The music I'm not writing

by Nick Smith in


I've been pretty busy all week and haven't written anything.  Some lyrics while I was sitting at meetings bored, but probably nothing that will get put to music, more just to keep my mind limber.  Something occurred to me.  My dreams have morphed from what they once were.  Mostly due to pragmatism and what I've been exposing myself to lately. When I was in high school, and part of my time in college, I wanted to play bass in a jam band.  Hopefully, I would be the leader, or at least write and sing a significant number of songs.  I was listening to heroic doses of Phish and a healthy portion of Grateful Dead, so I basically wanted to be in that situation.  I still DO want to be in that situation, but it is not one I am holding out hope or making plans for.  I am terrible at pulling people together, so I never really started a band in college.  If someone asked me to play bass in their band today, I would be there in a heartbeat.

Right now, I just want to write songs and play them for people by myself.  It is much easier to just get myself moving then get 3 or 4 people together and motivated to get shit done.  My listening habits over the course of my college career reflect this.  Rather than bands who I dig for their musical inventiveness, I have gravitated towards songwriters whose lyrics turn me on.  It started with my interest in Talking Heads going from musical to lyrical, and my interest developing in Weezer and the Pixies, and now my intense interest in the Mountain Goats.

I wish I could right really inventive music.  But I don't have a band to try it out on, and I have a very difficult time imagining multiple parts in my head.  It's much easier for me to just strum my guitar and sing songs.  So that's what I'm gonna do now.

I'm picking back up a tradition I started this fall and sort of let go for a month or two.  Rather than listen to a bunch of different things in the car, I would put one disc in the cd player and listen to it for two or three weeks until I had basically memorized every song.  I first did it with Explosions in the Sky's The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place.  Then followed the Mountain Goats' All Hail West Texas and Tallahassee.  Then I lost the habit.  I have finally picked it up, not with cd's but with the mp3s in my phone.  I have begun the process of digesting another Mountain Goats album, this time Get Lonely.

First impressions: Get Lonely is a collections of very delicate songs about a man at his weakest moment: being alone in the aftermath of being left by his lover.  Happening to have the unique qualification of someone who's had that happen to them before, I find many of the songs incredibly powerful.  "Woke Up New" is probably my favorite song on it.  The first line of the song explains it pretty well: "On the morning when I woke up without you for the first time..."   John Darnielle uses every song to paint a little picture, with excruciating detail, opening windows into the depths of his characters by using the objects around them.  Rather than focus on telling you over and over about his characters' feelings, he lets his characters' feelings shine with a blinding light through the seemingly insignificant actions they make.  For example rather than focus on the character's loneliness, in "Half Dead," he describes the main character going through his house boxing up the things that remind him of his beloved and putting them out on the curb.  I eat that kinda shit up.

Also, it is different from the other Mountain Goats albums I've gotten heavily into because of the aforementioned delicateness.  Almost every song features very gentle guitar strokes and very soft singing.  There is usually more power in the sound.  Especially on the earlier boombox albums, the guitar strumming is much more aggressive.  If one only listened to albums from All Hail West Texas and earlier, they would be shocked by the delicate guitar strumming (as well as the production value).  So yeah.  Go listen to some Mountain Goats already.

I'm going home this weekend, so I'm probably not going to do a lot of writing because I won't have my guitar with me.  Maybe I'll find some time next week.  We'll see.

Toodles, Nick

I don't wanna be an old man anymore