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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Week 235 // Strange New Land

May 18th, 2015

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Just like that I get a feeling
That I’m no longer a stowaway
I made it to the shore
And all at once
I set my feet upon the sand
And sink my toes
I haven’t been this way before

And the air’s so sweet
The smell of spring and that perfume
It’s got me floating off my feet
And I’m a dangerous man
I come this way to find what’s mine
And take it right into my hand
And it’s a strange new land we’re in

Every morning
I look out into the world
And ponder what out in the world
Is looking back
And every evening
Taking stock of what I’ve seen
I write it down and I forget it
Just like that

‘Cause it’s a dangerous place
The world’s intentions are severe
It’s got them written on its face
And I’m a civilized man
I’ve only got what I’ve been given
Knuckles white upon my hand
And it’s a strange new land we’re in

And all of Christendom
Will look into the sky
And wonder what up in the clouds
Is looking down
And as for me
I’d rather look into your eyes
And count reflections of our lives
Here on the ground

Though it’s the softest sound
Your breath can cut the dead of night
And draw the covers all around
And I’m a fortunate man
That when the earth shakes
I am steady hanging tightly to your hand
And it’s a strange new land we’re in

Notes
The work is done. The toil is over. I have walked the mile and emerged unscathed. Today is graduation day. There will be plenty of fanfare and hullabaloo for me, and for many people I’ve met. There’s a good chance we even deserve it; they don’t just hand out a master’s degree, you know? But my mind is a bit quieter about the whole thing, and I think that is reflected in today’s song. Don’t get me wrong, I’m excited, and proud of myself, and I’m looking forward to celebrating. It’s just that I’ve grown accustomed to taking a longer view of things, and this space affords me room to indulge quieter reflection on life’s milestones. This song is a rumination on where I’ve emerged after a long journey, and an acknowledgement of the journey yet to come. Already this writeup is more self-indulgent than the song itself, so I think I’ll leave you there. I hope you enjoy another quiet little song.

~M.E.

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Week 234 // Ain’t This My Stop?

May 11th, 2015

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And on the first of May
I dreamt of silence
I think I got it wrong
And way beneath
These cut-glass islands
I heard a kind of song
I rode my days
To try and find it
‘Cause It’s been playing long
And I rode my nights
To be be beside it
Asking if I belong
Is this my ride home?
Is this my bottle of wine?
Is this my world to arrange?
Is this my moment in time?
Ain’t this my stop?
And on the count of three
We’re gonna step right to it
Am I that kind of man?
And on a boiling block
We’re gonna learn the answer
I hope you understand
And when the clock strikes 12
You’re gonna see into me
And you’ll know who I am
Who needs the window closed?
I like the sound of concrete
It’s how it all began
Is this my ride home?
Is this my bottle of wine?
Is this my world to arrange?
Is this my moment in time?
Ain’t this my stop?

Notes
Right now I’m off to finish my last paper to hand in tomorrow at my last class of my master’s degree. I’ve mused before about how moving to New York for my master’s has been much more than just an academic experience, but a rather transformative moment in my history. Not merely because I wrote my thesis about the soundscape of the MTA, it has felt like a long ride on a fascinatingly noisy train, which is final coming to my station. Arriving at “my stop” isn’t just about getting off the train, it’s also about reaching a destination, and I feel that profoundly these days. I’ve taken a ride to a brand new place. There is a note of trepidation in this arrival too. I’ve been on a bit of a hot streak since I came to graduate school, and I have been biting back a fear that when I finish what I came here to do, that streak might be at an end. I don’t really feel like that will be the case, but nonetheless a new phase is about to be revealed upon this arrival, and I’m not entirely sure what it looks like. Also the day after tomorrow is my 30th Birthday, so there’s that… Next week: Graduation!

~M.E.

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Week 233 // Leaving Tracks

May 4th, 2015

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I think I’m leaving tracks
And I got days to wait
And in the stacks and stacks
I stumble and it’s getting late

And there’s a bright red wall
You know I gotta get around
And it don’t matter how I do it
Beating cracks in every door I’ve found

And everyone knows
When you’re out in the rain
You get trampled upon
And you see it come
And everyone feels
When they’re out in the storm
It’ll never let up
But then it does

I got a good good plan
You see it’s something like this
I’m gonna chase the light
‘Till morning catches up with me
And slip into the mist

And it’s a good good year
For letting trouble slip away
For letting go of all the little things
I used to let get in the way

And everyone knows
When you’re out in the rain
You get trampled upon
And you see it come
And everyone feels
When they’re out in the storm
It’ll never let up
But it always does

Notes
I can hardly believe that it’s May of 2015. May of 2015 has long loomed over me for a couple of reasons. I imagine that I’ll address each of them on this website in the coming weeks, but to give you a preview, I’m currently swimming in an existential soup because this month I’ll turn 30, and also receive my Master’s degree. My 30th birthday (sometime next week, I’m sort of too busy to keep track of it) doesn’t feel like an accomplishment, so much as a benchmark of which I must take serious note. The notion of my soon-to-be newly minted master’s degree, on the other hand, really knocks my socks off. The last two years have flown by, and thanks to the catalyst of coming to New York to pursue my degree, literally every aspect of my life has been transformed. It has been an arduous couple of years in many ways, but also a tremendously optimistic time for me. Wrapping it up feels strange, like I’ll need to find a new reason to struggle (I’m sure that as I face the job market I’ll find one). This song is a collection of sentiments having to do with all of this stuff. I can’t really explain what it says, but here it is nonetheless.

Also, I’m pretty sure I ripped off a couple of my old songs with this one. It has been happening more and more lately; a natural function of doing this week after week. I prefer to think of it as a conceptual re-appropriation — here are some old ideas set in new colors.

~M.E.

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Week 232 // Wild Blue

April 27th, 2015

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Rising moon
Mid/late day
Wild blue
and 10 balloons
Floating away

Setting soon
Light looks strange
Alien hues
And street lights too
Buzzing away

How does it get you?
Nobody knows
Light like an evening
Those years ago
Strange how it works you
Right to the bone
Song from a morning
Ages ago

Hold my hand
Tight my dear
Such a friend
I lose my head
Having you near

Old old light
Disappears
Catch the ribbon
On the breeze
Hold it for years

How does it get you?
Nobody knows
Light like an evening
Those years ago
Strange how it works you
Right to the bone
Song from a morning
Ages ago

Notes
This is a song about when something in the air is familiar and it catches you off guard. Sometimes when the air is just right, or the temperature hovers in a particular place, or a song wafts by your ears, or the clouds look just a certain way, or the light fades at just the right instant, you can be transported to other places and other times. Memory sneaks up on you, and past blends with present, and time folds in on itself and unfolds in curious and unexpected ways. It is different from mere deja vu in which your memory is confused and mistakes the present for the past. It is the discovery a moment that complements a memory, and a realization that life is full of symmetry, and refrains come back around just like the chorus of a song. It is a curious sensation, and when it happens, moments last longer, and linger in your perception. I try to savor those moments when it seems like life is a song.

~M.E.

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