Week 284 // Astound

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Take a cab to the corner
I’m waiting inside
And the whole wide world is a whisper
When you’re coming alive
And the fate of the world
Is a look in your eye
Like a signal in street light

And the morning is breaking
On the planet we’re on
And the neighbors are sleeping it off again
Or screaming at dawn
And the radio’s on
In the junker outside
But the station is alright

And at the end of time
We might just fade away
And with the window closed
I think we’ll sleep all day
We could sleep all day

Now all the old places are boarded up tight
But since when have I been here long enough
To sting from the bite?
Like all the voices I’ve heard
And the bottled up lights
Turn to condos at midnight

All the cameras they look around
And the cellphones all look around
All the old folks they look around
And the house-pets all look around
While the cops stop to write it down
And the bloggers all write it down
And the kids they don’t hang around

And at the end of time
We might just fade away
And with the window closed
I think we’ll sleep all day
We could sleep all day

Notes
I’m going to level with you; this song is only called “Astound” because I recently took a photograph of that word. That isn’t to say that I can’t justify that title within the context of the song itself. This song is about feeling like you’ve lived in your city, or more broadly it is about the awareness of how lived in your city is. Your city is a place where you fall in love, make love, make changes, cope with changes, confront time, confront people, toil, fail, succeed, live, die, and on and on and on. I suppose I’m astounded that I’ve been in a city long enough to feel it changing, and to have an opinion about the way it is changing. I had a lot more I wanted to do with this song, but I’m posting this at nearly midnight and I’ve run out of time. Instead of bumming myself out that I didn’t get to do all of those other things, I’m delighted that I like it so much the way it is. That’s a big part of this project: doing the best I can with the time I’ve got. Also, I’m vaguely aware that the word “condos” might sound a bit like “condoms”. I think it works just as well either way.

~M.E.

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Week 283 // Oh Serious Creatures

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Had it up to here with this whole damn town
And digging for gold in the middle of the street
I want to see you
I want to see you smiling back at me

Spat a lot of words with my face into the wind
And making you a habit is the best I ever did
I want to be there
I want to be there smiling back at you

Oh serious creatures
Oh what serious faces
Urge the moment passing you by to linger a little longer

Drinking my wine and pondering the night
Running out the clock on an ordinary day
It’s good to see you
It’s good to see you cracking a smile lately

Oh beautiful creatures
Oh what radiant faces
Urge the moment passing you by to linger a little longer

Notes
I just listened to this song for the first time since I wrote it last Wednesday, and it isn’t exactly what I remembered writing. Perhaps my perspective has changed because my wife and I are on vacation, basking in ultimate West Coast relaxation, but this song is lighter, far less burdened, and far more optimistic than I remembered it being. That’s fitting. My mindset is open and sunny right now, and this song only let in an ounce or two of pre-vacation gloom. Spring is coming and life is going to change. The transformation from serious creatures to beautiful creatures described in this song was initially aspirational, but I now believe it to have been prophetic. So it goes.

~M.E.

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Week 282 // The Only Thing True

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And I could say love
Look into my eyes
And I’ll tell you dear
Listen to my voice
I’m begging you darling
Hold tight to my hand
And we’ll go far from here
Be forgotten
We’ll go on the wind
Disappear in the moonlight
We’ll leave without word
Without thought of our sorrows
We’ll go far away
Far from here
And never look back

And I been awake
All the whole night through
And I’ve been suffering
For learning the rules
Yes I been suffering
And the only thing true
Lies asleep next to me
In the silence
The truth in the arc
Of the light as it finds you
That here in the dark of the night
I’ll be blinded
And you take me far far from here
And we never look back

And up in the air
The moon’s like a bird
And the gathering wind
Is the voice of a friend
And the evening lets loose
All the voices we’ve heard
And we’ll go far from here
Be forgotten
We’ll go on the wind
Disappear in the moonlight
We’ll leave without word
Without thought of our sorrows
We’ll go far away
Far from here
And never look back

Notes
Listening to this week’s track, one thing is evident: I am really cooped up right now. This song is gasping for breath from under the boot-heel of a pretty oppressive routine. My wife and I have been ships in the night for months, working jobs that keep us in and out of the house at opposite intervals. Our most reliable time spent together is late at night as we fall asleep. This song is about pining for the woman lying next to me. It’s a fantasy of leaving behind the routine that harries us. Later this week we’re taking off for a brief trip to California for a family wedding in San Francisco, and to visit my dear brother’s homestead in the hills above Santa Cruz. This song is my heart clawing its way to the airport, and threatening not to return once we get there.

~M.E.

