FOMO and MACCA

Been awhile. Took some time off for Christmastide. Didn’t really “produce” anything but lethargy and indigestion. Was marvelous. I needed a break. I need a break from production. From “creativity”. We all have an overhead and it’s good to let your levels eek down when you find yourself in the red. At the end of the year all the magazines and blogs and news outlets are taking vacay time and compile big year-end lists and I feel like I need to get to them all or I’ll miss “making the best me”. I use Pocket as a read-it-later assist and it was bursting with 1’s and 0’s. I feel overwhelmed with all of the articles I’ve saved to read later, the “Best of 2014” record list I need to listen to. It reached critical mass. I got to Sharon Van Ettan’s record, (’s ok, but probably grow on me later) and D’Angelo’s (a revelation) and then I kind of move on to consume the next thing, a musical Pac-Man. Or cultural vampire. I like Pac-Man better. This year I’m starting a playlist for each month to kind of compile and document the stuff I’m into month-to-month. So many new tunes come across my “desk” that it feels furtively pulling records from the In-Box putting it on and bobbing my head for seconds and throwing it in the Out-Box in order to make time for the next thing. I’ll get to what I get to. Screw the Cult of In-The-Know, screw FOMO. Still haven’t heard the whole War On Drugs record all the way through, but shoot, what am I gonna do, my hands smell like diapers and I fall asleep 23 minutes into an episode of anything. And I’m still digging through the Old bin, classic records that were great before I was born, the Lennon deep cuts, The Band, Warren Zevon, Big Star. The holiday break found me making my way through McCartney’s cringey productions of the 80’s, albeit with a couple 24-carat nuggets like his collaborations with Elvis Costello. I flipped my freaking wig when I heard My Brave Face, and just kept the beast on repeat.
I’d been nuts for a while about Costello’s Veronica cut, but learned it was only one of the four co-writes that came of 198???’s co-writing sessions with McCartney (didn’t know it was a co-write, either).
Paul’s 80’s stuff suffered from trying to maybe distance himself from the experimental efforts he had put out. I mean, he was the guy that was into noise-rock and experimental tape manipulation.
He was trying to escape the shadow of The Beatles, but the 20 Year Cycle of tidal fashion was coming around again and folks were again geeking out about Beatles-esque harmonies and chord changes.
Makes me want to collaborate. Break new ground, and ground myself. My brother sent me some stuff to listen to, maybe something will become of that? In any case, hopefully you took time to reflect, get inward, and fill your gas tank. Getting back on the horse last week, I jumped back on the horse, (wait, no, I don’t mean heroin) and wrote 4 songs. Didn’t say they were any good, just became recharged again to get back to creative work.
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That’s Right! UNRELIABLE NARRATOR Available Now! FRESH FROM THE COW!

What’s up bearcats and gentlefolk. Took a bit of a break from blogging the past month. Lotsa stuff flying down the stress sewer. The most important one is that I put out a new record on Tuesday, UNRELIABLE NARRATOR!

Unreliable Narrator Artwork

Sublime design by Aaron Stearns

And it feels real good. It’s been a year since I’ve have started recording it, and I can now breathe a big sigh of relief that the album baby is slick with placenta and out floundering about the planet!

Big THANKS to everybody(!) especially if you’ve been a purchaser! Right now you can check the record out by clicking on SOUNDS in the above header menu, or just clicking HERE. And for all you Spotify and Rdio heads, full digital distro is coming next week!

In the next number of weeks I’ll probably take some time to flesh out the stories behind some of the songs on the record; I love to geek at other writers when they do that dishing. but for today, I wanted to wrap up some thoughts I talked about in my last post. So I also just finished my first NaNoWriMo, where one attempts to write a draft of a 50,000 word novel (think about the length of The Great Gatsby) in 30 days. There were a handful of times I almost gave up, but I broke the 50,000 words on time, and “won”. Absolutely was a blast. There’s no way I’ll do it again for a couple of years—I have enough editing to do for probably that long—but I learned a number of cool things along the way.

FRIENDS ARE COOL

I wouldn’t have made it without my pals to talk to about the process, especially Daniel and Corey. Feedback, brain dumping, and complaining to them and competing with them helped spur me on. That’s it.

CONSCIOUS INCOMPETENCE

“The good seed cannot flourish when it is repeatedly dug up for the purpose of examining its growth.” – J. C. Kromsigt

My wife and I have been rabid about the Serial Podcast, and have spent many nights in our bed in the dark, languishing while my iPhone 5s spins the sordid tale of Adnan Sayed. An absolute must-listen. Produced by the This American Life crowd. Earlier this year, Ira Glass wrote a superb statement regarding the chasm between your taste and the actual work that many of us make in reality. The whole thing is worth the read, especially when it comes to letting yourself off the hook to just work and not immediately assess.

“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”

MINIMIZING SELF-DOUBT

Along with this idea is the continual reoccurring plague. No, not Ebola, but second guessing myself every few days about whether I was wasting my time. I became lost in the whole enormous project, and no longer could see the forest for the trees. I understood why Hunter S. Thompson typed out pages and passages from The Great Gatsby (you just knew this was coming back around–too clunky and Chekov’s gun-ny), to just “feel what it would be like to write the great American Novel.” There is something to this idea. Becoming another’s work for a while. It might be learning a cover song, re-reading the same chapter five times to get the mechanics, or literally re-typing someone else’s work. To inhabit another’s work is to taste the excellency of mechanics. I have a Beatles’ fakebook, and I regularly go thru and learn the songs, and I’ve already seen the impact on my own songwriting.

