you’ll see, I’ll build a home someday...
It all started when...
I started making music with cheap MIDI software way back in 1998. I was fascinated by the possibilities of electronic music and the combination of the organic and the synthetic. It took me a long time to write anything I wanted anyone to hear, but I've finally collected my favorite tracks from the past decade, 2006-2016. Many of them have imperfections that I'd love to go back and change, but that would take away from the artist I was at the time I made them. I am indebted to the folks who collaborated with me along the way, adding the occasional guitar lick, drum riff, and backup vocal I would never have come up with on my own.
I sincerely hope you enjoy "The Best, Really."
Sleep Like A Stone
I was listening to a lot of the Police's "Walking In Your Footsteps," King Crimson's "Waiting Man," as well as a lot of 808 State and Future Sound of London when I wrote this. I'm particularly proud of the guitar work in the interlude section. Most of my guitar efforts use effects and interesting chords to disguise what a mediocre guitarist I am, and here I used two delay pedals, one going forward and one in reverse, to make it happen. I also spent four years in a percussion ensemble in college and this piece couldn't have happened without that experience. The lyrics reference my mild prosopagnosia, or face-blindness, something I've struggled with for most of my life.
Til I've Been Forgotten
One of the earliest tracks in this collection, this was the first of many explorations into that lilting beat heard round the world but most associated with Reggaeton and Jamaican dancehall. I actually first heard it in 2002 on an Elbow track called "Snooks" and was transfixed. Later, I moved to Harlem in 2005 and it was in every car stereo. One of my roommates was a professional juggler and after his clown band's Lower East Side pier show got rained out, I wrote this song while huddling under an umbrella table.
This song was recorded at Vanity Sound Studios in 2011 and features members of the New York band Oh Halo, of which I was a member for several years. It was the first song I ever recorded in a professional studio. All the other songs in this collection are home studio productions.
Voyager (Alternate Take)
I wrote the lyrics to this song in college in about five minutes after being inspired by news that the Voyager I spacecraft had cleared the solar system. (You may have noticed that this news story has been repeated several times in intervening years, because Voyager's data keeps changing the definition of what constitutes the solar system.) I recorded a much-improved version of the song in New York a couple years later and this is it.
Long Walk Home
The Iraq and Afghanistan wars were in full swing, war with Iran seemed imminent, and the newspaper headlines were dark in 2007 when I put this song together. It owes much to the British band Elbow, one of my favorites.
I Would Tear You Down
The "guitar solo" near the end is actually a melodica run through a distortion pedal!
The Lightness of the Sky at Dawn
A song I did about tragic geopolitics. Given the news these days, I would call it prescient, but the truth is that there's nothing new under the sun when it comes to this sort of thing. I go back and forth as to whether the guitar is a necessary instrument in my music. Around this time, I was of the opinion that it was not.
Infrastructure defines our lives and we scarcely even notice it unless it doesn't work. The opening line of verse from this tune is a quote from the 1988 film "Candy Mountain." This song is also the theme song for my podcast, Ambassadors at Large.
If you've ever found yourself in a peer group that's not quite for you, this song is for you.
I went through some dark times in the late aughts. My younger self sometimes went a bit over the top with the lyrics.
The West Is Burning
I often write songs about several things at once: in this case, it was 2014 and the news was incongruously dominated by the World Cup, Syrian refugees, climate change, and fires across the American west. To emphasize this bizarre juxtaposition of topics, I used a classic party air horn sample, but manipulated at different pitches and durations to suck all the fun out of it. John Bowker did the guitar work.
How Holes In The Sky Are Filled
Probably the weirdest song on here, this one's a sci-fi tune that came together after I listened to a bunch of futurist TEDTalks in a row. John Bowker helped out again on guitar and piano.
Originally written in 2011, I re-worked it in 2014 to commemorate my departure from New York for Bologna in 2012. I spent my last and happiest NYC days in Long Island City, and "the river of black tar" is the East River.
The Progressive Metamorphism of Shale
One of the first songs I ever wrote. Originally written in 2003 and inspired 50% by my geology notes and 50% by a friend who struggled a bit with her sexual orientation, I recorded it several times before finally putting this version together sometime in the late 2000s. It's the only "singer-songwriter"-style song on here, where the guitar is the lead instrument.
Love & Urban Planning
In September 2013 I suffered a serious concussion that required almost a year of recovery. In December of that year, I was living in a mental fog cooped up in a low-ceilinged attic in Washington, DC trying to scrape through the last of grad school. Bright lights and loud noises annoyed me incessantly. Also, I had lived the previous year overseas and most of my musical instruments had been lost in a flood while in storage. My bass guitar survived, I blew all my remaining disposable income on a used keyboard to replace my deceased one, and this was the first new song I recorded as I began to put my life back together.
Evening Metropolitan Transport Is All Numbers And Directions
Self-explanatory for anyone who has taken a New York City subway.