Week 392 // Above Us and out to Sea

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Listen down below
To the whispering pines
The secrets that they know

And way atop the trees
I’m gonna build us a house
that looks over the sea

Focus on the ocean calling
I will be there with you darling
Focus on the ocean calling
I will be there with you darling

A hundred years from now
Along a ragged sea
They’ll read our names out loud

Focus on the ocean calling
I will be there with you darling
Focus on the ocean calling
I will be there with you darling

Notes
I’ve played around with similar chord progressions and melodic ideas in the past (and pretty recently), so writing this week’s song sort of felt like putting on a well-worn old shirt. I think it would be an interesting project some day to track the songs that I’ve written with related structures and musical ideas. I have a feeling that nearly 400 songs would probably fit into around five general buckets — a thought to ponder another day.

This song plays with a recurring fantasy that Rebecca and I share of living together in a tree house. I think I was trying to build her a song as a safe refuge to return to as she looks ahead to an exciting new chapter as a law student this coming fall. In this song, I have perched the tree house above the ocean, because I know the sound of the surf will both comfort and inspire her. During the day, she can seek her adventure out to sea, and return home safe each night with the treehouse like a beacon to guide her. It’s a bit fanciful, but so is love, isn’t it?

~M.E.

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Week 391 // Back to Sleep

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Wake up tired
The faces of the the angels
Hovering up above me and you
I am one of them
And you’re one of them too
Let’s go back to sleep
Let’s go back to sleep
Let’s go back to sleep
For a little while

Lying here
My eyes are open and I peer into
The boxes we’re placed into
And I’m in one of them
You’re in one of them too
Let’s just go back to sleep
Let’s go back to sleep
Can we go back to sleep
For a little while?

Notes
This song is a bit of of a lullaby for grownups. I wrote and performed it immediately following a nap, with the full intention of resuming my slumber afterwards. It’s slow, dreamy, and just fine with being imprecise. I picked up my guitar and began to play, and the song emerged from me in mere moments, as if it had arrived while I was asleep. I played it once into a microphone, and that was that. There was time to spare to take the song’s advice.

~M.E.

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Week 390 // Gods

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Holy child I met at the bus stop
Hold my watch to your ear
Hear the tick
You know the Spanish for every number
But you know not which word stands for which

I was a child in a whole other country
I fell away
But I never forgot
I learned a language with ugly syllables
And translated prayers back to God

And every night
I speak my name out
‘Cause something tells me to

Charge the thing again every few hours
The thing won’t stop buzzing
The thing is a god
Take a picture and everyone sees it
And everyone knows that they’re loved

And every morning
I draw a circle
‘Cause something tells me to

Notes
My neighborhood is full of church bells, Sunday morning gospel bands, and storefront Pentecostal congregations that create an ecstatic ruckus in numerous languages. Each Monday, I go to work in a largely Hassidic neighborhood where signage slips out of my ability to read, and fashions speak only to piety. The super in my building is a faith healer — a fact I learned accidentally from YouTube. They say the urban Northeast is a dominantly secular space. They are wrong. Faith emanates from every crack in the concrete.

This song is about a few different ways people seek faith when they are lost out here in the wilderness. Specifically, they seek it through the wonder of children, through the touchstone of community, and through the twin gods of technology and capitalism. Surely they seek faith elsewhere as well, but my song ended before I had occasion to elaborate any further. Some gods will have to wait for another Monday for their praises to be sung.

~M.E.

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Week 389 // The Fixed Point

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The man on the bus unprovoked
Raised his fists to the driver
And the people in stages
Cast eyes to the fixed point inside them

Why don’t we look away look away?
Why don’t we come back here another time?
Think we should look away look away
Why don’t we come this way another time?

The light through the rain
Looks the same as the place I was raised in
The house down the street
Looks the same as the houses in my town

Why don’t we look away look away?
Why don’t we come back here another time?
Think we should walk away look away
Why don’t we come this way another time?

