occasional musical collaborations between band members continued (some of which can be heard on this site), but not in any form that we could have comfortably called Lightning Bug. This weekend, however, fate brought us all back to Philly to see David’s exquisite band Ecce Shnak take the venerable stage at Johnny Brenda’s, and to celebrate the imminent arrival of Nick’s first daughter. We didn’t pass up the opportunity to create something new together.

This track is very different from Lightning Bug as we knew it, but it comes from the same deep trust and friendship that made our collaboration potent and joyful years ago. Rob stayed in Philly and amassed a wonderful home studio setup, allowing him to engineer and mix this track. We each took a post at an instrument, and this song came out of us. We shuffled the deck a bit, most of us picking up a different instrument than the one we had typically played. On this track, Rob is featured on drums, Dave plays guitar, Miguel is on bass, Nick plays keys and percussion, and I took lead guitar. We swapped in the amazingly talented Brenna Markey on lead vocals—she’s a longtime friend, and a vocal phenomenon in styles from opera to art rock. She is also about to marry Rob, which is excellent. The lyrics come from a wonderful poem by Rob, which Brenna adapted on the fly from his personal journal.

The title of this song, “This Has Been a Dream of Mine”, was Brenna’s expression of how it felt for all of us to make music together. Immediately after recording this song last night, Dave and I hopped on a late train back to New York, and Miguel drove to see his dad. Nick flew home to Maine today, as Rob left for work. Indeed it felt like the whole thing might have been a dream. We won’t wait ten years to do this again.

~M.E.

P.S. Special thanks to Kyle, who also played in Lightning Bug for a stint during our time in Philly, and is a wonderful person.

P.P.S. Rob lives within spitting distance of Edgar Allan Poe’s house, which is the site of the scary bird statue pictured with this entry. I thought it had an ominous literary congruity with this song’s lyrics and themes.

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Week 430 // In Your Own Way

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I never was
Good at falling asleep
It could be easier

I never was
Good at falling asleep
It could be easier

Don’t get in your own way
Don’t get in your own way
Don’t get in your own way
Don’t get in your own way

Notes
Some of the earliest Mount Everest songs dealt with my insomnia, and I’ve never really stopped singing about it. It is a topic that has become well worn. Still, I find that my relationship with sleep always sets me apart from those around me. I’m ever battling my own entropy, trying to summon vitality, attempting to fake acuteness. I often feel like a dulled edge, and that’s hard. The notion of “getting in my own way” comes from the cycles of anxiety at the heart of my insomnia. Bad sleep comes from wondering if I’ll sleep badly. Having slept badly makes me wonder if I’ll sleep badly again, which keeps me up at night. It’s exhausting to write about. I write about it to look it in the eye.

~M.E.

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