Week 461 // Our Way in or Their Way Out

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Let philosophers opine
On the meaning of the tides

I object to being made to come ashore

After sleeping I awoke
My throat was parched but still I spoke

I don’t long to be afraid anymore
I don’t wish to be consumed by the war

I don’t mean to come off as rude
And I don’t want to seem obtuse
But I don’t feel like being the student anymore

Are we entertaining doubt?
Our way in or their way out
I don’t know, is this a good world?

Catch me napping in the park
Talk to strangers after dark

I don’t long to be afraid anymore
I don’t wish to be consumed by the war

I don’t mean to come off as rude
And I don’t want to seem obtuse
But I don’t feel like being the student anymore

Notes
I’ve spent a lot of my adult life trying to convince myself to give into conventional wisdom. When we’re a bit younger, we assume we know better. It takes learning a bit of humility to come around to the notion that others might have figured out a thing or two before we came on the scene, and that things are often done a certain way for a good reason. For the most part, conventional wisdom has done alright by me. When I shook off my sense of superiority over the way things are done, I found myself in a solid career with some stability, able work toward a future with my partner. Not bad.

But I’m getting old enough to understand that conventional wisdom has frustrating limitations. I have an inkling that many of the world’s most pressing problems somehow boil down to: “this is just the way it has always been done”. Certain clever people need to assert that on this subject or that one, they might actually know better. Lots of people do this, but they’re usually just told to grow up or to be more realistic. The oppression wrought by sensible people runs deep enough that naive people can rarely be told apart from clever ones. Having noticed this, I offer no solution whatsoever, other than to sing about it. I’ll get back to you.

~M.E.

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Week 460 // In a Sea of Stars

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Home
In a sea of stars
Calling out your name
With the window
Open
And it doesn’t matter who hears

Home
Home
Home

Day
And the trouble’s gone
Walk the same way home
In the cool breeze
Sun light
Everything is looking up

Home
Home
Home

Notes
I wrote this guitar part in my parents’ living room in New Hampshire on Sunday morning. I’ll often record clips of ideas on my phone so I’ll remember them later. Listening back as I prepared to make this recording, I heard my dad say, “that one’s peaceful, what do you call it?” I replied as I continued to play, “it’s called I don’t know, I just made it up.”

My mom suggested, “well you need to give it a name,” to which I replied, “that’s usually the last part.”

Now that it’s done I, I have a less evasive answer. It turns out it’s called “In a Sea of Stars”. I wanted to give it the feeling of home that I always feel in that living room in New Hampshire. The words don’t necessarily speak to that exact Sunday morning in that exact room, but I hope the feeling comes across.

~M.E.

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Week 459 // Angry Kind Faces

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Every seat is a seat in the middle
I squeeze myself in
Everyone is a little bit pissed about it

Every face is a little bit angry
And little bit kind
It depends on which angle you’re looking from

Everyone just looks so alone
And they don’t look like they know where they’re going yet

Every seat is a seat in the middle
I squeeze myself in
Even though it’s a little uncomfortable

Every face is a little bit angry
And little bit kind
It depends on the angle you’re looking from

Everyone just looks so alone
And they don’t look like they know where they’re going yet

Notes
Living in a city, I fall into the trap of getting a bit obsessed with transit. It consumes a big part of life here, so when I reach for a broad brush to use to describe my days, it’s always close at hand. You’d think I’d have had my say on the subject after I wrote my masters thesis about the MTA, but it works its way into my songs frequently. This one looks at the people riding along with me, and tries to see past the default scowl of the train rider. There’s usually a real person in there, erased behind frustration and anger. It is my hope that in most cases the condition is temporary. In the best case scenario, we lose ourselves when we set out, and find ourselves when we arrive.

~M.E.

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Week 458 // The Light, the Way it Looks at Dawn

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In the morning
All the way to where I’m going
Catch the melody so lonesome
On the breeze from where it’s blowing
But I am not lonesome
And in this I truly am amazed

I’m amazed
At the rain on the windows
I’m amazed
At the fog on the hillside
I’m amazed at the light
The way it looks at dawn

Once or twice
In the tracing of my steps
I have overwhelmed my memory
And in the moment I have wept
For the monsters that pursued me have gone home
And I am so amazed

I’m amazed
At the solid earth beneath me
I’m amazed
At the clarity of birdsong
I’m amazed at the light
The way it looks at dawn

Oh impermanence
Reliable and true
I could drag my heels to trenches
Build a fence ’round me and you
But we know fences will blow over
No matter what
We will be left amazed

I’m amazed
At the moments as we miss them
I’m amazed
At the frequency of sunrise
I’m amazed at the light
The way it looks at dawn

Notes
How often do you watch the sunrise? You know it happens every single day, don’t you? So many of them pass, and we let them, and we’re okay with it. We have to be. We can’t capture every moment. We can’t savor every passing breath of our life, no matter how precious.