Nobody said I was any different
Everybody says that we’re all the same

Notes
I grew up far from here in a Boston suburb, and lived there again in my twenties for a time as I sorted some things out. It’s a nice place, but a very different place from where I live these days. Like many transplants from far and wide who share my zip code, I bring with me a certain point of view and a sense of otherness that I doubt I will ever shed. It’s not a bad thing. I feel increasingly comfortable in my surroundings, having lived here for nearly five years. Still, many times each day I am aware that I am an outsider, and it doesn’t only happen when I encounter something unfamiliar to me. Rebecca pointed out the silence outside our window the other night as we lay in bed. Far from the persistent clatter of Manhattan, fortunate Brooklynites can sometimes experience a sustained moment of calm. I breathed deep in the quiet, because It felt like home. The familiarity seemed out of place.

~M.E.

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Week 388 // Scattering Footprints

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On the way to where I’m going
Losing seconds while I tie my shoe
Hold the phone
Hold the door until I can walk through
To the other side
And what will be there?

And on the first of May
I plan to peer into
A crystal ball
The light of futures we could walk through
To the other side
And we can choose one

And I’m only walking
To get outside
I got no place to be
But I’m still going
Nothing left to do but move
Nothing else but scattering footprints
And filling up time

Once I was a speck of dust
Spinning from a single truth
Hurtling through
Yours is the orbit that I fell into
And there I shall remain
And there I shall remain

And we’re only talking
To try out words
I could make any sound and mean it
Anything I utter is true
Anything I whisper into your ear
Is only for you

Notes
I’m relieved to finally put this song to ones and zeroes after several weeks of flirting with the guitar part. This was one of those songs that made me nervous to finish because I liked playing it so much. As the form grew out of itself, this was a song for evenings and mornings and moments in between; a therapeutic perambulation for my fingers as I passed the time. The words didn’t come quite as easily.

This song anticipates the month of May, from which my context is spun, and through which I annually interrogate the emerging futures and receding past of my life. I am a son of springtime. Wherever I wander, that is what I’ll be. Each year my songs turn toward the unfolding horizon as the spring sets in, and my constellation nears its alignment. There will be more like this yet.

~M.E.

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Week 387 // Holy Signs

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Holy signs
Skin set aglow
Yesterday had sprung
That’s just the way it goes
The ache sets in
Hold me to your breast again

And you were there
In your dirty clothes
The light climbed across your back
It goes where you go
So I can see you shining there

Holy signs
The clock strikes nine
I scramble to my feet

I’m the boy in the rain
A cold dark place
The course of the river changed
It goes any which way
And I could follow each one

And oh when the sun goes down
I look to find holy signs

Notes
I tripped over this lovely little guitar run while trying to avoid finishing a different song that I’ve been playing around with for the last week or so. Feeling intimidated to properly write that other song set me free to follow the path that this one lay out ahead of me. I followed it step by step, listening for its wisdom and guidance, and shortly it had led me to a pretty nice folk song.

This is a springtime song. As such it is filled with the sun and rain, the warmth and the chill, high hopes and hedged expectations, and at the center of it all a bright, warm light to follow. It’s a love song. It rolled off my fingers, my pencil, and my tongue as if it had always been there. Perhaps it had been.

~M.E.

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Week 386 // Trial (Error)

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In the middle of the night
With a demon on my shoulder
And the radios all tuned to
A sermon from the mouth of God

I’ve had a hundred years
And not a single moment wasted
I’ve been listening to static
All night long

I never once saw the sun
or the poetry cast about
I never ruined all my chances
I’ve never once seen my shadow long

At fifteen paces
I turned around and the west was won
I’ve been listening to fireworks
All night long

Notes
I like this week’s song, but I think I’m going to feel guilty whenever I hear it. When I first arranged it, it was twice as long. I casually jettisoned half of it, including a chorus section that will never see the light of day. It also had a nice finger-picked guitar overdub that I abruptly decided to toss. At more than four minutes, It was set to be my longest song in months. That particular distinction doesn’t hold much merit in and of itself. Maybe I trimmed off a lot of fat.

Here’s what happened: the lyrics were sort of an experiment. I wrote and recorded one line at a time, responding to the previous line I had written as I sang the next. The process was amusing to me, if a little disjointed. I’ve tried it in the past, to mixed results. By the time I reached what was meant to be the first chorus, I wasn’t interested in the experiment anymore, so I quit.

I’m not sure precisely what I wrote about. I think the character narrating this song might be some kind of vampire or cowboy. Perhaps he’s both. Both vampires and cowboys are archetypes rich with thematic potential, so perhaps I should take a cue from myself and revisit this character later on.

