Week 374 // All We Long to Know

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Hours pass
Where do they go?
Everyone I know is packing up their things
And heading nowhere

Foolish grin
Look to the sky
Everyone is pushing childish things aside
With good intentions
Stocking up the shelves
It’s true the wind can change at any second

So hold my hand a little longer
Help me onto my feet
Call the fear a distraction
‘Cause it is

Oh love of mine
What can you see?
By the light of morning
We will soon discern the shape before us
Everyone’s a goner, darling, even us
We won’t escape it

So hold my hand a little tighter
Help me back to my feet
Call my fear just a distraction
‘Cause it is

All we long to know
All we long to know

Notes
I have been working up to finishing this song for over a month. The guitar part first occurred to me in early December, during a trip with my wife to visit family in California. Sometimes when I discover a guitar lick or a melody that I like, I don’t have the guts to write the song right away. A byproduct of this project is that many songs don’t get the attention I might like to give them. Time constraints or other circumstances intervene. I’m constantly afraid that a potential gem will come into the world as a rushed, middling effort. So I put it off until a day when I can’t summon another idea to run with instead, and I hope against hope that I don’t mess up a good idea. I think I did alright by this one.

This song is another snapshot of my age. It is watching the the days pass like scenery out a car window. It is fear of change and mortality. It is the itch of ignorance of the future. It is waking up with equal parts trepidation and curiosity. It is asking for help making sense of it all, and getting the help you need.

~M.E.

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Week 373 // Trial and Error

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It’s a picture
Of a child
Did you know him?

Kid, you you can’t stand
At the edges
Of a landslide
It’ll get you there

In the morning
Letting go of it
In the evening
I will be there
And I can’t predict
Who survives

It’s a shadow
In the streetlight
That you recognize

Hey you can’t react
To the slightest
Provocation
“Cause you’re better than that

In the morning
Letting go of it
In the evening
I will be here
And I can’t predict
Who survives

Oh to be old and kind
Oh to be old and still kind

Notes
Old photographs never stop getting older. Every time I see myself as a child, the image seems a little bit more like somebody foreign to me. Over the years, I have appreciated that a lot of personal growth comes from the strength of our will to change. We experience a pitfall or face a challenge, and we adjust something small about our way of approaching the world. Over time, those adjustments become habits. After a while, a habit might become part of our character. It is hard to judge the success or failure of these calibrations with eyes on the present. That’s why old photographs can be jarring. The aggregated changes we’ve undergone can stand in contrast to an earlier state of being. By seeing who we were, we get a glimpse of who we’ve become, and can reflect on who we’d like to be. Then we adjust again, however subtly. It is a process of trial and error. Taking stock of this process, I wrote this song.

~M.E.

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Week 372 // End Cycle (3)

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Allow the wind to turn this page
I’ve been nothing if not misunderstood
The sting on my tongue of the words I say
I’d have turned it myself if I could
I’ve been stumbling over and turning around
I’ve been nothing if not misunderstood

Out the window and over the lake
I’ve been nothing if not carried away
The past is a string of words we make
Cast ourselves in the stories we say
We’ve been heroes and villains and all manner of ghosts
I’ve been nothing if not carried away

And the key to it is
The illusion of the passage of time
As we’re mending and breaking
And meddling and then
If we pause even once
The illusion will unwind
So we’re stumbling and turning
And stumbling and turning again

Alone in a moment to myself
I am nothing if not grateful to you
I’ll place me there upon your shelf
I’m a music box playing your tune
And you’ll come home to find me wound up and you’ll know
I am nothing if not grateful to you

And the key to it is
The illusion of the passage of time
As we’re mending and breaking
And meddling and then
If we pause even once
The illusion will unwind
So we’re stumbling and turning
And stumbling and turning again

Notes
Happy New Year! 2017 is done, and all that remains to do is to post my final pondering on the year that was. Most people agree that the older you get, the faster time seems to slip and slide away. It’s a phenomenon of perception that I have observed since I was very young, but this was the year that time finally threw itself into high gear. This song is about trying to keep up with a blink-and-miss-it calendar year, and beginning to understand that life is merely a collection of moments and decisions that tend to fly from our fingers like loose papers in the wind.

Like many of my songs, the resolution to the central anxiety presented here is our beautiful mutual reliance upon the meaningful connections we make with other people. The people in your life are quite certainly all there is. I hope you marked the arrival of 2018 in good cheer, in the company of beloved family or friends. I hope you return to them in the months and years to come. I hope you tell them that they are everything.

~M.E.

