Week 291 // Kicking at a Swarm of Bees

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You’ll find me lately
Kicking at a swarm of bees
Crying indignation

You’ll find me
Cursing on the way to work
Judging what you’re reading

And all the while
I’ll preach of love and being kind
And scoff at nonbelievers

And all the while
I’m picking fights to hide behind
And laughing at the losers

I’ve got a lot
That I need to work out

I’ve got this thing I do
Where everyone is wrong but me
A wonder you can stand it

And all the while
My blood is hot and bursting out
So much for credibility

And all the while
The quiet’s what I dream about
But I still wake up screaming

I’ve got a lot
That I need to work out

Notes
I want to start off by expressing deep sorrow concerning the tragedy that befell Orlando’s LGBT community yesterday. Truthfully, I can’t comprehend the breadth and depth of this event. Its horror and injustice are so beyond my grasp. Anything I say here inadequately captures how I feel, and the enormity of the pain so many others are experiencing. I often try to use this space to reflect on national tragedies. If this attack were any more comprehensible, I might have penned a tribute as I did after the Boston Marathon bombing. This time I don’t feel up to the task. Perhaps with some space and time for reflection I will get there. I’m so angry about this for so many reasons, and it is piling upon anger that I have been feeling for many months concerning the mounting hatred driving many national conversations. It is bubbling over in me. It is making me feel apart from my better self. This is a much more playful song than I expected to come out of me this week, but I think maybe I needed it. This song is merely about trying to reclaim some calm.

~M.E.

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Week 287 // A Circle with a Line Through It

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Early in the morning
Watching the weather change

Another hundred mile day
If I know what’s best for me

A hundred thousand mile year
Splitting atoms in the face of God

Well…
Absolutely anything could happen
A simple kind of phrase until you think it over
Absolutely anything can happen
But I think you knew that

Peering out the mouth of a cave
At the end of the winter

And the person I was back then
He is irrelevant now

And no matter how I ask you
You always say yes, and I’m grateful

So…
I like it how the sky is changing colors
And anyhow the feds are always watching us
And any day the rent out here is gonna blow up

Absolutely anything could happen
A simple kind of phrase until you think it over
Absolutely anything can happen
But I think you knew that

Notes
In case you don’t know what’s going on here, Mount Everest is a rock blog for which I write and record a new song every single week, hopefully forever. Five and a half years in, one of the most important concepts involved with that task is finding ways to make old ideas new again. With that end in mind, this weekend I got an idea into my head to steal an old rhythm from myself and make a new song out of it. I listened to a few back tracks, and ripped the drum robots right out from under Week 131 // Strange from May of 2013. I deleted all of the other instruments and vocals, and set to work on something fundamentally not the same. The drums stayed more or less intact, with a few edits here and there. They lent the new song some formal similarities to the old one. Verses, choruses, and outro sections wound up in the same places for example, but the feel and instrumentation diverged pleasantly. A different chord progression and melody occurred. I layered guitars, played two bass parts at once, and messed around with rhythmically weird vocal breaks. I sang something new. It was a pleasing experiment, and I think I’ll try it again soon.

The song seems to juxtapose routine and possibility. These things feel like they cancel each other out. I think perhaps the moment of conversion toward which this song gestures is a realization that nothing at all can cancel out possibility, not even monotony. Routine is perhaps the circumstance most pregnant with possibility. If any one variable shifts, all bets are off!

The title comes from the photo that I have posted as track art. If you look around Mount Everest, you will find that I am enamored with circles, geometry, symmetry and all things of that nature. I like when interesting formations break up monotonous spaces. For example, this is merely a photo of the sidewalk, but I find it beautiful. I attempted to work “a circle with a line through it” into the lyrics, but it didn’t fit, so I opted to use it as a title. I think it is an evocative phrase, although I will leave it up to you to decide precisely what it evokes. See you next week.

~M.E.

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Week 285 // Progress (Paradox)

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Everyone is waiting by the phone
Everyone is anxious for the call
Everyone is staring at the door
I’ve seen it

Everyone is looking up the street
And everyone is squinting in the dark
And everyone is listening for the sound
I’ve seen it
It’s burning
It’s a paradox
I’m frozen

And all the progress I’ve made
All the progress I’ve made
Added up to what?

Everyone is adding something up
Yeah everyone is certain of the sum
And everyone is up until they’re down
I’ve seen it

And everyone is cursing at the moon
And everyone is spying on the neighbors
And everyone deserves another shot
I’ve seen it
It’s burning
It’s a paradox
I’m frozen

And all the progress I’ve made
All the progress I’ve made
Added up to what?

Notes
Very often, I find myself turning to this creative project in order to put off other important tasks that demand my attention. Accomplishment and success are dual monoliths that stand before me, perplexing in their purposes and functions, and foreign in all aspects. Am I like Kubrick’s apes, lashing my fists in frustration against cold, dark facades? Eons would pass before those poor beasts would approach understanding. Ultimately, their lashing-out was the point all along. I don’t have eons to wait, so I retreat and write. And I sing.

Making up this song kept me occupied while another productive weekend slipped through my fingers. The fault isn’t with how I spend my time, but with how I define productivity and progress. My working definitions are no longer my own if they exclude writing music, setting words to melody, and banging on a synthesizer. All of these things are productive, and yet the words to this song gesture toward time spent idly, and progress forfeited. That must be somebody else singing.

In these lyrics, I ask what my progress is adds up to. Clearly, I was feeling detached from conventional benchmarks of progress, but the funny thing is that the answer to my question is self-evident. My progress adds up to the song itself, oblivious though I seem to be of the honest labor that its production required of me. Kubrick’s apes never sought an option other than lashing out. I make things instead. I may be an ape, but I’m not one of his.

~M.E.

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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 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 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 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 274 // Unearthed Again

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Wake up wake up
Let’s be unearthed again
They’re dragging chains
Across the cold cement

And I’ll go
Where I’m recognized
Where I’m needed most
Where I’ll be missed if I were gone

And somewhere
The wheels are still turning
And folks just roll along
So if you go
I’ll come along
If you go…

So fine, the windows down
A country mile
And can we listen to the engine
For just a little while?

And I’ll go
Where I want when I please
If they like it or not
And they’ll miss me once I’ve gone

And somewhere
The wheels are still turning
And folks just roll along
So if you go
I’ll come along

All of the ways
I could take what I want
And then piss it away
Yes all of the ways
I could count my mistakes
But still nothing would change
No nothing would change

Wake up wake up
Wake up wake up

Notes
Recently, my wife mentioned how often she spends the night dreaming of her job, which she doesn’t like. Isn’t that a cruel twist? We can spend our waking ours fantasizing about the refuge of sleep, and when we finally rest, we return to the place from which we sought refuge. I think that was where the words in this song came from. They are full of fantasies of running away, of going somewhere where nobody undervalues you, where you can finally take back the moments of your life. It’s about imagining someplace where your time is your own.

I want to make special mention of the guitar, which I spent the whole weekend tweaking, before recording it today. Perhaps The moments that I stole to work into this guitar part were my way of wresting back my time and making it my own again. Perhaps that’s what all of these songs are.

~M.E.

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