Ep. 85: Song “Only In Your Head” (Spacey Piano Rock)

This episode, I break apart a spacey piano rock song called “Only In Your Head,” which is from my recently released album, “Good Grief.” Influenced by The Walkmen and Radiohead.

The song began in 2014 as a little piano piece I was noodling around with. It’s really just three chords, two of which are Major 7 chords, which have kind of jazzy quality to them. The rhythm is also syncopated, meaning many of the notes fall on the off-beat. I recorded a lofi demo on my phone back in 2014.

A week later, I had a night where I had a hard time falling asleep, so I went down into the music room, probably around midnight and worked out another demo, this time with more of an electronica approach. There’s drum machines, a bass with distortion, tambourine, and lots of synths sounds, some of which came from an ipad. I gave it the working title of “works for me.” Here’s what that demo sounds like.

About year later (in 2015), I started putting together the songs for my album and I began to have a different idea in my head of what this song could sound like. I decided to lay down some drums and give it more of rock approach. That drums I recorded (along with a very rough scratch vocal and keyboard part) actually sat untouched for almost 3 years, as I got busy working on other songs and doing the other things I had going on in my day to day life.

In July of 2018, I got a little more serious about finishing the album up and got back to work on the song. I took that drum part I recorded and filled out the core parts to the song, which are the main piano part recorded on our upright piano, bass and some tamborine. To give it a little variety, I played the first part of the piano with just holding out the chords for two bars.

So, I was liking this direction but felt like more could be done to make the piano part more interesting. Maybe even a classical type of influence. So, I started playing the same two chords as the main piano part but at different octaves so each beat, I was kind of hitting a different part of piano with the same chord. Then, to give it sort of a spacey sound, I added a delay, echo effects along with some extra kind tickley sounding embellishments on the high part of the piano.

To give it even more texture, I layered a tremolo style clean guitar with an echoey delay effect to give it kind of a spacey sound. I kept that same sound going in the chorus, but with distortion added to it for more of a bite, as well as a second guitar playing the chords with distortion.

As if I didn’t have enough layers already, I added some synth parts to fill it out some more. First, there’s a harmonium, which is really kind of a carnival instruments. It supposed to sound something like an organ meets an accordion.

Then next, a synth with a sort futuristic sound.

For the ending, I had another idea for the piano. I took the chord and did what’s called arpeggiating, meaning I played each note of the chord one by one. I came up with the simple part that loops over and over and the same part on top of that but an octave higher.

Then I added a track of synthesizer which is set to play each note of the chord at random, given it a really spacey, sort of unpredictable sound.

There’s only one vocal track with no harmonies.

The lyrics are written from the perspective of someone wrestling with reality and with the what’s being told to us by the media in all it’s different forms. I tried to reflect some of that chaos with the denseness of the arrangement.

Here’s final mix of the song (download it for free):

Lyrics:
I know I’m dreaming but nobody’s sleeping this early in the morning
Public relations and my expectations are spinning round my head again
Your own existence don’t give you permission, your time is up, you’re out of here
The baggage we claim is the thing that remains there’s no way for us to fix this mess

I can’t believe what you’re telling to me
Yeah, it’s only in your head
I can’t agree, what you’re asking of me
Yeah, it’s only in your head

Fooling yourself with the cards you’ve been dealt you can only take it so long
This information and my situation are spinning round my head again
A matter of weeks they’ll be playing for keeps and they’re counting up the votes
It’s too close to call and I’m telling you all that it doesn’t matter anyways

I can’t believe what you’re telling to me
Yeah, it’s only in your head
I can’t agree, what you’re asking of me
Yeah, it’s only in your head

I can’t believe what you’re telling to me
Yeah, it’s only in your head
I can’t agree, what you’re selling to me
Yeah, it’s only in your head

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Ep. 66: Song “Based On A True Story” (Influenced by Radiohead)

Today’s episode is about a song I wrote back in high school called “Based On a True Story.” It’s influenced by a Radiohead tune, “Bulletproof… I Wish I Was” from their album, The Bends.

My goal was to create the same type of atmosphere with the acoustic guitar strumming and a softly plucked electric guitar part. Here’s a clip of my high school band, Made In The Shade playing the song at one of our early shows in 1999.

After a while, we wrote other songs and phased this one out so it sat on the shelf for several years. I finally recorded it in 2012 for my 50 songs in 50 weeks project. I kept it pretty true to my original vision. In addition to acoustic guitar and vocals, I added an electric guitar part with a “flange” effect to give it a washy sound. There’s also an electric guitar part played with an ebow, organ and tamborine.