There’s a tension in this song between the relief and amazement at having traversed some unsavory moments in life, and the thrum of anxiety in trying in vain to adequately savor our amazement during our loveliest moments. Of course the answer is to seek serenity in the beauty of impermanence, to stop resisting it. After all, impermanence is just as much the reason the unsavory moments pass, as it is the force that brings a lovely moment to its inevitable end. We need endings. We can’t go on without them.

~M.E.

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Week 457 // Wait Up

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Wait up for me
I’m on my way home
Wait up for me
I’m on my way home
My way home

Wait up for me
I’m on my way home
Wait up for me
I’m on my way home
My way home
Everywhere

Notes
It’s Monday morning in Olympos, Turkey, a seaside backpacker hamlet built amidst ancient Lycian ruins that dot the forest and rocky Mediterranean beach. It’s an improbable place, and I can’t really describe it. I’m here with Rebecca, and tomorrow we’ll make a long journey back to New York together. She’s been away since early June.

I wrote this quick meditation on homecoming the day before I left for this trip. At face value, it was a funny thing to write just before leaving home. But coming home doesn’t mean coming back to my apartment, or going back to New York. Coming home means coming to Rebecca, and that’s what I was about to do. This is an “almost there” tune.

~M.E.

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Week 455 // How to Pass the Time

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Come on girl you want to marry me?
Call our friends and our family and we’ll do it up fine
Can’t wait ’til the simmer with our names in the breeze
Now how we gonna pass the time?
We’ll find a way to pass the time
And honey we can do this right
Oh to see the sunshine
To see the sunlight on
To see the sunlight on your shoulder

Some time later from the east to the west
Calling back and forth on a telephone line
Saying your name in the dead of night
Now how we gonna pass the time?
We’ll find a way to pass the time
And honey we can do this right
Oh to see you smiling
To see you smile so wide
To see the sunlight on your shoulder

Oh we’ll find a place of our own if we like
On the beach or in the woods we can do it up fine
And you’ll hear when I whisper your name in the night
Oh how I’d love to pass the time
How do you want to pass the time?
You now we’re gonna do this right
Oh to see the moonlight
To see the moonlight shine
To see the moonlight on your shoulder

Notes
This past week marked our 4th wedding anniversary, and the first that we’ve spent apart due to an opportunity for Rebecca to work abroad for the summer. Her internship draws to a close at the end of this week, and next Monday we’ll be reunited for a road trip across Turkey. As you can imagine, I’m living in a tight cocoon of anticipation. The last time I can remember waiting this impatiently was the lead-up to our wedding. Of course the circumstances were a lot different then, but in both cases I have lingered on the same thought: “I just really want to be there”.

This is a song about anticipation. For most of this song, “passing the time” is about getting to a destination. The end of the song turns around to suggest that passing the time will soon be about savoring moments together, and building upon the life that we’ve worked to create.

The last time I made up a finger picking guitar part that I liked as much as this one, I put off finishing the song for fear that I’d screw it up. I’ve done it before, so the fear wasn’t unfounded. The problem is that I wrote that last guitar piece in January or February, and still have yet to record it or write lyrics. I just noodle on it in my idle time, feeling a vague sense of lament that perhaps I’ve built it up too much in my mind and missed my creative window.

When I landed on this new guitar piece last Thursday, I knew I had to write it immediately, or it would suffer the same fate. I refined the guitar over the weekend, and the words came easily. Lesson learned. When you’re making up songs, seize upon the ones that inspire you.

I’ll write you next week from another country.

~M.E.

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Week 454 // Slowing Down

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I was slowing down
lips in a smile
Eyes not associated

Always listing my breaks
Its nothing special
Make it feel ordinary

Trees that wave goodbye
Can’t take them with you
Can’t ever stay there with them

I was slowing down
Lips in a smile
Eyes not associated

Notes
Frequent listeners know that some of my songs are sketches. I think of them this way because of my deep background in the visual arts. Some work is looser and faster. The lines aren’t as clearly defined, and the hand is free to describe impressions alongside more definitive assertions of form and space.

Here is a sketch. The words are impressionistic. The performance is far from perfect. The ideas stand as much in their potential as in their realization. It begs to be returned to, seen from another angle, taken in a different direction, disregarded, or reimagined. I like the ideas I’ve glimpsed.
lyrics

~M.E.

