Week 118 // Long Shot

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Defying explanation
You could leave yourself behind
Good enough for conversation
This could be the end of time
Filling up your field of vision
Bearing down above the sky
Introduced a vast explosion
Burning up we wonder why

Sit around and talk about it
Speculation on the evening news
Can you assign a shred of meaning
A talking point we all could use
If you were underneath the cataclysm
A tiny mass of living cells
Could you derive from collective wisdom
Any comfort knowing we’d lived well?

Even at the end
Clinging to the Earth
We’re overwhelmed to know
That life is a long shot we hit so well

All us teeming surface creatures
Building stuff and tearing it down
It’s perhaps our strangest feature
Burning everything around
If a black hole opened above us
I think we’d name it Jesus Christ
Problem is it ain’t the savior
Just gravity sucking up life

Even at the end
Clinging to the Earth
I’m overwhelmed to know
That life is a long shot
So fragile and exposed
Rare and completely unique to us

Notes
I couldn’t help myself: I’ve written another song about the end of the world. The celestial drama that unfolded at the end of last week was just too much to ignore. We were all transfixed looking one way at an impressive asteroid passing the Earth as close as anybody can remember, and meanwhile from the other direction a meteor the size of a bus explodes over Russia in a once in a century impact. The lesson? We can’t and won’t be able to stop all of these rocks in space from doing just what they will do. It makes you think about the fragility of life as we know it. For all we know, it exists here and only here; a tiny green island in a vastness of cold, indifferent lifelessness. It is no wonder that a good many people, myself included, spend their lives preoccupied with the transience of it all, and the inevitability that it will come to an end. This is a song about the contradicting nature of humanity that simultaneously eggs the universe on to snuff us out, and clings to life with childlike desperation. I think the end of this tune is the prettiest thing that I’ve come up with in a good while.

~M.E.

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Week 114 // Self Improvement Kick

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You might have said it before
That the world’s like a gun
And it’s cocked
And it’s pointing at us
But we’re sure nothing’s wrong

So now we’re turning inside
Picking apart what you’re like
What you’re not
Get to feeling a lot
It ought to be something else

You never get it all right
You never figure it out
That you’re only your self
You can’t be anything else

Tearing the pictures from walls
Burning them all
To replace what they mean
What they say about me
They don’t say nothing at all

Gonna tear it all down
Gonna start from the rocks
Build it up
Build it out
Building something else

You never get it all right
You never figure it out
That you’re only your self
You can’t be anything else

Notes
Everyone is trying to make themselves better. Nobody’s quite good enough. Sometimes folks like to go on a self improvement kick, but it is easy to get carried away. You pick something about yourself, be it something external like your weight or your level of fitness, or something internal like your bad habits or intelligence, and you decide to change it. You imagine a better you. You imagine a better scenario facilitating better opportunities and relationships, and you examine what else you can change. The list grows longer until you realize that if you changed all of that you’d be somebody else entirely. It is good to make yourself better. It is not good to unmake yourself. And so here is this song.

~M.E.

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Week 113 // Solace and Sunshine

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Standing at the intersection
Trying to recognize
A feeling I won’t mention
But I’ve felt it before

I’m thinking ‘bout a house down south
With its history begging us to let it out
Who’s got their hand at the door?

I’m thinking of the century babies
With their bottles of sunshine
And it’s driving them crazy
What the world’s got in store

I’m thinking of a kind old lady
And that I never thanked her
For the lessons she gave me
Can’t do that anymore, no

Solace and Sunshine
And so I’ll know this
In another life time
In another storied and fulfilled life

I’m looking at a magazine cover
And my eyes won’t adjust
I just see masses of colors
And I’ve seen them before

I’m thinking ‘bout a day with my brother
He said we never questioned
What we mean to each other
What we’ve got at the core

I’m thinking ‘bout my father and mother
And the lengths that they’ve gone to
Keeping people together
It ain’t simple no more, no

I’m thinking ‘bout the change in the weather
How the rain cleans your conscience
But the sun just feels better
So it’s the sun we adore

Solace and Sunshine
And so I’ll know this
In another life time
In another storied and fulfilled life

Notes
Over this weekend I’ve been in Lincolnton, North Carolina, which is the birthplace of my Grandmother, and the site of a couple of centuries of my family’s history. A mass of us gathered there for Grandmomma’s funeral. She was nearly 94 years old. Remembering her, being around so much family, and inhabiting such a meaningful location brought this song bubbling to the surface. It is about family. It is about losing a generation and gaining another one. It is about staying in touch, which was one of my grandmother’s many great skills. It is a quiet reflection set to simple and carefully chosen notes. Thanks for listening.

