I returned to St. Louis yesterday afternoon after a lovely couple of weeks in Boston to a half-empty apartment— one of my roommates has already moved out, which is weird, but the plus side to that is that there’s now plenty of space to spread out and work on things undisturbed: like in our bathroom! (Interesting acoustics.)
After a few months of slacking, I’m trying to get back into a routine of object writing again, an exercise made popular by the songwriter Pat Pattison. Object writing entails dedicating exactly 10 minutes every morning to writing on a specific object, idea, person, place etc. with the goal of appealing to as many senses as possible. Historically, I’ve been terrible at doing this for anything longer than a few weeks at a time, but sometimes neat things come of it that make me excited about it again, if only for a little while. This short song idea was inspired by this morning’s 10 minute session.
During those 10 minutes, I sort of very obviously tried to reflect on my time spent in Boston, which really meant thinking about the people I found and the give and take of it all. I’m not sure how successful I was in capturing or articulating my thoughts, but that’s the (sometimes) grueling lesson to be learned from trying to make this a daily routine. Hurt so good.
Lyrics, since bathroom reverb is often overpowering and tends to make things indecipherable:
Half of what you’ve learned,
Like quarters in the dirt,
I’ve picked in passing
And given to a girl
With hands and veins like caves and rivulets
Full of words like droplets falling down, like rain along some cliff
But I can’t catch them
And half of what I’ve learned,
Are pennies in the dirt
I’ve left in passing
Fleet Foxes - Blue Spotted Tail
This is a cover of my favorite song off the new Fleet Foxes album Helplessness Blues. It’s so simple and beautiful and I’ve been playing it to myself for days now that I figured I should record it— no frills, nothing fancy, just a nice and pretty little song. Enjoy! Expect more originals in the next couple of days.
Northern Lake, Southern Bird (Full Version)
This is a song that I originally posted way back in January; this particular recording is a full band version that I recorded with the group of guys I’ve been playing with for a while now, Major Applewhite. Now that it’s summer, my hope is that I can get back to writing and recording in a more leisurely way. Special thanks to the very talented Morgan McRae (who produced this track) and those Major Applewhite fellows who helped transform this song into what you’re hearing today.
Ali and the Kryzers
Wow I’m bad at this.
Here’s a teaser for even better things to come: my friend Ali Kryzer learned some chords on the ukulele yesterday (!!!) so today she summoned up the courage to record this during a tornado warning. How she managed to get that chunky distortion out of that little Hawaiian thing, I have no idea.
This past Friday, four buddies and I played at the Great Grizzly Bear, a bar in the Soulard neighborhood here in St. Louis. It went well! Here’s a short clip of us (thanks Colin Shevlin!) covering “Fuck You” by Cee Lo Green (language warning! sorry mama).
Okay. Despite my best efforts (i.e. drinking crazy amounts of theraflu and honey) there’s just no way I can sing the vocal for last week’s song right now. I didn’t have a strategy in place for dealing with this but hopefully this flood of old material will make up for my illness this week. In the links you will find:
1) A song I wrote when I was 16 with similar themes as “Northern Lake, Southern Bird” (so you can see how my writing has progressed/regressed/stalled, you decide).
2) A silly song I wrote last month for a dear friend about constantly forgetting then having to ask what her Christmas break travel plans were (Hi Lucy!)
Two songs I started at some point in the last two years but never finished (giving credence to my need for a blog like this to be consistent and finish what I’ve started)
3.1) A song I started/recorded on a 10 hour overnight bus ride from Ifugao to Manila in the Philippines (vocals recorded in bus bathroom) this past summer
3.2) A song I started after listening to Fleet Foxes and George Gershwin for a week straight (or something) two years ago
4) And, in commemoration of our day off here in St. Louis, a bonus snow day/Christmas song I wrote for a 1 year-old last year
So there: 3 songs and 2 half-finished ones to make up for my inability to finish this week’s. Take your pick. And when I do get around to recording the vocal, I’ll post it here too.
Link to all files: http://soundcloud.com/52songs/sets/week-4-kind-of/
i don’t feel well. no vox recorded yet but everything else is set. blah blah blah. tomorrow tomorrow tomorrow.
NORTHERN LAKE, SOUTHERN BIRD
Okay! Kinda raw and not entirely new (I’ve been playing with these lyrics/melody for a little while now) but I kind of like it regardless. This song comes from an event in my life, watching the sunrise, but it happened nothing like the setting I suggest here. It was in Cairo, and in the Spring, but songwriting is weird and I decided long ago that I would/should just take whatever I get. If everyone gets to write a song for each season, then I guess this is my song for the Winter (and wanting it to end).
14 JANUARY 1953 (TORN SPEAKER)
Born in Bicol now she’s in the USA
Filipina and she’s proud to be that way
58, it’s her birthday
My mom turned 58 this past Friday.
My friends Mary, Ethan and Colin were in Houston this week so we decided we should all work on something together and give it to my mom as a birthday present— how it ended up in the way that it did is mysterious and awesome.
Mary wrote the melody and most of the lyrics and Colin programmed the drums while Ethan and I filled in where we could. Of the four of us, I probably did the least amount of work on the song so big ups to Torn Speaker (as we’re calling ourselves) for their creativity and be on the look out for some future drops!
Photo by Alexis Lassus