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Week 453 // Some Days Are Sunny

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Some days are sunny
Some days are rainy
You can have a good day
Even when it rains
Even if it rains
Come tomorrow
Or any other day

Some folks are happy
Other folks are grumpy
You can help the grumpy folks
By doing something nice
By doing something friendly
Trying to be friendly
Is doing something right

All kinds of feelings
You’ll get to feel them
You’ll get to know them
And learn what they’re called
It’s okay to feel them all
It’s okay to feel them all

It’s nice to smile
It’s so fun to giggle
Go ahead and wiggle
If that’s the way you feel
But only if you want to
Giggle when you like to
Wiggle when it’s real

All kinds of feelings
You’ll get to feel them
You’ll get to know them
And learn what they’re called
It’s okay to feel them all
It’s okay to feel them all

Notes
I wrote this song for Juliette. She was born just a couple of days ago. I was thinking about her as I watched a mighty rain fall this evening. I was thinking how many emotions a person must feel around the time they’re born, and how amazing and confusing they all must be. The feelings don’t yet have any names or context. They just come and go and shift and change like the weather, and the brand new person has to just hang on for the ride.

Songs for babies tend to tell them they should be happy. Of course, I want nothing more than for Juliette to be happy, and I hope and anticipate that she often will be. But she is going to feel so many different things whether we like it or not. It has already started, and it’s going to last her whole life through. I want to tell her that it’s okay to feel all of those things. Everybody is feeling them. We can help each other out when somebody doesn’t feel nice, and we can try to look on the bright side when we don’t feel okay, but we don’t ever need to pretend. It’s better to name the feelings and move through them in due time, and recognize the best feelings so we can savor them and remember them.

It’ll be a while until Juliette can name all of her feelings and understand which ones she’s moving through. In the mean time, I hope my voice is soft and relaxing, and I very much look forward to making her acquaintance.

~M.E.

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Week 452 // Tithe

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Who’s got the foresight?
Who’s got the fortitude and wherewithal?
Who’s got the money and who’s got connections?
And who’s got the cushion to fall?
Who’s got a line on a great fixer-upper?
And who’s got a buyer in mind?
Who’s got a friend with a friend with an uncle?
And who of us is made out of time?

Who is that out there?
Who with a stone in the palm of his hand?
Who with a fist turning white at the knuckles?
Who of us named that a man?
Who among each of us
Truly admires the blood on the lips of a hound?
Who indeed looks at the crumbling sidewalk
And thinks there’s good pavement to pound?

Who are the angels?
Who is there circling over our heads?
Who’s looking down with their love or their pity
As mortals climb into their beds?
And if I pray lord here’s my soul if you want it
If I’m not to wake up again
Who’s got directions for getting to heaven?
And who knows the price to get in?

Notes
The comparison between commerce and religion is facile, and I’m not sure I meant to write about it. That said, I felt this song sincerely as I wrote it. It came quickly, and the words sounded true as I sang them.

I work in an office in the financial district. Flanked by mighty stone churches, the towers downtown are flooded with pious believers, wholly devoted to their gainful pursuit. I’m not one of them. Sure, I make an honest wage, but I inhabit spaces consumed by far greater aspirations. I am like an atheist surrounded by the zealots who run the world, who divine the rules by which we all must toil.

Sometimes I walk across the street to Zuccotti Park and meditate on its past. It was once the site of a nascent rebellion against greed. That rebellion was either crushed, or it consumed itself. It depends on whose god you ask.

~M.E.

P.S. Awesome News! Ecce Shnak’s new track, Catacombs, just dropped and it’s awesome! If it sounds familiar, that’s because it’s a re-imagining of Week 254 // Rising Star by Mount Everest. Check it out, along with the rest of their kaleidoscopic catalogue. This band is incredible!

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Week 451 // Outside

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Outside
There are paw prints
In the concrete
On the sidewalk
Outside

Outside
There’s a kid playing
And his brother
Called him ugly
Right outside

Outside
Outside

Outside
There’s a car parked
With a dinosaur
In the window
Outside

Outside
There is music
And it sounds just
Like a party
Right outside

Outside
Outside
Outside
Outside

Notes
I just returned from a long weekend camping in the woods with a renewed appreciation for the outdoors, and a truly fortified sense of connectedness with nature. That said, the serenity and unspoiled splendor out there don’t necessarily have to cast my neighborhood in negative contrast. Upon returning to Brooklyn, I also found that I had an invigorated interest in the spectacular mundanity of the everyday activity all around me. Regular folks doing regular stuff everywhere you look is pretty remarkable. It has its own wildness and wonder. I thought of writing about the trees, but looked out my window instead.

~M.E.

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