~M.E.

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Week 112 // Pins in a Map

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You think you’re in trouble
Obscuring your movements
Like pins in a map describing nothing at all

You think of your alibi
You ponder your innocence
You wonder if absolution’s coming at all

But you were there
You saw the whole thing, didn’t you?
And you had agency to do what was right
But everybody gives in some of the time

At the end of your life will you say
That you lived regretting nothing at all?
At the end of the day will you be
Satisfied with learning nothing at all?

And on the day that you first looked into the world
Didn’t you imagine something dark would find you there?

And on the day the darkness had you in its sights
Did it expect you pushing back with something light?
Pushing back with something light

At the end of your life will you say
That you lived regretting nothing at all?
At the end of the day will you be
Satisfied with learning nothing at all?

At the end of your life will you say
That you lived regretting nothing at all?
At the end of the day will you be
Satisfied with learning nothing at all?

Notes
This week’s track fulfills a long term goal of this site and deserves to be recognized as a bit of a milestone. I have featured a lot of guest performers on this site, and have done long distance collaborations before, but this week’s song is a collaboration with somebody that I’ve never met face to face. When I first began this project, a central goal was to connect with artists, and to use the full potential of the internet to facilitate collaboration. This track is the actualization of that goal. This is also the first time that I haven’t played a single instrument on one of these songs.

Brooklyn Fraser and I have mutual friends, but have never met. She lives across the country in LA, and reached out with a song that she thought I might be able to work with. My typical vocal style fit her tune like a glove. It was so comfortable to get into this track. Her atmospheric guitars and popping bass have so much style. Her rhythms build with a confident ease. My goal was simply not to ruin what she had started. I wrote about guilt and renewal which I’ve probably written about a few times before. It seemed an appropriate subject for the beginning of a new year. Particularly the renewal aspect. I tried to give the work that she’d already done enough space to breathe. I kept my hands off my instruments because she’d already done the work. This was an absolute pleasure to work on. I’m hoping that this is the first of many tunes with her.

~M.E.

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Week 110 // Human Kind

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Walking in the dark
Haunted
Anything to drink…
Honestly
Thought I was asleep
Ain’t quite so
I should be

What was that you said?
Smiling…
Something ’bout the light
Disarms me
Signals in the night
Strung on wires
Through the trees

Said like a man on the run
“I’m not here anymore”

Silhouette:
Human Kind?
It’s a trick
Nothing more

Nothing like
Pumping blood
In the vein
Something warm

Human voice
In the dark
Human heart?
God knows I’ve been stifling mine from the start

Trembling like a child
I’m a sensitive man

And the moonlight’s shining off cars
And they’re all waiting in line like they’re stayin’

And the citizens counting up scars
They’re all looking around when they’re prayin’

Honestly, do you feel safe?
Lie to me.

Said like a man on the run
“I’m not here anymore”

Silhouette:
Human Kind?
It’s a trick
Nothing more

Nothing like
Pumping blood
In the vein
Something warm

Human voice
In the dark
Human heart?
God knows I’ve been stifling mine from the start