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Week 371 // End Cycle (2)

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Say your lines
As they’re written
Take your time
By the book
Leave the house
Strung together
Stay out for a while

Every time
Back to zero
Start again
Every time
Always

Break your plans
Lose the morning
Take your time
If you like
Call your friends
Start the countdown
Go out for a while

Every time
Strung together
By the book
Every time
Always

Lose my page
Starting over
Lost my count

Close your eyes
Count to ten
Forget where you’ve been
Count down from ten

Notes
Merry Christmas! Every year I wonder if I’ll finally get around to writing a holiday song. People ask me all the time if I’ve got one in the works. Since I post on Mondays, and Christmas falls on that day this year, I thought that perhaps it was finally time. It turns out that it isn’t. Contributing to such a well worn genre seems daunting. How would I say something new? Should I say something new? Maybe I don’t have it in me. Maybe next year.

Instead, I’m continuing the year-end reflection that I began a week ago. This song shifts focus from the year at large to the year in my head. It was a year of circular thought and action, of beginning and beginning again. I’m ending out the year with true momentum, with a great new job offer, and an optimistic trajectory. The song doesn’t really reflect that, because I wrote it last week, just before it happened. It seems I will be making a clean break with 2017.

For my final thoughts on the year that was, come back on New Year’s Day. In the mean time, enjoy the holiday season with friends and loved ones, and keep each other warm on these cold winter nights.

~M.E.

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Week 370 // End Cycle (1)

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Shake the camera’s aim
From the perfect lie
Gone the sting of first losing
Gone the ache of past omens
If only in the rain

All the seasons change
All intentions falter
Best resolve is yours
Fight for it
Oldest trick in the book
Don’t fall for it
The very last of your kind
Stand for us
If only in the rain

Don’t them out of your sight
Don’t them out of your sight
Can’t let ’em out of your sight

Even in the rain
Even in the rain

Notes
As 2016 drew to a close, I allowed myself a ponderous three-part song series call “Long Year” to parse the strangeness of inhabiting such a tumultuous and emotionally taxing period. I had succumbed to an election-year fury that had rendered me pale in the face from near-objectless rage. Trump was too big a concept to rail against. I felt that the culture had died in 2016.

That year was exhausting, but the fatigue it rendered now seems almost quaint in comparison to the collective trauma with which our society attempts to grapple. I know few people who would accuse me of hyperbole on this matter. Whether we are feeling death throes or birth pangs, it is clear that we are a people (or a set of peoples) in transition. We feel a creeping sense of alienation and otherness when we look upon our neighbors. This is by design. We live under a regime that benefits from division and seeks to draw contentious distinctions between as many groups as possible. Sometimes the sting of it is acute, and other times the ache makes us numb. Sometimes my anger empowers me, and other times it makes me feel dirty, because that power is reactionary.

This is a song about cleansing oneself. My dad recently drew my attention to a post-election essay that I wrote detailing my disappointment in my own anger, and a hope that I might seek justice (in the broadest sense) through love instead. He called the essay a sermon, which I found flattering, but which also makes it all the more difficult that I have struggled to take my own advice. I wrote:

Anger is good for seeking vengeance. Love is good for seeking justice. That’s why vengeance beat justice in this round. We tried to fight for justice with anger and indignation, and love would have worked better. So marshal your love and put it to work in your community. Put it to work by organizing. Put it to work by demonstrating. Put it to work by running for office. Put it to work by writing letters. Put it to work by opening your doors to your neighbors. Put it to work by listening. Put it to work.

I’m not yet ready to climb to such a lofty moral perch. I haven’t yet done most of those things, because I’m still angry. I need a cleansing rain to wash away the lingering shame that anger causes me to feel, so I can work through the anger and find a better source of strength. I might not be big enough for that strength to come from love. That remains to be seen.

Parsing this year will also require more than one song. This is part one of three of 2017’s End Cycle. It will continue on Christmas Day and on the first of the New Year. After that, we’ll all be someplace else.

~M.E.

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Week 369 // Whims

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Oh we’re deciding the fate of the world
In a room we’re deciding the fate of the world
All of us here are the lucky few
Each of us here in this room

Oh we’re deciding the fate of your family
On a whim we’ll decide what becomes of your family
All of us here are the luckiest men
Each of us here with all our whims

Notes
I wrote this song in a hurry last Wednesday before hopping on a plane to California, and had not listened to it since. When I put on my headphones this morning to hear what I had made in advance of this trip, I was pleasantly surprised by what I heard. There is movement and harmony. There is a well rounded idea. There is a song here.

This is a song about the carelessness of those who wield power, and their detachment from the consequences of their actions felt by ordinary people. Specifically, I was thinking of the recent late-night senate session in which Republicans hastily passed their tax plan, including amendments scrawled in the margins at the 11th hour. It was a spectacle that drove home the inverse powerlessness experienced by the rest of us. This song isn’t a deep or biting commentary on the dynamics power. It is the impression of a citizen trying to peer through the window of the smoke-filled room, and seeing only children knocking over their blocks.

