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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Week 429 // When it Was Night

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When I was small
I was nervous child
I wanted to keep that secret
But I’m sure it showed

When it was night
After I had grown
You put your hand on my chest
And you left it there

Later on I’ll succumb to my age
Or something worse
What else am I supposed to do?
There are no words
For the fear that I’ll lose you then

Another storm
It was a different life
I lit the ground right beneath me
So I could feel the heat

When the wind changed
And I was someone new
You put my hand to your forehead
And you kept it there

Later on I’ll succumb to my age
Or something worse
What else am I supposed to do?
There are no words
For the fear that you’ll lose me then

Notes
At dinner with some friends last week, the conversation turned to fear of death, because apparently my friends and I love to have a great time. During that conversation, I offered that my own fear of death likely stems from my proximity to organized religion; that growing up with frequent visits to church put the concept of the afterlife at the forefront of my mind, and that drifting away from faith means the reward I was working toward may no longer be mine. Reflecting on it later, what I had said didn’t ring true anymore. I wrote this song to flesh out the truth behind my own fear of dying, and to correct the overly academic approach I had taken with my friends.

Here’s the truth: when I was younger, I feared death because I wanted to be loved before I died. Now I fear it because it could bring an end to the love I’ve found. Of course that outcome depends on big answers to questions like the ones you’d find in church, but I’m not trying to approach it that way. I’m okay describing my fear here, and getting it out of my system for a little while. That’s my way of resolving to live in the here and now while I can.

~M.E.

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Week 428 // Song for My Friend

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Where you going?
Where you going?
Where you going?
What’s that way?

Hear the light split into colors
Each note you play

If you want to it’s okay
To run away to my place

Watch the hand that works the pain
Heed the one that points the way

Even though
The Earth might try to swallow us whole
If it swallows us both
We’ll just stay up all night
And sing to the radio

Bury a word
Bury a word
Bury a word
Try a better one

Try an idea on for size
Wear it with stripes just for fun

Stand in the doorway
And sound a note like the sun

Tell me about your troubles friend
And take your time with each one

Even though
The Earth might try to swallow us whole
If it swallows us both
We’ll just stay up all night
And sing to the radio
If it swallows us both
We can stay up all night
And sing to the radio

Notes
I wrote this song for a dear dear friend who called me up tonight and sounded like he could use a song. If you called me up tonight, I wrote this for you. Maybe you’ll understand it without explanation, or maybe the little bit I’ll offer the general audience by way of these track notes will fill in whatever bits are still confusing. You can call me back some time if you’d like a deeper sense of what I’m telling you.

If you didn’t call me up tonight, I suppose I still owe you some kind of explanation of this song, since you’ve come all the way to this website to hear it. My friend is empathetic and deep and brilliant and creative and original and fun and awesome. He’s also an amazing leader of people, and a fantastically loyal friend. When he’s got trouble on his mind, I do my best to listen, and tell him what makes sense to me. I think he often feels alone in his troubles, but what ails him often reverberates within a deep sore spot in my own heart, echoing my own sorrows and fears. We’re different in a lot of ways, but we’re also alike. Mostly, I wish I could evaporate the demons of the world that stand between my friend and the spectacular truth of his own beauty.

I’ll say this to my friend, and he can take it however he likes: I love you and I love being around you. From time to time, take a look at yourself and try to see what I see.

~M.E.

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Week 427 // On the Way

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All the way to our place
Carry a word with me
Up in the sky we will try to see it

On the way I think of you
On the way I think of you
On the way I think of you
On the way I think of you

I have been here before
I’ve got a memory like this
I have seen angles of this in our pictures

On the way I think of you
On the way I think of you
On the way I think of you
On the way I think of you

Notes
History’s most beloved love songs are grand and sweeping, encapsulating the highest peaks or lowest valleys of the romantic experience. As well worn as these two poles of experience may be in the art form, they often fail to capture the essence of being with a person and knowing them. I am looking for a simpler kind of love song about daily experience, about opening the door to find somebody you’re expecting, about building your compass around a person, about striving together, about the relief in being able to rely on somebody. I have many more grand and sweeping love songs to write, but they’re too easy in a way. This one hopes to do something else.

~M.E.

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Week 426 // From a Distance

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From a distance
It is crooked and out of place
And the center gets away
Hold your face to the wind
Hold your face to the wind
This is the way it feels
This is the way it feels
When the corners finally meet
When the edges fade

From a distance
It is answering for itself
It is looking out for itself
Hold your face to the wind
Hold your face to the wind
This is the way it feels
This is the way it feels
When the corners finally meet
When the edges fade

Notes
Rebecca and I headed a little bit upriver over the weekend to reconnect in between the madness of her law school semesters, and to get out of the city for a little while. While we were away, I snapped a picture of the majestic and sparkling Hudson, with Manhattan poking its gnarled underbite over the horizon. I have sung a few times of the view from the outside. My adopted home city is ever a perplexing subject to me. No matter how comfortable I get here, I will still need to reckon with it in the words of my songs. This one is about getting out in order to find each other, and the cool gust of wind in the relief when we do.

~M.E.

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