Notes
On friday my family received some bad news, and it shook me. I was already in a bit of a state, nervously trying to secure the last of my graduate school recommendations, but the news that my grandmother had fallen gravely ill — and that my father was rushing to her side in Georgia — put me over the edge. By the evening I was crawling out of my skin and I went for a dark dark walk. I walked out of the bright town center and intended to remain on the main roads where streetlights could provide me with a sense of security. Instead I veered seemingly against my will onto a darkened bicycle path that lead me deep into the woods, and far away from anything familiar. I was alone in the dark, colored Christmas lights vaguely visible through the trees, with only my agitated state to keep me company. That night the woods were haunted and I was surrounded. When I got home I wrote this song. It is about willingly veering out of safe territory. It is about the lack of control we have over the fates of the people in our lives. It also has shades of the Newtown Massacre which hasn’t been far from my thoughts since it happened. On friday night I didn’t want to feel safe, because it didn’t feel like an honest place to be. My family is doing a good job of making it feel like Christmas, but I wish my father was here, and I wish my grandmother wasn’t in so much pain. I don’t wish to be a downer on Christmas, so I tried to funnel these feelings into an exciting, kinetic rock song. I really do like this one.

~M.E.

P.S.
I sincerely hope your home is warm, your loved ones are safe and close, and all is well. To those of you who observe the holiday, Merry Christmas!

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Week 109 // My Final Song!

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You could run away
You could burn your former life
You could see the Eiffel Tower

You could learn to paint
You could write your name on walls
Underneath the seats of power

You could build a house
Deep into the woods you’d go
Never to return again

You could burn your checks
You could siphon gasoline
And ride off with your closest friends

What must we do?
Should we flee or should I die with you?
Should we stand and transcend
This mortal coil as we meet our end?

And if we live
And if we live

You could paint your face
You could leave behind your name
You could rule the land you’re on

You could find your love
You could populate the Earth
And teach your children right from wrong

You could set the rules
Or you could leave them all behind
And watch as nature rules itself

You could be a god
Or you could be a human being
A citizen of nature’s wealth

And what of the Earth
And who remains to witness her rebirth?
And what of the young?
What do we tell them of the Earth that was?

Notes
Calm down! No, I’m not quitting Mount Everest. It’s just that with the world coming to an end sometime this Friday, none of us can expect to be alive this time next week. Sure, unless the planet is outright destroyed, there are likely to be survivors of whatever calamity awaits us at the end of the week. But even if I’m fortunate enough to be among the living when the dust settles, we probably won’t be able to count on a functioning internet (or even electricity) since society is likely to be in an unrecognizable state of lawless decline. So while I may live to write another song, this will be the last one that will reach your ears over broadband or 4G or however you prefer to access websites. That is, unless the Mayans were totally wrong… and what are the chances of that? After all, they were very clever. More so than us, I imagine.

As long as I can remember, I have been fascinated by the apocalypse. I wouldn’t say that I’ve been willing it on or anything, but most of my favorite books, movies, comics, and TV shows have all had something to say about it. I love pop-culture images of shoulder-pad-wearing, sword-wielding gas-masked badasses making their way in a harsh world, climbing over the rubble of a fallen America, while struggling to revive those things worth keeping, and battling to suppress the human fallibility that brought about our society’s inevitable demise. I grew up when the false specter of Y2K gave way to the horrifying reality of 9/11, and ever on the horizon was 2012.

Maybe we invent these apocalypses because in some way we all believe that if it really happens, those who survive would be somehow better off. We’d cast off our modern burdens and first world problems, and we’d embrace an honest struggle to survive. It would be a struggle that would reveal the essence of our character, which we would discover to be truly noble. That is what this song is about. The world isn’t going to end this Friday (knock on wood). Next week I’ll release another song on this website, and we’ll all feel a little bit silly. We’ll feel that way because the part of us that wanted to see it happen will be equal parts disappointed, and excited to revive the fantasy. We’ll pick a new date, and again we’ll anticipate the end. Just like we always do.

~M.E.

