Noticed in November, Pt 8 :: “Don’t Wanna See You”

Though I’m collecting a list of songs I notice in November (hear them on Spotify), I’d like to submit a very special song today.

I’ve released a few singles lately, and this is the newest. It’s called “Don’t Wanna See You.”

You can get it—along with other tracks—on my Bandcamp site. Pay what you like, or just listen.

Another one coming in a few weeks.

 

 

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Noticed in November, 6 :: “Queen of California”

Here’s the latest; hear the rest here.

For a long time, I had a … “tension” with John Mayer. The guy could play guitar; I mean really play. The guy could write songs; I mean really write songs. 

In a word, I was probably jealous. As someone said once, I felt like Mayer was a version of me, only better.

However, there was something else. Though I had tremendous respect for him as a player and writer, there was something about him that just seemed to rub me the wrong way. He had a certain wry wit about his success, and at times he said all the right things about art and music and humility and respect and all that… but frankly, I just didn’t by it. I opened the door slightly on 2006’s Continuum, largely because I felt like it was slightly more stripped down and more “open and honest” (fuzzy words, I know, but they are the ones who really fit).

Then something happened. First, Mayer fell from grace due to a few really mis-handled interviews (warning: that interview is not very pleasant to read) and very public romantic disasters. These really just seemed to confirm everything I discerned about him.

But then, something else happened. Basically he lost his voice for about two years.

Two years. 

I told everyone I knew that I thought he was done.

But I was wrong.

In 2012, Mayer released Born and Raised, which sounded like some kind of love child between George Harrison, Neil Young’s Harvest, and a whole lot of 70s California rock.

(This is a good thing.)

What’s more, his writing had changed—at least to my ears—a lot. 

He could still turn a phrase without much effort at all, but now there was something else present in his songs…

I call it humility. 

Admittedly, I was going through some pretty tough times during 2012-2013, so I could have just been  hearing what I wanted to, but I heard depths of honesty and humility (again that word: there’s just not a good substitute for it) that, to my ears, weren’t there before. That record—in particular Shadow Days and Born and Raised—became lifelines and inspiration of sorts for me during that time:

I’m a good man, with a good heart
Had a tough time, got a rough start
But I finally learned to let it go
Now I’m here, and I’m right now
And I’m open, knowing somehow
My shadow days are over now, my shadow days are over now…

 

Then all at once it gets hard to take
It gets hard to fake what I won’t be
Cuz one of these days I’ll be born and raised
And it’s such a waste to grow up lonely…

Those words. Wow. They were my life.

“Queen of California” starts the record off, and it definitely sets the tone for the rest of the release: sonically it’s like a big pleasant pillow of restraint and warmth. Great tones. Lyrically, I hear wonder and gratitude.

I need more of that.

Noticed in November 5 :: Going to the Church

Here’s the latest in my series about music I’m noticing in November.

I have no idea how I discovered the Red Devils. I think I’d read some obscure article about a hard-core blues band in LA that Mick Jagger was watching at some club. At any rate, I bought this CD when it came out, and I’m glad I did because they only made one, a live one that is so raw and joyous. It is certainly one of my top 3-4 blues CDs. It’s sweaty  and smoky.

Here’s what this track tells me:

  1. There’s a difference between going to “church” and going to “church-AH”. I’m not sure what it is, but I know it’s real. In fact, I have been to both, but I’m not always sure how to make the “-AH” happen. Maybe someone should create a conference that teaches churches how to “add the -AH.” Someone get on that. Credit me when it’s done.
  2. You don’t ever need to change chords in a song.
  3. (Guitarists) You don’t ever need effects pedals.
  4. Simple music can be powerful.

I just love this stuff. It’s so stripped and, well, honest. You just don’t hear much music like this anymore. These guys tore it up, and did it about as close to the bone as you could.

There are actually YouTube videos of these guys, but make sure you check out the CD track. They really captured some mojo on that one.

 

Noticed in November 4 :: “Head On”

The latest song in November is by The Jesus and Mary Chain. Hear it (and the others) on Spotify.

In so many ways, and for better or for words, I “came of musical age” in the 1990s. Even then, my musical tastes were pretty wonderfully diverse: from Pearl Jam to Paul Simon, and lots in between.