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Week 281 // And Repeat

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In the wake of everything
On the cusp of something else
Caught in the spell of anticipation
Over and over

It’s the strangest time to be alive
And everyone’s always talked like that
And everything always comes around
Over and over

Notes
Including songs that I wrote before I started this project, I’ve written well over 300 songs in my life. I have no idea exactly how many; believe it or not, I didn’t always count them. As a result, a strange thing happens sometimes when I’m writing. I often realize late in the process that I’ve written the song before. The lyric, or the music, or both call at me from my past, signaling that some kind of repetition is taking place. I have circumnavigated my creative lexicon once again, and arrived someplace that I’ve been before. This used to bother me quite a lot. I used to hold on to a notion that the purpose of each of these songs was to achieve some novel originality. I realize now that novelty is cheap. If an idea comes back, so be it. It must be that I have something else to say about it. I’m certain that this week’s song is such a case, although I can’t put my finger on what song this was the last time. Perhaps one of my more astute listeners will recognize it. As I wrote it, the sensation of cosmic repetition must have rubbed off on the lyrical content. I’m singing about cycles as I experience one. I suspect I will probably write this again some time.

~M.E.

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Week 280 // Between Us

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Burn the map
Eyes on the road
See the lines
They flicker by you as you go
All the way to California

On the wind
The smell of fire
The signal buzzing
Dot for dash upon the wire
All we are is in the silent parts oh

Sunrise on the naked sphere
Burning spice and orange flame
Coping with the message on our tongues
All we’ve seen is etched upon
The void that binds our hearts between us

Ain’t it strange
Gone overboard
Hold tight the rigging
Cross your heart and praise the lord
God is laughing as we mull it over

Glad are we that search the earth
For perfect sunrise o’er the land
Grasping at the truth that’s on our tongues
All we are is writ upon
The void that binds our hearts between us

Notes
This is an earth song. This is an adventure song. This is a song about loss. This is a song about togetherness. This is a song about losing faith and accepting magic, if faith is belief in that which defies evidence, and magic is wonder at that which eludes explanation. The guitar moves a lot. It’s a little faster than it would be comfortably played or listened to. That’s deliberate. If I play this live, I will not be able to observe a steady tempo, and I’ll fall short of several notes. I recorded it this way because I wanted to hear what it would sound like if I lent the piece the false precision of digital recording. It sounds organic, but every aspect of this song is chopped up and manipulated. It might as well be a dubstep song for how computerized it is. I wonder if you can tell. Like last week, the lyrics are ponderous and unconcerned with cohesion. In a serendipitous way, I think they found cohesion on their own.

~M.E.

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Week 279 // All of These Things

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Great and growing cloud
Every heart is restless now
Every eye fixed on the storm
And oh my darling
I will whisper soft and kind
Like everything is nothing at all

Hours and hours and hours
Fleeting fear and gentle fall
Wondrous dream of clarion call
Oh who are we that tend our fires
And breath our faith
While everyone is buried alive

Oh my darling
Sleep in the moonlight
Sleep ’til the morning breaks
Dream of the firelight
Dream of your lover
Dream ’til the morning breaks

Cold and twisted spire
Thoughts it casts in pulsing light
Codes to crack and swallow life
Though what we’ve wrought
Seems all too human
Don’t concede that
Everyone is no-one at all

Oh my mother
Oh my father
Sleep ’til the morning light
Dream of the mountain
Dream of your children
Dream ’til the morning light

Years and years ago
Before the war was gathering dust
Before the book had eaten up trust
All we were was carved upon us
Known to all
That everyone is someone to love

Oh my child
Sleep in the moonlight
Sleep ’til the morning breaks
Dream of the firelight
Dream of the future
Dream ’til the morning breaks

Notes
I wrote this song with little awareness of what I was writing about, so these notes are really more of a reaction or an interpretation, rather than an explanation. As I’ve written before, this is largely what I do every week, but this time I feel it acutely because what I hear is a collection of themes and images, rather than an organized thought. There is a sense of impending peril, but there’s also a note of optimism. There is certainly a dash of technophobia, and suspicion surrounding the state of discourse and the potential dwindling of humankind’s humanity. There is a desire for greater purpose, and a puzzlement at losing touch with faith. There is nostalgia, but I hope it is balanced somewhere by some cosmic opposite, because I generally think of nostalgia as foolish. It is all too human to idealize the past, but in this case I hope I am exercising something more akin to a conservationist’s desire to preserve human love and kindness. There is tenderness. There is love. There is family. All of these things. This is better than most of my songs.

~M.E.