~M.E.

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Week 368 // Pieces

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The calm of my hand
Is a lie I’ve rehearsed
I shouldn’t say
I’ve been telling it a little worse
Day by day

And everyone sees
Through the crowd
Where they’re going
A voice on the street getting loud
And I’m slowing my own pace

All of the pieces will fall into place

Down by the crest of the hill
Rose the moon
And into the valley
Will it set all too soon
Without a trace

And people are crying
For the sound of the truth
Before the buzz of a lie
Becomes a noise that you get used to
Every day

All of the pieces will fall into place

Notes
One of the exciting things about this project is that it doesn’t stop to make room for my plans. I just returned from North Carolina, and will leave for California on Wednesday, not to return until after next week’s song is due to be posted. That means I’m writing two songs in more or less two days this week. I like this sort of under-the-gun writing. Wile I’m gravitating towards shorter compositions, for some reason melodies are appearing in my head more or less fully cooked. Harmonies present themselves, rather than having to be sought out. Pieces fall into place. In a similar way, this song is about willing fates to align, both in my life and in the world at large. It is simple, and it is earnest.

~M.E.

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Week 367 // The Light to Remember

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Wait for a while
Check it again
Circle around
Where have we been
All this time?

The weight of my step
November leaves
Move with a sound
Under my feet
Wherever I go

You could ask me inside for the winter
I would breathe just right on the ember

Think of the past
Think of the storm
The people dug in
What was it for?
Was that a dream?

You could ask me inside for the winter
I would breathe just right on the ember
I would carry the light to our chamber
You could carry the light to remember

Notes
Thanksgiving is behind us. The fall was stubborn to reveal itself, and all too soon it is giving way to winter. It is already Cyber Monday, for goodness sake. If you inhabit a latitude close to mine, your thoughts are surely on the colder days and nights ahead, and how you might warm them up.

This is a cozy song. I’m singing about bringing the warmth and light with us as we venture forth into the new season. I’ve written variations on it for previous winters. I imagine I will always find another way to sing this kind of song. I love the transitions between seasons. They often sound wistful on my guitar.

~M.E.

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Week 366 // What We’re Made Of

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Stare into a cup of coffee
And anyway there’s something off about it
There’s something ringing and I can’t ignore it
There’s someone singing outside
Bitter notes are trailing off
Listen to it
The critics would have words about it
I’ve come to rely upon it

Go for a walk to take stock of the wreckage
Count the craters over neighbors fences
Spot invaders by the way we’re dressing
And what we’re made of is a made up question
All the while, all the while
All the kids are wearing perfect smiles
They’ve come to rely upon it

I’ll answer your question
But it won’t make sense ’til you’re older
It’s all about context
You’re built how you’re built
And that’s fine ’til it isn’t fine
And you need perspective
Whatever that means
You still need it
It will all work out
Keep an open mind

Fold into an open doorway
And where were we the night we talked about it?
And with my collar up I look suspicious
And in the shadows we can be fictitious
Make believe, make believe
We should believe in something
Shouldn’t we?
We’ll come to rely upon it

Just look on the bright side
We’re keeping our looks and that matters
It’s all about context
You’ve got a head start
When you’re young in America
And I need perspective
Whatever that means
I still need it
It will all work out
Keep an open mind

Notes
As of today, I have released a new song every Monday for seven years. This experiment has remained a sustaining aspirational force in my life. I love all of these songs, even the ones I don’t like. I’m so happy to be engaged in an act of creation, and the fact that these songs exist is justification enough in my mind for having made them up. My memory sputters attempting to recall them all, so instead I’ll draw particular attention to a handful that I’m fond of from the last twelve months. This year, most are simple meditations, and quiet acoustic numbers. This week’s song is a notable exception. I have compiled an album of my year-seven favorites to say “thank you for listing”, and you can download it for free by clicking below.


click here, and you’ll download 18 songs for free

Marking another anniversary, I’d love to thank my wife, parents, family, collaborators, friends, and listeners for the tremendous support and encouragement I have continued to enjoy since the day I announced this project. You make my heart feel full. I do this because you make me believe it is worthwhile.

Though I’ve spent the last year quietly glued to my nylon string guitar, I wanted to celebrate this occasion with big hits and rock & roll. This is a song about my neighborhood, my city, and my country. It’s about trying to understand ones place in that great latticework, while shrugging off assumptions about what that place may or may not be. It might be a bit cynical, but I’ll defend my cynicism as a critique thereof, born of a sincere desire to live sincerely. Are you still with me?

As always, I’ll be back next week with something new.

~M.E.

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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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