“For anything great to happen, there needs to be a long obedience in the same direction.” – Nietzsche


Maybe after I edit the novel I’ll throw it up on this site for anyone that likes supernatural thrillers featuring ex-priest “fixers” and evil Nephilim. But until then, you can enjoy UNRELIABLE NARRATOR!

Alt cover design

                      Alt cover design

And again, UNRELIABLE NARRATOR is available for:

  • The #1 spot on your Best of 2k14 music list
  • Working off those T-Giving L.B.’s
  • Final Exam study soundtracking
  • Digital stocking stuffers
  • Making the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs

“Rhythm is a Dancer”, or “Let’s Get The Rhythm of the Ding-Dong”

Going to go see Phantogram tonight with my ladybabe. If the (one) definition creativity is combining two things together, those folks really concocted something that has been steadily gaining momentum for 3 or 4 years now. I think I first heard them when they did a live session for KEXP, and I hadn’t ever heard the rhythms and textures of vintage hip-hop beats combined with indie rock guitar and vox ever done like this.

Don’t underestimate the power of rhythms in songwriting.

Personally, I can trace a dramatic shift in my personal songwriting to a couple years ago when I first began really zero-ing in on establishing rhythms first before melodies or chords. I saw new life breathed into my vocal meters and phrasings and I felt like I was re-inventing myself.  It was the same sort of epiphany blossoming as when I started writing vocal melodies before chord progressions. When I was a teenager in the late 90’s I really got into a lot of second-wave emo stuff and the type of linear, jazz-influenced post-hardcore featured on albums like The Appleseed Cast’s Low Level Owl. That may have been the first time I started really focusing in on a rhythmic foundation. Take a band like Vampire Weekend, yes they had the indie-pop template down lyrically and melodically, but without the Afro-pop ideas referenced on their first record, I don’t see their meteoric rise to acclaim happening the same way. Even Lennon became “happier” than he had been in years on his last record Milk & Honey  when he incorporated Bunny Wailer’s reggae template for Borrowed Time. Ok, ok, he had a brush with death due to a yachting accident and got off the Horse, but still.

And in news of making dubstep bearable, Disclosure took the repetitious bass triplets from the style and expanded it to an ambient modern R&B the ubiquitous Latch. Mercy, that song is EVERYWHERE.

Have you seen these songwriter loops from The Loop Loft? I’ve gotten some packs and they sound delicious. Easy to use and have made recent song demos really pop.

My ol’ pal Corey Wright is producing a new show, so “show” some love and dig out that pocket change!

If you haven’t checked out LadyBabe Ep, you’re the rando that drives by Dunkin’ Donuts on National Free Donut Day. Two of my brothers made these tracks this past year, and it’s really creative stuff. I’m partial because I love those doodz, and I mastered it, but it reminds me of a male Zola Jesus.

Listening: Thom Yorke – Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes
Reading: The John Jay Institute just had a symposium on The Christian Imagination ht Mockingbird
Watching: Orphan Black S2
Playing: Batman: Arkham Origins for Xbox

“Wait, The Beatles Broke Up?!”

iTunes announced today it is releasing re-mastered-for-iTunes versions of the Fab Four’s solo efforts. They’re intent on hooking you with a free “sampler”. Although gimmicky, the concept is something that iTunes can potentially continue to do acutely well—that is, curating (only time I’ll every use this word, promise!), distributed content based on concept. These releases are also something that I’ve been severely missing from the iTunes store for quite some time. I’ve really digging into these records the past couple of years and they have had a huge influence on my personal forth-coming record (it’s close). I’m crazy about Plastic Ono Band’s ’70’s dead-as-a-dog drum sounds, slapback vocals and warm-and-warbly piano. George does guitar stuff– both in arrangement and slide performance–extremely well. The trifecta of melody, chord progressions and spirituality-infused lyrics are at his best on All Things Must Pass, but also any time he works with Jeff Lynne, like on Cloud Nine (casting Harrison as The Hellraiser in the cover-that-haunts-your-dreams).

It’s like he’s staring into your dead, dead, soul

Paul does melodic inventiveness, thematic creativity, goofiness to great effect. And although his pre-Wings stuff is generally inconsistent, his early use of analog synths mark a definitive infancy in “songwriters-goofing-synths”. In this family I’d also propose the inclusion of the Harry Nillsson records Pussy Cats (which was a Lennon collab and production), and the seminal Nilsson Schmilsson as the spiritual brothers of the aforementioned discs.

Worth checking out: someone wrote a memorable alternate history of The Beatles where they never broke up. And playlists abound featuring post-breakup-solo-songs reworked as a fictional 12th band release. I’d probably also add Billy Preston’s Nothing from Nothing as the keyboard sideman was up for vote as a 5th member the time of Let It Be was released.

Yeah, I realize I didn’t gush about on Ringo. Did you really expect me to?


Other thoughts from today:

-Comedy gold. (0:41) In this commercial for a to-do app this lady moves the “task” of watching 12 Years A Slave to her to-dos for tomorrow, sleeping soundly.

-A couple hours ago Thom Yorke just released an album on BitTorrent. Saywaaaaaaaaa


Reading: Blood Meridian – Cormac McCarthy

Listening: Can’t stop listening to Ryan Adams’ Gimme Something Good. Sub-point: hilarious video. Who’s laboriously self-serious now?

Watching: Orphan Black S1

Playing: Batman: Arkham Origins for Xbox