So there you have it. Take a listen to this fragment, fully aware of what it is. This project is meant to encourage risks and experimentation. Both are more important to me than the results, which I’d defend in this case anyhow.

~M.E.

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Week 385 // Whenever We Move

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I’m a hunter
Blood on my shirt
On the subway
Dressing a kill for my meal
Leaving the guts for the vultures
Believe it

And the motion
Is always the same
We can repeat it
As if willing the rain from the sky
As if calling the mighty ones home again

Always the blue light
Down the block
Cast on the ceiling
Whenever we move
We move together
Cast in the blue
Whenever we move

Do you see it?
Arcing the width of the sky
Bursting through billboards and powerlines

Always the blue light
Down the block
Cast on the ceiling
Whenever we move
We move together
Cast in the blue
Whenever we move

Notes
Having accumulated some experience here, I have a sense that life in a place like this city is deeply shaded by ritual and mysticism, performed en masse as tribute in return for subsistence. Our lives depend on repeated actions, performed motions with lost meanings, and the successful deciphering of runic and oracular symbols that surround us wherever we travel. We imagine this place to be the pinnacle of civilization, steeped in the secular detachment of our technology, and hovering above tribal impulses and sectarian skirmishes. We don’t see ourselves.

Still, there’s something wondrous about the primal humanity I move with. Theres a thrumming libidinal force here; violence and death play out adjacent to birth and lovemaking — life encounters life. I’m trying to gesture toward something very large, but I’ve only got a little song within which to gesture. I’m going to keep pushing against this force as I continue to write and play.

~M.E.

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Week 384 // Rubble

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This is a place I’ll return to
And the faces will change but they won’t change
And the metal bolted to metal will still be here
The snaking path well traced will always be here

Daylight at midnight
Not a cloud in the sky
Not star in the sky
Or a sky up in the sky
Just a layer of rubble a mile a thick

Notes
This song started out as a poem that I wrote in the subway on my way home. It came to me as I changed trains, in the corridor between the 4 and the Q at Union Square. I tapped it into the “notes” app on my phone, and tucked it back into my pocket before returning to my book.

The poem is longer than the lyrics that appear here. I don’t typically write lyrics before music; without the rhythm, my words dislike any sense of consistent meter. As such, the back half of the poem diverges, and would need a totally different song in order to be sung. Perhaps at some point I will write it.

Just as I tapped out the words on my phone without the ceremony of my pencil or notebook, I decided to record the music on the very same device. There are a few previous Mount Everest songs that came to be recorded this way. The result is a compelling argument against wasting money on recording equipment. What an age we live in!

This song is the subway that birthed it. The rubble above our heads is the city itself. I realize upon reflection that my description of my daily spaces might sound ugly. I didn’t mean it that way. As I wrote it, I felt a sense of tranquility. I tried to make the music match that feeling.

~M.E.

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Week 383 // Stories to Tell

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Tonight they’re breaking down the west
And in the morning nothing’s left
If you ever come this way
Don’t believe a word we say
‘Cause we all have stories to tell

Tonight we’re calling a truce for a awhile
While shaking hands is back in style
And if you ever come this way
Watch every single hand you shake
‘Cause we all have bridges to sell

Tonight they’re handing out the blame
Keep my face but lose my name
And if you’re ever in this town
Don’t tell a soul you’ve seen me around
‘Cause we’ve all had stories to tell

Notes
I like when I do one of these songs on the quick, and it still sounds like a real song when I’m finished. A weekend of travel and a Monday at work had me feeling like Mount Everest was more of a chore to approach than usual, so I was relieved when I sat down and this song tumbled out in no time flat. I put it to zeros and ones in a single guitar take, and a single vocal take. That was that. As such, I’m not sure exactly what I’ve got, as far as the text of it is concerned.

I’m certainly pondering, in one way or another, the myriad conmen and crooks that are the hallmark of late capitalism. They seem to buzz all around us in the age of Trump. I perceive them everywhere I turn. In a way, we all have to put on costumes just to be functioning adults in the world. I think perhaps this song is merely about the slow death of honesty, if it ever lived to begin with. We barely knew ye.

~M.E.

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