I'm going to start writing a new album tomorrow. Unlike the last two albums, I'll actually let you guys have this one. It's going to be very experimental in that I'll be abandoning traditional writing techniques and instead, writing in short fragments (both lyrically and musically) and then piecing them together as I see songs forming within the pile of crap I'll no doubt have. Think of it as a DIY version of what <i>Smile</i> was originally supposed to be. I'll record the whole thing with just an acoustic guitar and vocals, as usual, with very few effects aside from vocal overdubs for harmonies. I'm hoping to finish this album before September 1st but I can make no promises. At any extent, once the album is finished, I will post a download link.
Jan. 1 - Kanye West - Graduation
Jan. 2 - Nas - Illmatic, T.I. - Paper Trail, The Dear Hunter - Random EP #2
Jan. 3 - Tupac - Me Against the World, Elliott Smith - Figure 8
Jan. 4 - The Game - L.A.X., Eminem - The Eminem Show, Cartel - Chroma
Jan. 5 - Vampire Weekend - Vampire Weekend, Nick Drake - Pink Moon
Jan. 6 - Beyonce - Dangerously In Love, Explosions in the Sky - All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone
Jan. 7 - The Spill Canvas - One Fell Swoop
Jan. 8 - mewithoutYou - Brother, Sister***
Jan. 9 - The Mars Volta - Bedlam in the Goliath, The Mars Volta - Frances the Mute
Jan. 10 - James Blunt - Back to Bedlam
Jan. 14 - Iron & Wine - The Shepherd's Dog
Jan. 16 - Brand New - Fight Off Your Demons Demos
Jan. 30 - mewithoutYou - Catch For Us the Foxes
Jan. 31 - Anthony and the Johnsons - The Crying Light, Bon Iver - Blood Bank EP, Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavillion
Feb. 24 - Damien Rice - O
March 5 - Manchester Orchestra - I'm Like a Virgin Losing a Child***, Death Cab for Cutie - Narrow Stairs***, Gnarles Barkely - St. Elsewhere
March 19 - My Morning Jacket - It Still Moves
March 25 - Ludacris - Theater of the Mind, Jay-Z - American Gangster***
March 26 - Nas - Hip-Hop is Dead
April 1 - Death Cab for Cutie - We Have the Facts and We're Voting Yes, Manchester Orchestra - Mean Everything to Nothing***, Liz Phair - Exile in Guyville***, Sunday Day Real Estate - Diary
April 22 - Radiohead - OK Computer
May 4 - The Starting Line - Direction
May 5 - Thursday - Full Collapse, Jimmy Eat World - Clarity, Kiss Kiss - Reality vs. The Optimist
May 6 - Adrian Champion - Stars & Stripes: The White Stripes Re-imagined, Outkast - Aquemini
May 7 - Muse - Origin of Symmetry
May 8 - Heatmiser - Mic City Sons, Elliott Smith - From a Basement on a Hill II
May 13 - Jimi Hendrix - Discography, West Side Story (Original Broadway Cast)
May 14 - Nirvana - Nevermind
May 23 - mewithoutYou - It's All Crazy! It's All False! It's All A Dream! It's Alright!***, R.E.M. - Automatic for the People
May 30 - Outkast - Speakerboxxx/The Love Below
June 4 - Bright Eyes - I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning
June 6 - Guided By Voices - Bee Thousand, Guided By Voices - Alien Lanes
June 7 - Michael Jackson - Thriller
June 8 - Notorious B.I.G. - Ready to Die,Tupac - All Eyez On Me, Jay-Z - The Blueprint, The Dear Hunter - Act III: Life and Death
June 9 - Dr. Dre - The Chronic
June 10 - Beck - Odelay, Cat Power - You Are Free, She & Him - Volume One
June 13 - My Bloody Valentine - Loveless
June 14 - Radiohead - Kid A
June 18 - Dirty Projectors - Bitte Orca***
June 23 - Radiohead - In Rainbows, Cymbals Eat Guitars - Why There Are Mountains
June 24 - Tupac - Until the End of Time
June 28 - Sunset Rubdown - Dragonslayer, St. Vincent - Marry Me
June 30 - Mew - Frengers, Iron & Wine - Around the Well
Bolded albums are ones I'd recommend. Bolded with stars are the ones I'd strongly recommend.