Lyrics:
Never thought I wanted you so much
And every wish I’m longing for your touch
There’s else for me to see, yeah

Never thought I’d run and jump the gun
Now I’m left and staring at the sun
What else is there for me to be, yeah

I must pretend in spite of who we are
I must pretend and go about in my own way

I am not here, how can this be
I wish you’d all go away from me
I am not here, how can this be, yeah

Any moment I have felt the pain
Seeing you with only me to blame
There’s nothing left for me to be, yeah

Never thought I’d run and jump the gun
Now I’m left and staring at the sun
What else is there for me to be, yeah

I must defend in spite of who we are
I must defend and go about in my own way

I am not here, how can this be
I wish you’d all go away from me
I am not here, how can this be, yeah

Nobody knows the pain

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Ep. 40: 5-10-15-20 (Music That’s Inspired Me Over The Years)

Pitchfork.com does a feature on their website called “5-10-15-20” where an artist talks about what they were listening to and influenced by during different ages in their life starting with age 5, than age 10 and so on. I thought it would be fun to do it myself.


Age 5 – Miami Vice Theme Song
imagesMy parents used to have a cassette tape to the soundtrack of Miami Vice, the TV show. It was very 80s – synthesizers, heavy reverb on the drums, epic guitar solos, etc. Very cheesy. It sounded like video game music, which is probably why I liked it.


Age 10 – Beethoven: “Ode to Joy”
I was really into classical music at this point. The first CD I bought was Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, which I was mostly interested because of the big “Ode to Joy” section (which I had heard in cartoons and advertisements). I used to pretend I was Beethoven conducting a big orchestra. By now, I had taken a few years of piano lessons and started playing violin in the school orchestra.


Age 15 – Radiohead: “Karma Police”
ok-computerBy this time, I had been into alternative rock music for a few years. Around 12, I watched the “Beatles Anthology” special on TV, which started my Beatles obsession (which continues to this day). I bought a cheap guitar for the sole purpose of learning Beatles songs. Later, I got into Oasis (because they sounded like the Beatles) and being from the Seattle area, I couldn’t help being influenced by the aftermath of grunge (Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden). At age 14, I started writing my first songs on piano and guitar and started my first band. By age 15, I was into Radiohead, especially the album “OK Computer.” It was rock music but it was smart and artsy. It was new and fresh but also had a hint of Pink Floyd and the Beatles. I loved the song “Karma Police.” Later in high school, I was introduced to emo and indie rock music (Sunny Day Real Estate, Built to Spill, Modest Mouse, Pedro the Lion, and Death Cab For Cutie), which had a huge influence on the type of music my band wrote and played.


Age 20 – Debussy: “Clair De Lune”
When I was 20, I was in the middle of serving for 2 years as a missionary in New York City. We weren’t allowed to listen to rock music so I got re-acquainted with lots of classical music, particularly Debussy (I love “Clair De Lune”), Chopin, Schubert and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. On our days off, I still played piano and wrote my songs. Occasionally, we’d have dinner with a member of the congregation that had a guitar so I got jam.


Age 25 – Fleet Foxes: “White Winter Hymnal” album_fleet_foxesAfter my mission, I continued playing music influenced by the indie rock bands I was into during high school, as well as discovering some new artists: Arcade Fire, Memomena, The Decemberists and Vampire Weekend. By age 25, my band mates from Declaration had graduated college and moved away so we called it quits. I was looking for some new sounds and came across the Fleet Foxes’ “White Winter Hymnal,” which reminded me of my parents CSNY record. I loved harmonies and simplicity. It was upbeat without feeling fake. I was also digging deeper into Wilco, particularly their album “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot”. Inspired by these sounds and wanting to do something interesting with all the acoustic songs I had kicking around, Adding Machines was born.


Age 30 – The Dodos: “Black Night”
A few years ago, I turned 30. I’ve been a heavy Spotify user the last couple years and find myself listening to a greater variety than I ever have. I pay more attention to new releases coming out and also dig through entire catalogs of classic artists. Some of my recent favorites are Elvis Costello, Beach House, The Dodos, Father John Misty, Kishi Bashi, and Ben Sollee. In many ways, I’m rediscovering what I want to do musically and the possibilities are exciting.