Musically, I’m decidedly an anglophile—slap an English accent and sensibility on it, and I’m prone to give it a second listen.

In 1989 or 1990, I picked up Automatic, from The Jesus and Mary Chain, largely on the strength of the music video for “Blues From a Gun”. For some unknown reason, I’ve always been fascinated by music that brings together electronic and decidedly human elements. The Jesus and Mary Chain did just that: they layered loud, distorted guitars over really basic drum machine patterns. From a songwriting perspective, they sounded like they were reinterpreting the Velvet Underground and classic rock and roll melodies and themes through much louder amps.

I was listening to this the other day for the volume and energy of the whole thing, but I also got to thinking about that point of intersection between humanity and electronic elements. It reminds me a lot of my own spirituality, in a way.

“Being human” is always a dance between divine and being, well, “not-so-divine.” That’s an uncomfortable notion for some of us: we’d rather be all of one thing (or the other), but life just isn’t that. We are electronics-meeting-guitars; divinity meeting blood-and-guts. Saints meeting sinners.

(Ironically, my first band didn’t realize that a human drummer doesn’t sound the way a drum machine sounds; we tried to cover a few of the songs on Automatic, and just couldn’t figure out why they didn’t sound right.)

The collision is exhilarating, but sometimes frustrating. I really wish I could just get the whole “saint thing” right and be done with it, or just surrender the “saint thing” and just admit my humanity, giving up on the idea of ever changing.

For some reason I can’t. I have to keep heading back into that tension.

Makes you wanna feel // makes you wanna try
Makes you wanna throw the stars from the sky…

 

Noticed in November 3 :: Gimme Something Good

My ongoing effort to blog about music I’m listening to in November. You can check out my list on Spotify.

Generally, I don’t like to listen to loud music in the morning. It may seem counter-intuitive, but I actually like to “wake up slow” and start quiet. I don’t usually hit my stride, rock-wise, until about 10:30 or 11:00AM. Early morning drives are usually accompanied by Sigur Ros; maybe The National if I feel like pushing the boundaries.

But the way my week has been—and considering I had to drive an hour to class this week—I decided to bend those rules a bit.

Ryan Adams has long been an inspiration to me. His run of releases—11 between 2000 and 2014—is simply amazing. The man knows how to “to the work.” (In fact, it’s a fairly known fact that he and Stephen King, another guy who knows how to sit down and get to work, are fans of each other.)

I’d venture to say that not one of those records was a flop. Maybe there were some “B-” records, with some C- songs on them, but on the whole the whole catalogue is just solid. 

(BTW, this is no way mean to say that the man cannot turn a phrase; he’s an absolute master at it.)

When I was writing for Maida Vale, Adams was my bar: each year I’d set out to write somewhere between 25 and 30 songs, starting around 5:30 or 6 in the morning and taking advantage of every spare minute. When Maida Vale stopped playing in 2011 (?), I stopped listen to Ryan Adams; the association was too strong.

But I started again when he released his latest, and I haven’t been disappointed. He has a way of making music that I’m convinced I’ve heard before, but really haven’t. Someone once told me that the best music is like that: it simultaneously sounds like classic rock and yet utterly new at the same time. It’s simple, and just solid, and consistent.

I’ve been moved by a couple of his songs—”Dear Chicago” maybe, and “Friends” probably the most—but mostly what Adams does for me is inspire as an artist/creative person to sit down and write. Not care too much about “innovating” or making something radically new. Just get it out the door… 

… And for where I’m at in my life right now, this is healing. Music is still very much my craft, my release, and when I get to make something, to create it, it touches something deep inside me that is still pure and youthful and innocent. It is relatively untouched by all the egoism and self-laden burdens that plague so much of my life.

 

Noticed in November 2 :: Discipline

Again, inspired by my sister, I ‘m taking a season to write about songs that I am “noticing”. Here’s the Spotify list of the songs (in development).

I think it’s one of the great truths of music and art that the best songs are generally written by folks who are either running firmly towards God or firmly away from God.

(Bono said that, by the way, so you know it has to be true.)

I don’t know really know Trent Reznor, but at the very least he (a) has the reputation of running away from God, and (b) writes some awesome, forceful and violent songs.