So it's that time of year again. I've written a bunch of new songs and I want to know how they are. So PM me your email address and I'll email you a link to download 5-10 songs. In exchange, all I want is for you to tell me what you think of them. OK? OK.
I dreamt I was happy. I hate when I do that. It’s nothing but a painful reminder of the difference between who I am and I who I used to be. I remember when happiness was something tangible, something that enveloped me constantly. I spent my adolescence in the mountains where everyday was filled with hiking up Ender’s Hill, bathing in the sun at the falls, and painting whatever fascinating scenery I could find in my own backyard. Now, surrounded by the concrete prison of a liberal arts education, happiness feels like more of a dream everyday. How appropriate that in dreams is the only place I feel it anymore.
A bony arm wraps around my waist, pulling my body closer to his. This boy is so thin. No, he’s a man, I remind myself. At least, he’s everything I assume a man should be. What other requirements are there besides being over the age of eighteen? Then again, every man I’ve ever known has hurt me so maybe it would be nice for this one to stay a boy for a little while longer, at least in my mind.
“Are you awake?” he whispers into my ear. My mind races back to the night before and I remember some of the other things he whispered. First, of course, he told me I was beautiful. Then, he told me how special I was, different from every girl he’d ever met. Soon after, “God, baby. You’re so tight.” followed by ten or so other generic sexual comments.
“I’m awake.” I say. He nuzzles my neck with his nose as he reaches up and grabs my right breast. His grip is a little too hard but I don’t say anything, allowing him to awkwardly grope me. I can’t help but feeling as if he’s trying to squeeze the last bit of physical pleasure from me that he can get. He’s probably already late for something, whatever pressing matters there are for a twenty-five year old high school dropout to attend to.
“Last night was amazing.” He says, now working his way up my shirt. I hope he doesn’t want a quickie before he leaves. I’m already humiliated enough for fucking him on only the fourth night we’ve known each other. Admittedly, I’ve done some pretty messed up things in recent months but I didn’t think I was capable of stooping to this all time low. I’m not even attracted to him. No, he repulses me. But as long as he tells me I’m pretty, I figure the mental anguish I’ll suffer for the next few days will be worth it.
There’s a knock at the door and his hand quickly finds its way out of my top. Without waiting for answer, the door creaks open and Aaron walks in. He’s holding the coffee mug he borrowed from me the night he stayed up ‘til three o’clock in the morning helping me finish my English paper. We would’ve gotten it done sooner, had we not spent most of the night talking. We babbled on for hours about our lives and our dreams and every other little thing we could think of. He called me beautiful without wanting to fuck me afterwards. Now, as he sees this other boy with his arms wrapped around me, I can’t imagine how he could possibly find any beauty.
“Good morning.” He says, trying his best to keep his eyes from darting to the boy.
“Hey.” Is all I can muster back.
“I just came to invite you to breakfast but I guess you’re busy.” How could I forget about breakfast? He comes to get me every morning at 8:30 even though his first class isn’t until noon because he knows how much I hate having to go to class on an empty stomach.
“Well, I can get dressed and come down.” I say.
“No, it’s OK.” He replies, the disappointment in his voice a little more obvious than he intends. “I’m just gonna head back to bed, I think.” He nods towards the boy and exits the room. I’m glad that neither him nor the boy can see the shame in my face. It’s one thing for me to do what I’ve done but having Aaron see my at my worst makes me feel inadequate, as if I can’t even satisfy the one person who never asked for
“Who was that?” The boy asks. I decide I hate his voice. Aaron’s is smooth and almost poetic but his is wet and thin, just like his body.
“That was my friend, Aaron.” I reply. He doesn’t really care. He just wants to know if it’s OK to grab my breast again, I assume. Instead, he reaches into my pants. I feel my eyes start to tear up as all the pain and loneliness of the past few months piles up at once. I tell myself that if this boy can just bring himself to call me pretty, everything will feel OK again for a little, at least.
“God. You’re so tight.” He says. A tear rolls down my cheek and I close my eyes, trying to remember what happiness feels like.
Her apartment was clean. That was the first thing I noticed when she turned on the light. The hardwood floors were completely void of the crumpled sheets of notebook paper and tiny mounds of pencil shavings that littered the floors back at my apartment. This fact wouldn’t have been nearly as evident if not for the lack of furniture. A long glass coffee table set in front of a black leather couch provided the room with its sole monuments. A small stack of magazines sat neatly on the table. This room was much too neat.
