Week 365 // Countdown (09)

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Something overhead
What am I to do?
Feet on the sidewalk
Next to you
Out for the evening

Wise men gather
Making choices
Noise on the radio
Sounds like voices
Sounds like voices
Sounds like voices

So disregard my words
If ever I quote the Bible
‘Cause heaven knows I just
Pretend to have read that book
I never cast my stones
While worshiping my idols
But stones fly everywhere I look

God in the Garden
Answered on cue
God up in a tower
What have we done to you?
You’re out for the weekend

So bury any questions
Of fallout over Christmas
The bombs were built to fall
That’s probably what they’ll do
And if we’ve cast our lots
With bullies and deceivers
At least I’ll greet the end with you

Any day
Any day now

So blast the naked trees
And spin the empty chamber
The birds have fled the land
The beasts will follow suit
And if we’ve cast our lots
With bullies and deceivers
At least I’ll greet the end with you

Notes
A couple of months ago, I wrote a song about the end of the world for (approximately) the 5,000th time, and came to the decision that any future songs running with that theme would be part of a series called “Countdown”, starting with 10, and ending with zero. I wrote, “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”.

Here’s the next one. This song is describing a world of disillusioned zealots and resigned rationalists, and the tangible comfort we can give to each other as we (like people alive in every previous era of history) become increasingly convinced that the sky is falling, and that we’ll all be dead pretty soon. It is a song of paranoia and love. As a citizen of Late America, those are among my most dominant emotions.

On a separate note, there are now enough Mount Everest songs to listen to a different one every day of the year. It’s also my half-birthday. Finally, come back next Monday for this project’s 7th anniversary song!

~M.E.

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Week 364 // Another Lament

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It only lasts an instant
In an instant we’ll forget
We will paint the walls in brightest white
The earliest chance we get

We know not when
Or where we’ll be
Each moment seems the same

So every child is made to learn
Their life is but a flame
And it could go out

The stomach tied in knots
The hand that holds the gun
The echo heard for miles and miles
The silence when it’s done

We know not when
Or where we’ll be
Each moment seems the same

So every child is made to learn
Their life is but a flame
And it could go out

Notes
I live in a country numbed by the frequency of sudden and deadly mass shootings, with no willingness to even acknowledge the daily calamities that are deemed too insignificant to merit any mention at all. As I sit to write these track notes, I long for the poetic ambiguity afforded by songwriting. It is hard to describe with clarity how I feel. I don’t want our grief to be meaningless. I don’t want our horror to be mundane, but it’s too late for that. This most recent incident will fade in the fog of our limited attention. Then it will happen again, and again it will fade. We are wracked with an illness. What is worse is that we refuse to take our medicine. We prefer the panacea of collective amnesia. What is to become of us?

~M.E.

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Week 363 // Us Humans

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The morning tries to break
The fabric of the night

The mist is strange today
It pulls the light apart

I can’t adjust
The finer edges of my sight

Like most,
I shun the darkest motions of my heart

Are you one of us?
Have you bowed your head into your hands
And raged the passing of your plans?

Were you here before?
Did you crack the ice and peer beneath
The blue and murky colors of the deep?

Another person struck the pavement
WIth his hand

Another person bled
And marveled at the pain

Some other person cried
The night the war began

And someone else called out
To give the war a name

Are you one of us?
Have you bowed your head into your hands
And raged the passing of your plans?

Were you here before?
Did you crack the ice and peer beneath
The blue and murky colors of the deep?

Did you whisper in your sleep?
Are you one of us?

Notes
I have had bits and pieces of this song’s guitar part percolating for quite some time, perhaps even for several months. It was a little run that I would play idly, and I didn’t think much of it. I liked playing it, but the bouncy melody didn’t inspire me enough to bring a song home. I didn’t realize that in order to make this song work, I might need to counter the cheerful fizz of the guitar lick by providing a darker contrast in the lyrics.

This song is about living with our memories, and the daily work of distracting ourselves from our darkest corners. Maybe it is a necessary impulse to push certain things aside, to try to be a lighter self, to play a more cheerful melody. We don’t usually want to frame our pain and put it on the wall for everyone to see. But we also have a lot to learn from the encounter with our tougher memories. I think the tension between avoidance and acceptance of the past is uniquely human. It requires the capacity to understand the linearity of experience, but also the vulnerability to which memory subjects us. The past is in the past, but we also carry it with us everywhere we go. “Us Humans” is a song exists at the nexus of that tension.

~M.E.

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Week 362 // Friend to the Wind and the Rain

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The morning comes
Like a friend to the wind and the rain
You can counter the noise in the street
But your bluster is more of the same

You could pick every moment apart
But it won’t change anything
You can take every instant to task
But it won’t change anything
You can bet on the wind and the rain

Set out on your feet
It’s the only place you belong
And miles and miles you tread
Through the weather like nothing is wrong

You could pick every moment apart
But it won’t change anything
You can take every instant to task
But it won’t change anything
You can bet on the wind and the rain.