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Week 278 // Blood from the Stone

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Good ways to be forgotten
Good ways to pay your old dividends
Good day to clean out your pocket
Good day to squeeze all the blood from the stone
Good day to sleep in

Good ways to become a martyr
Good day to wax like a poet instead
Good day to erase like an arsonist
Good morning to lean on a fresh coat of paint
Good day to be late
Good day to be late
Good day to be late
Good ways
Good ways

Notes
I’m not sure if it’s the music, the vocal performance, or the lyrics, but I feel like I’m channeling the 90s a bit with this song. Perhaps it’s the lazy lilt I sang with, or the chunky four chord guitar (actually i think I played five, but nobody’s counting…), or maybe it’s the attitude of ennui that was so pervasive in certain kinds of music back then. Singing about boredom really is like squeezing blood from a stone. But I’m really singing about futility here. Maybe futility is too strong a word. I’m singing about trying to live with routine, about finding the right ways to do stuff even though the right ways have always seemed pretty wrong. There’s something a bit wry and rebellious here, even for a song that feels like a cartoon cloud floating above somebody’s head. I stick by it. I like this one.

~M.E.

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Week 277 // Deadbolts and Barricades

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Away in a magazine
You know they sleep pretty good
Fingers all wrapped in gold
And hearts made of wood

Deadbolts and barricades
And all other nice things
And out on a fire escape
A scavenger sings
Of the fire burning in the park
Oh Wherever you go
There’s a hand reaching for the spark
This you should have known

You tiptoe into the dark
Oh but it whistles and creaks
It’s a telegraph to my heart
I been dreaming for weeks

The lies on the radio
Float around on the breeze
And out from a starry spire
A scavenger speaks
Of the fire burning in the park
Oh Wherever you go
There’s a hand reaching for the spark
This you should have known

Deadbolts and barricades
And all other nice things
Lock picks and hand grenades
And all other nice things

Notes
Listening back to this week’s song, I feel that I must have been writing about creeping paranoia. I’m not sure if the paranoia I’m describing is my own, or a vibration that I’m picking up from our culture at large. I imagine that it might be a bit of both. I don’t think of myself as a paranoid person, but perhaps this song refutes that notion. I think there’s a facet of each of us that fears the unknown outside our immediate sphere, and would love to fortify our world against The Other at large. It’s coming out in our culture in a big way right now, because it’s an election year. To me, however, this song feels smaller than that. This song looks directly out the window, and wants to shut the blinds and turn on the television instead.

~M.E.

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Week 276 // Lift You Up

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Oh the wind may it lift you up
Lift you up
‘Til the earth falls silent down below
May it lift you up
Lift you up

Oh the night may it lay you down
Lay you down
May you dress your wounds
Here on the ground
When you lay you down
Lay you down

Oh the rain may it wake you up
Wake you up
May the thunder clap shake loud enough
That it wakes you up

Notes
According to a gadget that I wear, I walked sixteen miles today for my job. To put it mildly, I don’t have the job I would prefer to have. I am weary now at the end of the day, as I am at the end of most days. On my way home, I fell deeply asleep on the subway. I awoke at my stop, confused, but lucky to be in the right place. My body aches; I notice new aches all the time. They join the chorus of old aches that persist as I drag my bones across the pavement. It sounds melodramatic, but it is the truth. This is a weary song for a weary evening. It is quiet and simple and true.

~M.E.

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Week 275 // Sunlight Moonlight

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Once, getting toward morning light
Late in summer
Drunk like a fool
Out in the breeze
Looking for others

Deep in the woods
Deep in the shadow cast
Under the mountain
Deep in the past
Bathe in the stream
Cool of the fountain

Wait for the sunlight sunlight
Sunlight sunlight
Comes right for you
Sunlight sunlight
Sunlight sunlight
Always knows you
Oh the sunlight

Over the years
Cold of the eastern wind
Cutting the evening
Night after night
Nectar and spice
Silently breathing

Finding my way
Tripping on roots and stones
Deep in the winter
Feeling the path
Under my skin
Ache like a splinter

Under the moonlight moonlight
Moonlight moonlight
Comes right for you
Moonlight moonlight
Moonlight moonlight
Always knows you
Oh the moonlight

Notes
Deep in its bones, I think this song wanted to be a rock song. Rattling in the back of my head, I can hear the driving bass and drums. I can hear the build on the chorus, and I can hear an extended bridge, with a bit of a guitar solo. I hear these things when I listen back on the work I have just done, but I didn’t hear them when I was writing it, so they aren’t there, and that’s okay. They are ghosts of a different song, and someday when this one is all but forgotten, I’ll plagiarize myself and write it again that other way.

For what it’s worth, I think it works this way too. The sparseness accentuates the drive of the lone guitar and the lilt in the vocal. It’s almost like being alone in whichever forest of the past I have sung myself into this evening.

I like this song, but I’m critical of the lyrics. I believe there’s promise and atmosphere in the first verse. The second verse has the atmosphere, but it doesn’t hold the payoff of the first verse’s promise. Nonetheless, I have scratched at something here. If it still itches in a week, I’ll scratch again.

~M.E.

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