“I’m tired of having sex.” I thought to myself as I followed Jessica into her apartment. I’d met her at a show just an hour earlier. It was a situation I’d been in many times before; she was the pretty punk chick and I was the mysterious rock star. I often wondered if women like her legitimately viewed me as anything more than an awkward, semi-successful musician. Part of me wanted to believe that these women actually admired me and my work but deep down, I knew that they were only looking for an “artist” of any kind to go to bed with so their slutty escapades would seem slightly more punk. Women like this are the worst kind of posers.
“Just make yourself at home.” Jessica said as she gingerly sat her over-sized purse on the couch. “I’m gonna go freshen up. I look like a retard-face.” To “freshen up” is a code term that girls use for only two situations. The first is when they need a break from an awful date and use their time in the rest room to call their best guy friend and tell him about how much she wishes she could meet a guy like him while inexplicably ignoring the fact that she’s currently talking to a guy like him. The second is when she’s about to have sex and needs to make sure she smells appropriate. I was fairly certain Jessica was doing the latter.
As soon as Jessica closed the bathroom door behind her, I sat down on her couch and began to glare at her stack of magazines suspiciously. For some reason, seeing this meticulously created monument to neatness disturbed me ever so slightly, making me feel uncomfortable and out of place. I considered de-stacking them and spreading them randomly across the table. Jessica had asked me to make myself at home, after all. It’s just a term, I told myself. I hate terms like that. They’re thrown around much too carelessly. Why on Earth would you invite a stranger into your house and tell him to make himself at home? For all she knew, my home could be the antithesis of her Fortress of Cleanliness. In fact, it was. She deserved punishment for using such a dangerous term. In order to teach her a lesson, I de-stacked the magazines and spread them randomly across the table.
What lay before me after completing my mild act of mischief was a buffet of Alternative Press issues from the past seven months. For the first time in the night, I wondered whether or not I might hate this girl. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve got no problem with Alternative Press. Reading their magazine just happens to be one of the four tell-tale signs that a girl is a scenster, an overly trendy follower of the golden calves of punk rock. These signs are as follows:
·Has died hair, spiked hair, layered hair, or any other ridiculous, unnecessary abomination crowning their head.
·Pretends to be quirky or random, when in actuality, every word that comes from her mouth nothing more than a carefully pronounced, four letter speech. How else could someone come up with terms like “retard-face” or “cool beans”? Shit that stupid can’t be left to chance.
·Reads (or has ever read) Alternative Press magazine.
·Has sex with any musician who has achieved slightly-above-local success.
My thoughts drifted to Jessica, who was still in the bathroom “freshening up”. Luckily for me, this girl was short, chubby, and definitely not scene, as her shoulder length dark hair did not successfully satisfy rule number one. I breathed a sigh of relief. Having sex with scensters is the worst. Why? Simply because doing anything sexual with a scenster makes you feel slightly less legitimate about your abilities to woo a woman. Getting a scenster into bed is like taking candy from a baby. All you have to do is talk to her about music for about half an hour and you’re in. Come to think about it, that’s how I had wooed Jessica.
Before this thought had a chance to permeate my mind, the bathroom door flung open and Jessica re-entered the room. She had traded her skinny fit jeans for a pair of black and white basketball shorts but was still wearing her Say Anything t-shirt. Her stumpy legs carried her across the room to the couch where she plopped down next to me.
“Did you touch my magazines?” she asked, looking me straight in the eye.
“No.” I lied. I don’t know why I lied. I guess I just figured that if I had confessed, she would’ve asked why I’d done it, at which point I would’ve had no choice but to make up a lie. A simple “no” is a much less complicated lie than the one I would’ve had to tell had I confessed to moving the magazines. Jessica picked up one of the magazines and thumbed through it half-mindedly, obviously just looking for a way to occupy her hands. The Matches were on the cover of the issue.
“Do you like the Matches?” she asked.
“They’re not bad.” I said. I love the Matches. “Their lead singer is pretty cool.”
“Oh my God! Have you met him?” she asked.
“Only once.” I replied. “It was in an alley outside of the tiniest club in the city.” Most of the clubs in our wonderful city of Charlotte, North Carolina were pretty tiny so one can only imagine how tiny this one was.
“That sounds really sketchy.”