Notes
For the third week in a row, I am indulging an autumn writing whim that draws me to the theme of the wind, and how it punctuates this time of year. This time, I heard it in the guitar part I was playing. This song is a patient and cyclical in the same way that the wind kicks up and dies down, only to repeat and repeat. I wrote about inhabiting the wind, about being inside of it, about being out in it, about coming to expect it. There is little we can do about the wind and the rain, so we may as well befriend them.

~M.E.

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Week 361 // A Change in the Wind

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And here you are
Your hand in my coat pocket
Warm in there

The stillness and the color
Wrap around you
You carry it

There’s been a change in the wind

When autumn calls
Be brave enough to answer
Make eye contact

When winter swirls
Seek solace in my pocket
It’s warm in there

There’s been a change in the wind

Notes
Quite accidentally, I carried last week’s theme of the wind into this week’s entry. The autumn transition is among the best represented subjects in my songs, and the wind is ever its herald. I couldn’t help it.

Autumn is my favorite time of year. But while it can often be an optimistic transition, the fall also carries a hint of foreboding crackling around its edges. That foreboding is often a portent of challenges, trials, and changes. It can be natural this time of year to feel the change in the wind as a warning to brace oneself. I have written before of the value of partnership when facing the cold. This song speaks once again to that sentiment.

I think I should whistle more often. Truthfully, I whistle all the time, everywhere I go. I am unselfconscious about it in public. People look at me like a crazy person. I think that says more about them than it says about me. Still, I almost never record it. I think I could count on less than one hand the number of Everest tracks that make use of my whistle. I think I will work on changing that.

~M.E.

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Week 360 // Where the Wind Goes

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Let’s stay up late and talk about the past
There’s nothing wrong with looking back
And every time I feel the wind with you
I come to ponder where it goes

All my days
All my days
All my days with you

Let’s ride for hours along a distant road
There’s something shining up ahead
And everywhere I see the colors turn
I know we’re coming ’round again

All my days
All my days
All my days with you

Notes
I’m writing this post from a crowded back seat, traveling from Vermont back to New York City. I don’t mind being crammed in like sardines with my wife and close friends as we draw to close a weekend that was spiritually restorative, and luminous with love and friendship. We do this every year, so I was able to anticipate the feeling and sentiment in order to put it to song during the week leading up to the trip. This is a love song. Yes, it’s about my wife, but it is also about my closest friends, and the enduring power of sticking together.

~M.E.

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Week 359 // Feast Your Eyes

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Feast your eyes
It’s bright and new, I know
But It’s the way you’re made to see

See the light
It plays across the colors
In the space between the leaves

See all the different mountains you will climb
The heights to which you will be rising

See all the rivers twist across the earth
That you could chase to the horizon

And all the ways your life will change
And you will need to grow

But all that’s best in life is strange at first
This you should know

Know the glow of family
That will not fade
Wherever you may wander

Embrace the love of friends you’ll meet
And marvel as you make each other stronger

And all the ways your life will change
And you will need to grow

But all that’s best in life is strange at first
This you should know

Notes
On Friday, my dear brother and his wife welcomed their second son, Charlie, into the world. I haven’t met him yet, but he’s a very important person to me. As I did for his older brother, I have decided to welcome Charlie to planet Earth with a song written just for him.

The avuncular thing to do is to offer whatever advice about the world I can muster, in hopes that one day Charlie might regard the sentiment with some appreciation for this earnest selection from my modest accumulated wisdom. Here is my advice:

Charlie, get used to the idea that all the best things about being alive seem a little strange at first. If life is weirding you out, something amazing might be happening. Take being born for example. You were probably alright with how things were going up until last Friday, and all of a sudden some blinding light was forcing you to abandon the only world you had ever known. That light was weird. All of those sounds were loud and weird. Some of those people seemed pretty weird! But that’s ok, because you’re just getting to know planet Earth, and what earthlings like to do, and what a big brother is, and how often to sleep and poop. It’ll make sense later, I swear. Trust me, I’ve been through it too.

That’s it for now. I’ll offer you a lot more advice over the years (even if you don’t want it), and before you know it, you’ll be giving me advice, because we’re family and that’s what family does.

Welcome to Earth!

Love,
Uncle Jesse

P.S. Your Aunt Becca recorded some beautiful harmonies for this song, but a big computer malfunction at a very late hour forced me to post an earlier version without her contribution. I hope we can fix it so you can hear the complete version before too long!

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Week 358 // To Still the Storm

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Oh to stand on the shore
To glimpse the endless sea
Behold the vastness with you
To still the storm in us

Let’s run away
Let’s run away
Let’s run away

Come run away
Come run away
Come run away

Notes
If I’m being totally honest, I wish that I had been a bit more patient with this song. I really like the lilting guitar, and the searching harmonies. I like the sense of space. I think this song probably deserved to have at least another verse and chorus, and probably a bridge for good measure. Perhaps it might have had a deep and fuzzy organ to hold down the bass. Another layer of guitar could have harmonized with the lead late in the song to provide a sense of uplift. I can imagine more, but I didn’t take it there. Still, there is something so nice about this truncated version. It identifies a sense of lament, and offers a bit of hope. I think it comes across.

~M.E.

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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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