Spotify Playlist

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Ep. 26: Favorite Music of 2016 – Top Ten Albums


1. Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool

a_moon_shaped_poolI’ve been a fan of Radiohead since OK Computer came out. I’ve eagerly followed along over the years as their sound has morphed and changed with each album and enjoyed watching and listening to the twists and turns. I must admit I was a bit disappointed with 2011’s King of Limbs but this year, they’ve redeemed themselves by once again reinventing their sound. It’s a great, soft listen with some beautiful moments incorporating Johnny Greenwood’s strengths as an orchestral composer with the string arrangements. Essential Songs: Burn the Witches, Daydreaming, True Love Waits

Stream: Spotify


2. Chris Staples – Golden Age

chrisstaples_goldenage_1500px_300dpi_rgb_sq-307742039fa55a1256505b38b73322be47d4481b-s300-c85I first heard about Chris Staples back in 2014 when American Soft came out. It was a breezy, mellow, relaxing album and Golden Age is no different, continuing with a sound cut from the same cloth. It’s so pleasant to listen to and filled with so many great melodies and lyrics. He’s a great songwriter but also very tasteful and understated in his arrangements. Occasionally, the production is a bit more elaborate than his last album, such as a the string on “Park Bench” but on the whole he tends to stay pretty sparse and let the songs stand on their own. Essential Songs: Golden Age, Park Bench, Hepburn in Summertime

Stream: Spotify


3. The Lumineers – Cleopatra

cleopatra_album_coverOn their second album, the Lumineers go for a bit of a sparser sound and fortunately, they’ve written a very solid set of songs that stand on their own and don’t require a very elaborate production. I love the echo-y sound on most of the vocals and instruments. Essential Songs: Ophelia, Sleep On The Floor, My Eyes

Stream: Spotify


4. Parker Millsap – The Very Last Day

parkermillsap_cvr_sq-99cc63aad01158603effad73179c4909d785e89f-s300-c85I first heard Parker Millsap perform on Conan earlier this year. He’s got a powerful, soulful voice, especially for only being 21 years old. He’s a great songwriter who creates interesting melodies and arrangements. He’s put together a very solid and enjoyable album. Essential Songs: Pining, The Very Last Day

Stream: Spotify


5. Blind Pilot – And Then Like Lions

blindpilotalbum_sq-6feccf1a40049e1b8f82e756fe6bee45e53256c6-s300-c85Blind Pilot knows how to make relaxing music. I first saw this band a few years ago when they opened for the Shins. The singer has such a smooth voice. I love it. Essential Songs: Seeing is Believing, Umpqua Rushing

Stream: Spotify


6. Wilco – Schmilco

schmilco_wilcoOn their 10th album, Wilco takes yet again another twist in their evolution and goes for a more sparse and immediate sound. The songs are very raw and it seems there was a conscious effort to keep them that way. I kind of think of it as the acoustic counterpart to last year’s album, Star Wars. Essential Songs: If I Ever Was Child, Cry All Day, Just Say Goodbye

Stream: Spotify


7. Kishi Bashi – Sonderlust

kishi-bashi-cover-art_sq-7d85c2244e34db16a6a6bd73705db006254ac559-s300-c85On Kishi Bashi’s third album, he takes the intricate arrangements from his debut and adds dancey, retro elements from the 70s, at times recalling Electric Light Orchestra. Essential Songs: M’Lover, Key Big Star

Stream: Spotify


8. American Football – LP2

americanfootballalbum_sq-59cdc9f038ee0faf1c709650e4bf1526efe7c69a-s300-c85

This is American Football’s first album in 17 years and they sound like they are continuing right where they left off; with the same intricate guitar lines, drumming patterns and a unique sense of melancholy. It’s a welcome sound to return to with the state of popular music today. Essential Songs: Where Are We Now?, I’ve Benn So Lost for So Long

Stream: Spotify


9. Childish Gambino – “Awaken, My Love!”

awaken_my_loveOn Childish Gambino’s third album, he ditches rapping for an entirely new sound, incorporating retro R&B and funk with cosmic flavor. It’s a bold direction and I’m loving it. Essential Songs: Me and Your Mama, Redbone

Stream: Spotify


10. The Head and The Heart – Signs of Light

signsoflightThey are back with another set of solid folk rock tunes. Although they take something of a traditional approach, it’s a very pleasant and welcome sound, especially the harmonies. Essential Songs: Rhythm and Blues, City of Angels

Stream: Spotify


Albums 11-25

Spotify Playlist of 25 Favorite Albums of 2016


Favorite Songs of 2016

Spotify Playlist of Favorite Songs of 2016