“It wasn’t that bad until he started trying to sell me homemade soap.” I said. This was what sophisticated people called an “anecdote”. Anecdotes are humorous, true stories designed to elicit modest laughter from whomever one may be talking to. Jessica laughed at a level of volume significantly above modest. She used the opportunity to try and scoot closer to me without my noticing. Obviously, I noticed as I’m a very observant person. She would go on to try this trick several more times until she was close enough to me that her head was leaning on my shoulder. The whole process took about twenty minutes.
“You’re so interesting.” She said to me as she nuzzled my neck with her nose. She probably didn’t even remember the last thing I’d said. I was fairly certain of this because the last thing I said was something about my preference of erasers on pencils and there’s nothing at all interesting about that. Surely, she was just giving me a compliment in hopes of getting one back herself.
“Well, you’re pretty interesting yourself.” I said. It was my second lie of the evening. Jessica wasn’t a particularly boring person but I’d already met tons of girls like her in my life. She was nothing new. None of this was. The clean apartment, the anecdotes, the cuddling, and the sex her and I had about ten minutes after our exchange of compliments were all part of a tired cycle that had long grown stale. At just twenty years of age, I had already become bored with the never ending expedition for sex. Maybe it was because being a musician had made it too easy or maybe it was because I had become so cynical that I could even find flaws in orgasms. Whatever it was, I didn’t feel like pondering it in someone else’s apartment.
I slowly rolled off the couch where Jessica and I had sex. I put my clothes back on and looked at my conquest as she lay on the couch, still asleep. She was completely naked with the exception of the Say Anything t-shirt, which, for some reason, neither her nor I saw fit to remove during the act. I rummaged through my pants pockets and found an old Chick-Fil-A receipt and a pencil. I quickly scribbled a note to Jessica, thanking her for her hospitality and giving her my manager’s phone number in case she needed to reach me. I was pretty sure she would never need to contact me again as we’d both gotten anything we could’ve wanted from the evening. She got to up her punk cred and I got to… come to think of it, I don’t know exactly what I had accomplished that night.
I left the note on her coffee table atop the issue of Alternative Press with the Matches on the cover and started to walk towards the door. For some reason, I stopped and turn back. Maybe it was all the introspective thinking I had done that night or maybe it was just because she looked particularly pretty sleeping on her couch, but for whatever reason, I walked over to Jessica and gave her a kiss on the forehead. How sweet of me. As I did this, I noticed for the first time that her roots were blond. Her hair was dyed.
“Why is my car shaking?” I asked myself as I sat sleepy-eyed in my 1996 Mazda Protégé, anxiously awaiting the left turn light to change to green. If I live to be a hundred years old, I’ll never understand why someone who wishes to make a left turn is forced to wait so much longer than someone making a right turn, who doesn’t even have to wait for his light to turn green. While under the influence of various substances, I’ve often found myself formulating complex hypothesis in failed attempts to explain this phenomenon. However, like most ideas steam cooked in the back of my best friend’s van, these never seemed quite as airtight when I come back to my senses.
A car horn interrupted my drifting thoughts and I realized it was my hands that were shaking, not my car. The stale red sphere had become a commanding green arrow. The driver behind me, obviously in some sort of hurry, honked his horn again before I had a chance to respond. I waited an extra half a second before I drove off, taking slight satisfaction in, perhaps, making him just a little more late for whatever appointment he so desperately needed to attend at 11:00pm. Surely, it was some type of birthday or bachelor party for a co-worker at a local strip club. Perhaps he’s hoping to get on his bosses good side by buying him a lap dance from the most attractive stripper in the joint. His first mistake was assuming that strippers can be “attractive” in the first place. However, I had no right to deride his plans for the evening, as mine included nothing more than getting out of bed at 10:30pm, driving across town to a fast food restaurant, and meeting up with Rachel Sara as she got off work. My hands continued to shake.
I re-started my drive towards the Chicken Shack, the worlds best fast food restaurant. Normally, I’m not a fan of heartless corporations that mistreat animals, underpay their employees, and pollute the environment with Styrofoam cups but I’ll be damned if the Chicken Shack hadn’t discovered my one weakness; fresh squeezed lemonade. Unlike most people who grew up in black families, I never had uncles who grilled hamburgers, or aunts who made potato salad, or, saddest of all, a grandmother who made fresh, southern style lemonade. I suppose it’s kind of pathetic that in all my eighteen years as a Southerner, I had to experience fresh squeezed lemonade for the first time at a fast food restaurant. However, ever since my first sip of that wonderful beverage almost a year ago, I’ve found myself driving to the Chicken Shack at least once a week to pay the $2.08 to feed the monkey on my back.
