Sunday, June 29, 2008

Song #1 (Or, "Personism and Free Dinner, Drinks and Tips")

As life would have it, I am on the road, Highway 99 to be exact, in a van, an '86 (i think) starcraft. The interior is red, and relatively comfortable. I drafted the back seat, which is a long bench that lies half covered in gear and sleeping bags, but still leaving me plenty of room to kick my sneakers towards a window and lay down and stare at the wood paneled ceiling. And read.

I was just reading a Frank O'Hara biography that was given to me years ago by an ex-girlfriend. I only recently rediscovered this book.

A little academic (both the girl and the book), but the book is really fun when it comes to the parts that Frank wrote.

If you don't know Frank O'Hara, you gotta go read the guy. A true weirdo. One of the best. A poet.

Okay. Point II : I recently figured out that I can record directly into my laptop using the internal mic and a program called Audacity. Which is way super ghetto. My audiophile friends (let's call them Matt and Aaron) would for sure eschew such amatuerism, but being I have no choice, I am going to embrace it.

I have been writing songs, and in the spirit of my reading for the trip, and in tribute to Frank's totally rad movement (Personism! (The exclamtion point is mine)) I am going to dash off as many songs as I can while I careen around the country.

I wrote this one a couple weeks ago and just recorded in Joey's garage in Merced today.

DOWNLOAD : Free Dinner, Drinks, Tips

Lyrics and more after the jump.

You woke up in your old bedroom.
Woke up in your old bed.
Same glow-in-the-dark stars on the ceiling.
Same pillows under your head.

Same clothes you left hanging in your closet,
but they don't fit you no more.
Same notes you left in your top dresser drawer,
same view out the window,
same catch on the door.

Maybe there's no place like Booklyn.
No place like Queens.
No place left to go home to. No place left to fit me.

But I remember a day on the river.
I remember a day in the park.
I remember a restaurant with horrible service
where I would go to watch you play guitar
over the din and the clatter
and table-clothes spattered with cheap red wine from the bar.

The calamari was so-so
but time could move slo-mo
when you struck a note and it shimmered like a star.

It was a pretty good gig, I guess.
Free dinner and drinks and tips.

Sometimes I wanna go back,
look around for the address.
SOmetimes I wish time would move backwards.

Wish I knew which magic words would work best.

I woke up from a dream.

I saw your face in a dream.
A light turned on.
A door slammed shut.
I fell several stories.
Then woke up.

It was a dream.

My goal is to give you the real shit as I shit it. Take it or leave it. Right?

Write now, and when I write songs in general, I feel like it is my job to navigate the tight-wire, take up the ball, and just work my ass off to arrive on the other side.

Some people say you shouldn't show anything until your finished with it.

Now that I have crossed the river, i mean i think i got the song, and i am no longer on "this" side of the song and I am now on the "canvas" so to speak, I feel like the remaining work is more like that of a painter.

Colors and such. Well. Here it is in glaring black and white.

Hey Aaron! Hey Matt! When I come home let's color.

» Read more on Song #1 (Or, "Personism and Free Dinner, Drinks and Tips")

Monday, June 23, 2008

On the Road Again (or, "I woke up this morning and put on Earlimart’s new disc, Hymn and Her.")

I think I started getting goose bumps near 3 minute mark on track two, Face Down In The Right Town, the part where they start singing “We’ll get back home.” And a little guitar starts comping in time with the snare and it gets all kind of 70’s sounding with the horns and the back-up vocals and then devolves into this kind of breathy throat singing thing. At that point I had definitely shifted my AM gears and came out of the bathroom and stood in front of the stereo speakers in my underwear, with a toothbrush in my mouth. A little dumbfounded.

When track 5 started, God Loves You The Best, and this swelling organ sound and giant drum sound came panning across my living room, I started pacing. Like just in little circles around the coffee table. I didn’t really know how else to relax. I especially loved the tag to the chorus, where they sing “God loves you the best … don’t he.” The “don’t he” bit blew my mind a little. Earlimart had created this great poetic song with really concrete lyrics and imagery and this epic feel, and then Aaron dropped in a little fucked up grammar and it kinda brought me back to reality, for a moment. Just jagged enough to make the experience even real-er.

By the time I got to track 6, Great Heron’s Gates, I broke my “no smoking in the morning” rule (as well as my “no smoking inside” rule) and when you get to track 6 on this record I highly recommend you do the same. Just relax. This song is one of the prettiest songs I have EVER heard and the barest I have heard Earlimart sound. Heartbreaking.

Every part of this song is delicious and perfectly off-balance.

Some would say it sounds like Sparklehorse.

But I would say this tune sounds like something an advanced race of aliens would broadcast thousands of light-years, across the stars, and directly into my stereo to communicate something absolutely important about the human condition that I NEEDED to know. Some kind of urgent warning. “Good on an other-worldly level”, is how I would describe it. To be fair, that is also how I describe Sparklehorse sometimes as well. But only when they are really, really good.

Let me say this : I think Great Heron’s Gates is one of the best fucking songs I have ever heard.

So that is how I fell in love a record this morning. More thoughts after the jump.

Then I kinda took a step back (I’ve spent all day with this record) and tried to analyze it a little more analytically. And one of the most critical parts of the way this record holds together is that it feels really “fresh” (for lack of a better term, ahem, it is hard to wax poetic AND be analytical). The production is keen, but not belabored, not over done. I am pretty sure I have heard every Earlimart record several times, from the really early, raucous, raw, Kingdom of Champions, sort of stuff all the way to the Treble and Tremble era piano-precision pieces.

This record isn’t either of those. It has a certain effortless grace. There aren’t a lot of fingerprints on it – mostly good performances and good songs. Which would seem like such a simple thing to do, right? But as a matter of personal experience have found is incredibly hard to actually accomplish. Keeping it simple isn’t always simple.

So it was a fucking pleasure this morning to put on this record and find this eery equilibrium in every aspect of Hymn and Her’s geometry: the artwork, the lyrics, the songs. It just made me realize that after all the transformations and hard work Earlimart have put into the music, they’re hitting a really good and “graceful” stride. I have always seen them as the "Carter Family" of LA indie rock, because they are an inspiring creative group that touches all the other LA indie acts, but now I feel like I would add the “Jedi Knights of LA indie rock” to their resume as well. If that makes any sense.

The record feels oddly perfect, classy pianos and strings, distortion, George Harrison type guitar solos, angelic choirs – just great ingredients to have in a record. I have listened to this record all morning, and I can’t help but feel that these sounds were not an accident. Earlimart had a game plan and they went out and accomplished it.

But they didn’t over think it, I imagine they just pointed into left field said “that’s where this one is going, “and then took a real big swing – and hit the sweet spot. Which just blows my mind, ‘cause I could NEVER do that. Or rather, have never been able to do that.

The final thing about this record that I love is the level of excitement that Aaron has about it. Usually when I am done recording something, I hate it. No matter how much I loved the song when I started. And I get all insecure and second guess-y and worried about whether it is any good or not.

And that makes it really hard for me to get earnestly excited about something I’ve done that is “coming out”. And I think that Aaron and Ariana have gone through some of that insecurity with previous releases.

But to listen to something like this, and later talking to them and seeing the level of excitement in the band about these songs, and having done all this other stuff and tons of tours and records and STILL being excited, well, hell, it is incredibly impressive and it makes me incredibly proud and truly happy.

It makes me want to play music.

Gotta go.

DOWNLOAD : For The Birds
LINK : Earlimart Myspace

» Read more on On the Road Again (or, "I woke up this morning and put on Earlimart’s new disc, Hymn and Her.")