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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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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