Most of them are very much NSFW; police yourselves.

I wrote that I was pretty much in the pit on Nov 3, and on Nov 4 I woke up still fighting a bit of shame and sadness.

But then I got mad.

I’m not proud of my temper; most of the time it expresses itself in hurtful and even embarrassing ways. Nevertheless, it’s there. It’s a part of me.

And on November 4 I decided to get pissed off at the things that drug me into that pit.

Whoever Reznor really is, he writes pretty profoundly about (what I consider to be) spirituality and even health. He kicked a pretty rough heroin addiction back around 2005. Since then he’s created some pretty insightful songs about some of the emotional and psychological demons that haunt some of us.

The chorus of “Discipline” is,

“I need your discipline // I need your help
I need your discipline // I know that once I stop I cannot stop myself…”

Doesn’t get any more real than that.

I cannot and will not vouch for all of Nine Inch Nails’ work, but there are sometimes that I need to hear something that is loud, intelligently aggressive, and also grooving. 

So as I drove around central Florida (still in Orlando for class), I just blasted NIN’s music and allowed some of my anger and frustration to fuel my crawl out of the depths.

Johnny Rotten once sang (well, sort of, Rotten never really “sings”), “Anger is an energy.”

Sometimes our anger can help us fight against the “dark stuff” in our lives.

 

 

Noticed in November 1 :: The Healing Day

Every artist is a cannibal / every poet is a thief

All kill their inspiration / and sing about the grief (Bono, “The Fly”)

Like all great artists, I have decided to rip off an idea. My sister, who is better than me at just about everything (especially encouragement) wrote every day in October about music that moved her. I, on the other hand, grew increasingly silent in this space. This is for some highly personal reasons that I am working through, but I also still feel drawn to write. Just this afternoon, while sitting in a class on theology, I decided to do what she did (even though I’m starting way late).

So for the next period of time—not sure yet—I’m going to write about songs that are impacting me. Again, I won’t say much, but this recent season has been a rather intense one in my life, so there’s a lot going on.

Also: get ready, because my tastes certainly run the gamut.

You can hear the songs here.

The first song on the list is “The Healing Day” by Bill Fay.

By nature I am a melancholy person. Most of the time it’s not really that big of a deal (except for the fact that I’m called “Eeyore” at work). However, every so often—maybe once ever 18 months or so—the bottom drops out, and I enter a pretty big skid.

Depression.

I went through a pretty big one—at least 24-30 months—when we first moved to Tallahassee, but I had not really drunk from that bitter cup since then.

Until October.

Maybe it was just seasonal; maybe it was something I did or didn’t do (truth is, it was/is probably a result of a combination), but “The Black”, as I sometimes call it, hit me forcefully in October. There were plenty of days that I limped through (with varying degrees of success), and the struggle was fierce for a lot of it.

(It’s still hovering, by the way.)

Monday, November 3 was a particularly difficult day. I was in Orlando for a class, and for a variety of reasons I was just in a tailspin.

“Despair” is not a word I use lightly, but in this case, well, it fit.

One of my mentors once told me once, “You need to know when to deal gently with yourself.” 

As I drove around northeast Orlando for lunch, this phrase popped into my head, and I found this tune on my phone and pushed play.

Bill Fay is an English singer/songwriter. Though he did most of his work in the 60s and 70s, he released a record—Life is Peoplebillfay2in 2012. I remember hearing the title track and instantly thinking, “Wow, this guy really influenced Jeff Tweedy.” The music is simple and gentle; the word “pastoral” comes easily to mind. I really don’t know a ton about Bill Fay other than these two songs, but they are a good soundtrack when I am trying to “deal gently with myself,” when I am trying to forgive myself and live without shame (which for me is a struggle).

A good friend of mine said recently that he wants to listen to music/art “that will wreck him.”

Sometimes I don’t want music to wreck me; I do a find job of that on my own. Sometimes I want music to help put me back together again, or at the very least just remind me that I’m “okay” even when I am in pieces.

“Healing Day” is not going to be musically revelatory to anyone; it’s pretty simplistic. However, it’s like a great big gentle hug from a good friend or family member when I need it most.

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