That’s how I’d met Rachel. During one of my lemonade binges, she commented on how I was probably single-handedly keeping the Chicken Shack in business. She’s a light-hearted girl, pretty and thin but constantly contradicted by her dark pupils, creating eyes that seemed to go on forever; my favorite kind of girl. Ever since that night, we’d flirt every time I’d come to by lemonade. I’m not sure exactly when I started driving to the Chicken Shack to greet her as she got off work but it had quickly become my nightly tradition.
The famous neon sign soon came into view. Attached to a twenty-five foot red pole was a flashing picture of a chicken eating a chicken sandwich. It had to be one of the tallest monuments to cannibalism in the tri-state area. As I turned into the parking lot, Rachel was already walking out the front door. Thank God. I hate having to wait in the parking lot for her to get off work. It gives me too much time to think about all the different ways I could screw things up with her. What if I accidentally told her a story about one of past relationships that revealed me to be all that I really am; a liar, a cheater, and a self-righteous hypocrite, among other things. She’s too good for me and I was determined to never let her find out.
I parked my car next to Rachel’s 1998 Nissan, shut off my engine, and quickly plugged my ipod into it’s car radio adapter. I quickly searched through my artists to try and find the perfect song to set as romantic a mood as possible for the parking lot of a fast food shack. I chose Secondhand Serenade, a band I’d never formed a particularly strong opinion on. However, Rachel loved them. I rolled down my window as she walked over to my car.
“Hey there, stranger.” she said. “Is that Secondhand Serenade.”
“It sure is.” I said.
“I love them!”
“I know.” I replied. Rachel looked me in the eyes, seemingly taunting me with the fact that I could never look deep enough into hers.
“Get out.” Rachel said as she pulled my door open. “Come sit with me.” I grabbed my flip-flops from the floor of my car, pulled them on, and climbed out. It was a hot summer night but a light breeze made the evening tolerable as Rachel and I walked to the front of my car and sat on the hood. We ran through the standard small talk about each others day before Rachel reached into her purse and pulled out a water bottle that had been filled with Chicken Shack lemonade.
“Do you mind if I get a sip of that?” I asked her playfully.
Rachel laughed. “I got it for you.” she replied, shoving the bottle in my direction. At that moment, I wondered who I loved more; Rachel or the lemonade. My heart skipped a beat. Did I just admit to myself that I was in love with her? I had long since given up on the concept of love, relegating it to nothing more than a made up emotion used to sell movies, music, and Hallmark Cards. However, at that moment, every cheesy love song, Valentine’s Day card, and movie (yes, including that shitfest, the Notebook) made perfect sense.
I hadn’t noticed the silence that had come over Rachel and myself. It wasn’t an awkward silence so neither of us felt the need to break it. I turned my face to hers and leaned forward until our lips touched. This was our first kiss. It only lasted a second before we pulled apart. The breeze had stopped by now. We kissed again, deeper this time. I felt her tongue push it’s way into my mouth. She was much more aggressive than I figured she’d be. I quickly regained control of the kiss, nibbling lightly on her lower lip as we pulled away once again. We both knew we couldn’t spend all night making out in the parking lot.
“Are you working tomorrow?” I asked.
“Um, yeah.” Rachel replied, still trying to catch her breath a little. “Will you be here when I get off?” She knew she didn’t have to ask.
“Of course.” I replied, kissing her once more.
We climbed off the hood of my car and each climbed into the driver’s side of our respective vehicles. She waved goodbye as she drove off, leaving me in the parking lot. I didn’t stay there long, as the longer I was there, the more I would risk over thinking the situation. I cranked my engine and drove out of the parking lot, soon coming to the stop light on the corner. I smiled as I noticed my hands were no longer shaking and sipped my lemonade as I waited for the red light to change to a green arrow.
I want to stay in love forever but I don't want to spend the rest of my life writing love songs. "I am the Odd One" by Lonely, Dear is just another example of an amazing song I may never have the opportunity to write. Eh, I'm not going to worry about that too much right now. I'm happy for the first time in a year and I'm going to enjoy it until the day I die.