Good morning ~
Lately I have found myself so deeply enriched by the community of people I play music with and for, the shows at my house, the shows I play, the shows my friends play, and all the talking and hanging out and being in a room that all that entails. It’s been a big part of my life for a long time, but more and more I find real joy and ease and security within it. This weekly thing is a part of it, which means you are, too, and I feel a very strong desire to acknowledge this right now and also thank you. Thank you.
The music this week features a surround sound recording of an empty mall I found buried deep within the apple loops menu of logic. I’m fascinated by this recording and I can’t really imagine a situation where this would be the thing to include, so much so that it very obviously became the thing to include in this track of otherwise very nice keyboard sounds (previously I featured a recording of someone scuba diving, but wasn’t really easily recognizable as that, it sounded more like having two ears full of mud). I tried to make it sound like the music was coming from a distance, like you were hearing someone playing in the next foodcourt over.
Here’s the latest update on my record. It’s out in 8 days. You can hear it all soon, and I’m doing everything in my power to make that a nice experience for you / the world. That’s the latest update. Please be excited and stay excited until that happens, thank you very much.
YOUTH PASTORAL’s coming out on Whatever’s Clever, a label I started back in 2016 to put out my own stuff but now includes releases by some of the people I’m closest to in NYC. We announced a couple of other rad releases coming soon including New Topographics by Matt Evans on April 17th and Pomegranate by Quarterly on March 20th, which actually we’re announcing officially today. We have a couple of other things in the works, too ~ ~ stay tuned.
Taking this song from the record as a prompt ~ ~ ~
There are healthy ways to interact with God or with a creator. In college when I would occasionally nurse hangovers in the sunny carpeted living room where the local chapter of Quakers held their meetings I could tell that the spirit really did move through them, I could nearly feel it swirling in the air (and I could see those little dust particles that float around in beams of slanting light, maybe that was the spirit). I knew that the spirit was really there because those meetings were mostly silent. The idea is that you sit there until you are moved to say something, and this version of the almighty just didn't have that much to say. I certainly never said anything (years later, I would think about how similar 12 step meetings are to Quaker meetings, but how they're the inverse - usually in a dark basement, and you're more or less compelled to say at least something, even if it's only your name. There's a spirit moving there, too. There are spirits a lot of places). The woman who spoke most often at meeting - warmly ancient, curled as a walking stick - usually said something about the ongoing travesty of the wars in the middle east. And she was right. I can understand why the figurehead of a movement of pacifists would inspire outrage in this fierce and craggy woman. Otherwise that figurehead didn't need the attention, the dust floated around for a while and there were cookies afterwards.
But there are unhealthy relationships, too, and I think it can be all too easy to focus your entire worth - your entire sense of self - on the unverifiable good graces of an entity beyond your understanding. That was part of a big realization for me, and a big part of this record. When god ceases to exist - ceases to stir within that sunny, carpeted room - there's still an empty pedestal, up in the clouds. You're still looking for cosmic approval, a pat on the head. You're screaming into a void as you always have but now you're just less certain something will echo back. And it's that hunger for approval you need to tear down to truly get free, not the golden idol.
Power Zone is one of those songs that comes fully form and unbidden - - I imagine a hawk swooping down from the sky above and gingerly landing on my wrist, I imagine the slight pinch of its talons. The day I wrote it felt like a new day, a type of day I had never experienced before. The sun was incredibly bright and the loft apartment I suddenly found myself living in didn't have curtains, or I didn't know how to use them, but the slanting light of the late morning came barreling in. It almost knocked you backwards. I faced the new day, I felt the warmth on my face and arms, but I did it squinting - - couldn't quite make it out.
I felt very chewed up and spit out that day. Various life circumstances had conspired against me to leave me profoundly dumped, extremely in debt, and stuck at a terrible job full of assholes I hated without a solid place to live in the foreseeable future. I was considering moving in with one of my parents for a while. Felt like the little ice floe I had been precariously standing on had finally melted, here I was at sea.
A real low point: right before I wrote this song I had a gig at what promised to be a lovely gig outside of Boston. I had been looking forward to it for weeks. These conspiratorial life forces had prevented me from really playing music earnestly for a long time. Wasn't really gigging much, but some sweeties I know invited me to come play at a beautiful loft. The night before the gig, while I was on the clock at my awful job, my live-in gf broke up with me over facetime, barely 24 hours into what I had been told was a temporary break. I did not take it well, though there was some relief, and very uncharacteristically the following morning I missed my bus - I remember running after it as it pulled away, pants falling down and tears in my eyes as my guitar jiggled in the gig bag on my back. I somehow caught another bus to the show, arrived 45 minutes late, and proceeded to play a terrible set to a forgiving audience. There was something funny with the grounding - it was an old factory building - and so every time my lips got close to the microphone I was jolted with a zap of electricity. I accepted this unpleasant pain with a shrug and continued poorly wrenching out my love songs. Someone in the crowd told me after during an applause break, "hey man, you're making me wanna call my ex-girlfriend." People laughed, it was a funny thing to say, he meant it as a compliment. But I told him, "well, just imagine where I'm at right now." I don't think they could.
The one bright spot at the time was knowing a charitable family who would be leaving for a long trip to Europe and maybe sort of needed a house sitter for their beautiful home. The father had developed a profound paranoia of his place burning down after the Ghost Ship fire, he had become obsessed with the idea that vinyl records were combustible and had moved them into his daughter's nursery. He was relieved to have someone staying there and in a way I was relieved to have somewhere to stay.
At a certain point - after the electric shocks, the crushing debt, the absolute loss of security and predictability - I started to feel like things realistically couldn't get that much worse. Or more accurately, I saw that as things got objectively worse I found that actually there was a buoyancy there, a lightness of heart I could only just barely remember feeling. I felt both heartbroken and liberated, crushed and rejuvenated. My mood and my outlook were actually improving as people I cared about fucked me over a few times in a row. It was a moment of profound and sudden change, a deep enough plot twist to point out a few profound truths. The most potent one being that I would never fully satisfy the need for approval I feel deep and darkly in the core of my being, that desire for a hand to come from a parted cloud and pat me on the head, that hunger. Knowing that I could never satisfy that hunger - by any earthly or celestial means - freed me from the need for satiation. I could be okay, by my own means.
I've always enjoyed playing weird, misshapen guitars - my Grandma had this nylon string guitar out of a Sears catalog that's severely warped and always out of tune, but I've written some of my favorite songs on it. This apartment had a tiny guitar - possibly for the couple's kid - and in this bright and new morning I started playing it, started trying to wrangle it into tune. Couldn't quite get there, but I arrived at a skewed open tuning (Eb B Eb Gb B Eb for anyone interested) and then the hawk landed.
Who do you need approval from? Can you give it to yourself? If you don’t like the version of yourself you are at this very moment, what is stopping you from changing it, either by changing yourself or changing how you think of yourself? When would you last say you were considered delightful? Who do you need to call on the phone today?
thanks for reading
excited for next week