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Week 108 // Two Verses

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Sometimes I look more like a photograph
Like an arial portrait of a human being
Right in a moment seeing
Only what he wants

Have you ever sat
Right through a conversation?
Only listening
When your name gets mentioned
Letting the moment pass
Hearing only what you want

And what about that lousy feeling
Convincing you that it’s appealing
Living only for what you want

Only for what you want
Only for what you want

Have you ever lived through a constructive break?
Where you stop and wonder why you do things one way
When there’s another choice
And it could be just what you need

You remember walking down a crowded street
With a fresh perspective on the human race
The Earth is a tricky place
For getting just what you need

How many times now have you solved this problem?
Your mind can give you terms and you reverse them
What you want isn’t what you need

What you want isn’t what you need
You’re getting just what you need

Notes
Clocking in at just over two minutes, this song is in the running for the shortest Mount Everest entry to date. And yet it easily makes its way onto my favorites list, despite being merely a frustrating taste of its full potential. Lately I’ve been banging my head against a brick wall relearning algebra and imagining doom on the day of a standardized test that holds some sway over the course of my future. I am taking that test tomorrow, and therefore could not spend the time on this song that it deserved. I have so many ideas that I just couldn’t get to. This song splinters off in so many directions in my mind, but here it is in a form that I can only describe as its infancy. I don’t normally revisit Mount Everest songs after I post them. But I like this one so much that I anticipate it could break the trend. It feels like the opening two verses of something larger, and I hope I get to find out what that larger whole sounds like. The idea behind the words is simple, and it is stolen from the Rolling Stones who sang “you can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes you just might find you get what you need.” They expressed this idea quite eloquently in this short passage, and it takes me two meandering verses to get it across. I guess they’ve got one up on me.

~M.E.

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Week 106 // Never Were You Better

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Saying all the right things
I was out on the doorstep
Reminding us all of the wonder
Inherent in the moonlight
Have you noticed that I’m on tonight?

And I would have been like that
If not for the course of my life
And what an outrageous claim
If not for the truth in it

And never were you better
Than that one time
You looked right through everyone
But they weren’t angry
They were glad to know their own minds
By God you were on that night

And you would have been like that
If not for the course of your life
And what an outrageous claim
If not for the truth in it

Notes
I recently had occasion to look through a bunch of old photos. While some of you will likely be correct in pointing out that I’ve probably already written that song (more than once), I’ll preemptively retort that I’ll write it again and again, because it is a good way to get to a familiar set of potent human experiences. What I noticed this time was that I carry with me an idealized concept of who I used to be. I was more charming. I was funnier. I was more personally insightful. I was casually self deprecating in a way that put people at ease. I was all of these things rolled together that no one person could ever truly be. This song is about trying to convince yourself that your concept of your former self is overblown. I don’t really think I was ever this superman, but in the context of the narrative, I’m trying to say that most people find it easier to let that idealized memory persist. It is therefore a song about deciding to continue deceiving oneself. Sometimes I like to write a song where I am wrong. It is of course not better to convince yourself that you used to be a perfect social specimen. That will only make it harder to live up to your current potential.

~M.E.

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Week 105 // Sentimental Creatures

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Never did you mention
Your credentials on the road

In the woods with no reception
Dragging wires as we go

Enamored with a featureless
And unforgiving kind

We’re sentimental creatures
In the most cynical of times

Darling I swear it isn’t so

That everyone you ever knew
Would be glad to see you go

That anyone you ever loved
They wouldn’t have the time

Or that no one that you ever met
Would remember you in kind

I remember you all the time

How do you say you’re sorrowful
In the language of our age?
That’s just one thing I’d be grateful
If you would never have to say

And everywhere you go
You’re gonna think of that

And it don’t matter how you love yourself
Some part of you will always love you back

How do you say you’re sorrowful
In the language of our age?
That’s just one thing I’d be grateful
If you would never have to say

Notes
This week I’ve written a pensive little tune about learning not to be cynical in an age of connectivity. It is no simple task to guard oneself from the false representation of the world at large. It is harder still to remain level headed about the information one gleans about oneself. People form opinions on themselves through complex processes of comparison to those that they are “connected” to. But not only are the connections largely false (who is your friend?), but the information that travels across that connection is frequently meaningless. It becomes a weight, but somehow it is one that we are desperate to carry. If we put it down we are seemingly alone, but the longer we carry it the heavier it gets. I’m not sure of the solution. It probably has something to do with being in nature every now and then, and being with real friends. In fact, I think that these might be the best balms for many forms of cynicism. Something to think about.

Today Mount Everest quietly moves into its third year. Thank you for sticking around.
~M.E.

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