When Suzanne first told me that she was that Suzanne, I didn’t believe her. And then she picked up the guitar I had lying around and started to sing “Caramel,” and in my own poetic way I thought it clever to say that the song described her voice, it always had defined her voice, this was how her voice could be said to sound. She laughed, slowly, and kept on playing. I could tell it helped her to sing more. I could tell that the wine was starting to make her play a little freer, a little looser. The night would be one that I’d never forget, but like New York, she would.
“It’s hard to breathe in foreign bedrooms” matt pond PA assures us, and we feel like he could mean touring but also just mean following a girl home. On this album I think maybe he figured he made a breakthrough—maybe this would be the time he’s feeling better. But he didn’t. Not to the total outsider just paying attention to the parts he gives us. Maybe we never do break through. Maybe there are people who just keep repeating this kind of life for so long. I cannot wait until we see the sun all the time again. I cannot wait.
I would like to write a book about writing some day. Although maybe I can pull together some kind of Charlie Kaufman-type magic shit and write a book about writing a book about writing. How many layers can we get back and still make sense? You know that scientific principle that says you can only have a certain amount of friends and then you lost track of who these people are? I bet our brains have problems with layers inside layers of things like that as well. If you hit the sweet spot, then you have a movie everyone talks about, like Inception. If you miss, you’ve got all those philosophy books no one talks about like…well, I don’t have examples, that’s the point. Accessibility can sometimes be king, because no one wants to repeatedly read above their level. Then again, no one wants to read too far below, except maybe for sentimental reasons. So my book about writing will talk about three things. One! Make sure you are writing as much as you can because that way there’s a lot of stuff to choose from. Two! Pick a hot beverage of choice and geek out about it as it helps to have something to warm your belly and something to do with your hands when you need to pause and stop typing or writing, whichever works for you. Three! Apply the three treasures of buddha, dharma, and sangha to this pursuit as well. For god’s sake, don’t write alone.
Elliott Smith lives in an attic off Elm now, surrounded by broken bottles and jokerless poker decks. He whines about the rain more than any one living near the Cascades should. He writes R&B songs for up-and-coming divas, now, under the pen name Quincy Spectre. His greatest enjoyment is not writing the songs, it is his seeing his clever pen name on the inside ring of each forty-five. He never signs a contract that doesn’t include the Quincy Spectre 45 Clause, and he never plays guitar any more, because that fucking thing pushed him into hiding in the first place. Over and over again he didn’t finish what he started, but this guitar ban will carry with him until he dies again, for real this time.
The Cure sending letters to Elise, Counting Crows hoping for a better year, REM nightswimming through countless college year crushes. Earliest “real” relationship, defined by sad bastard music. A young man in college can create an entire mythos around an absent love. There’s just so much time to wallow in the shit. Mix tapes sent, a few received. Hot, memorable clothingfumble time broken up by tears of breaking-up-but-never-quite. Train rides, a night here and there, meeting outside the hostel host. Neighborhoods still charged, though less and less. This is not all true. What a shame, to marry and lose that medley of a name.
When your song says “on a mountain,” you are saying something specific, and that thing is “I am a folk. I am a folksy person. I am in touch with couuuuntry,” where the syllable coun is drawn out, guttural, located at the bottom of your throat. You might bring in your listener with this mountain-centered thinking; you might kill his mood completely. Whatever you do, though, your listeners are now taking sides: are they down with your folk-country-hippie-mountaintop leanings, or are they not?
You can hear the need in his voice, not just the weed. Some might say his voice is reedy, which is a cultured critic’s way of saying that his singing is nasal and hard to take, unless you’re cultured enough to call it reedy. But you can hear, totally hear, the conviction in his singing. Conviction in the sense of convinced, a person convinced that the song he plays and way he sings and words he writes could not be played, sung, written in any other way. And maybe conviction like a convict, too, pushing through barbed wire to get out.
Feel this as an exhale brought by birds. Cause yourself to slow down enough to hear, really hear. Those people are incorrect, hearing and listening aren’t different in the way that they tell you it is. Hearing can sometimes be superior, don’t believe the hype. Church of forest dwellers celebrating the celebration. Clear voices cutting through all the noise, all signal. All signals, no noise. Hang your head and close your eyes and breathe this in. The tree visuals, the bearded guys in your head that represent these voices, those things are okay because even the band acknowledges them in their own name. But more importantly, maybe Bowie is the guy you want to get you drugs and Finn the man to teach you about the tenous relationships among the holy trinity (religion, poetry, beer), but these guys are the ones you want in the cabin singing to your buds and roasting marshmallows, and that’s a damned fine thing.
Stream Helplessness Blues here
We had an old International Harvester, and I actually learned how to drive it. I can’t remember which letter the model we had was, but I loved the fact that there was a system of identification that simply was composed of letters. The sickle mower was a long, bladed, crazy thing that attached to the back and stuck out to the right, and we, well, I would drive back and forth and back and forth cutting down the weeds—ragweed, probably thistle, and since it was illinois, I would guess, milkweed. We had 19 acres and probably only developed about one acre, so that was a lot of weeds that could conceivably grow to the height of a short stepdad if we didn’t cut it. It was a good thing that I had an auto-reverse walkman, a BMG music service subscription, and rechargable batteries. Sometimes the tractor was too loud to hear the music, but most of the time I could hear my Bell Biv Devoe or Hi-Five or B-52’s or DJ Jazzy Jeff or Young MC. I remember that we were walking in the woods behind the house once, and I walked near a tree that made a perfect ladder—a tree I loved to climb—and found that Young MC tape, screws rusty and a bit sunfaded, in the leaves next to the tree. It was like a miracle, finding Stone Cold Rhymin’ out there, until I realized that I must have dropped it on a prior woodsy adventure, and hadn’t even realized it was gone.
Let this one fly he says. Lost on your merry way he says. I wonder why Grandaddy wants to get back home. I wonder if this exploration of existing phrases meant something. I wonder if they just needed some words. or some more time that they didn’t get to write them.