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4. 2017 Grad Summer

First, this title is a lie. This and Harvest were recorded and released before I graduated high school. I could have sworn tracks 2 and 3 were switched. Anyway, this is the only prood I have of what Harvest was supposed to be. It was supposed to be, like Sterile, a double album with a few covers and instrumentals on it. I had 8 songs recorded when I canned the idea. To my recollection, these 3 songs were the covers, alongside “FPS 2” and “Wistful Thinking” which made Harvest, a song that got reworked into “Black Hair Everywhere” called “Dead Bride Devotion”, and two instrumentals I can’t remember at all. Anyway, I think these are fine covers. I was a bit sick and so didn’t try to do the falsetto on “Collect God’s Bones”. My acoustic guitar didn’t have a high E-string on it at the time so I used a capo. I have a history of tolerating missing strings too much. I’ve written songs that can only be played with missing strings. Not important. I like this little EP enough. I try to squeeze out a new Writer’s Block at least one a year, but I haven’t done one in 2021.

Harvest is my greatest failure. I detailed earlier why, so I’m going to use this space to bemoan the low quality of the songs that I ended up recording. Maybe “low quality” isn’t the right word actually. There are good songs here. I think there’s just a lot of lost potential. In my mind, “Strawberry Melatonin” was a hit. There’s an early version of the song on YouTube. Neither version is a hit. Hits have memorable moments. The coolest part is the tremolo on the right channel guitar. “FPS 1” is why I don’t write waltzes. I used the looper on my Zoom multi-FX more creatively here than any other time I tried it. The chorus is good at least. Something that becomes evident around here is that I was so unenthused about singing on this album that most of the tracks have only one vocal track. I couldn’t even be bothered to sing these songs twice, even when prior songs had two vocal lines effectively ignoring each other. “Jean, Nevada” is named after a town with 0 people. It’s also the last time I tried the harmonic thing from “Knowing The Sun”. It may also be my favorite song on here, that or “20 Wolves On The Plot”. “20 Wolves” suffers from only having 8 tracks. The fade-out is too short. “12 Bar Agency” was an attempt at doing a fucked-up sort of 12 bar blues. I hate that chord progression which is why I’ve only done it this once. It’s bad and does nothing and goes nowhere. Anyway, this album is probably better than Sterile and a few of the 2018 albums but not by much. These songs just aren’t very developed. The songs in the second half aren’t even really worth talking about except for “St. Lucia”, a bass-driven dirge that was my longest song for quite some time. I ended up befriending someone named Lucia a few months after recording this and learned I’d pronounced the name wrong.

I stole the name from a Barlow song. The phrase “my heaven’s only ahead” was something I’d used to get me through the summer before college. “Dripping World” almost didn’t make the album at all. I recorded two versions of it sounding very different (they’re both on Sherilyn Fender) that were honestly more memorable than the album version. “Search For A Dead Pyro” is much better. Putting “Settlement” at track 3 was an interesting move because I usually put the keyboard-driven songs later on albums at the time. It’s technically bass-driven, since that’s the instrument I wrote it on, but I must not have been able to write a guitar part for it. I don’t remember what tuning I wrote “Melodramatic Bullet” in and every day I kick myself for that because I love it but have never been able to replicate it. “Aimless Rites” may have been the hardest song here to make work because I wanted the second guitar to play the relative minor of the first guitar, so I actually had to write down what I played the first time around to figure out what the second guitar was supposed to do. This is probably standard for most songwriters but I’m not most songwriters. I remember wanting “Athena’s Growing Heart” to be a big hit, but I don’t know if it came out that way. It’s still a good song, I like the melodies a lot and think they stick out enough for it to at least be a small hit. “Lou Gehrig’s Disease” was the last time I ever put a cover on a proper album, and I really wish I hadn’t done it. I listened to Big Dipper a lot in 2017 but it’s been a long time since I’ve listened to them. I covered them a few times in 2017 so comments like this will be repeated somewhat when those come up, or I’ll just ignore those entirely. The best thing to come out of this was that I sent it to Gary Waleik and he liked it. “Fantasy Bleach” was written for my old high school band but was never recorded. The lyrics were originally about my first breakup, but since that was about a year out by this time, the lyrics are about something else. It may be my favorite Hello Whirled song of 2017. “Where It Always Has You (And You It)” is only memorable in that Rectangle Creep (Robert Pollard biographer Matthew Cutter, his Joseph Airport bandmate Jereme Sanborn, occasional non-HW collaborator Dan Jircitano, and his Dirtman bandmate Ben Baker) covered it and effectively claimed it as their own. It’s their song now. This may as well be a demo for them. “Little Dipper” was about a teacher I had who retired after the school year. There’s a pristine version on YouTube but I ran it through Audacity’s Click Removal and I thought it sounded cool. “Ahead” is about going to college. I was planning to re-record it in 2021 alongside a cover of the Wire song of the same name, but No Victories had just come out and I didn’t want things getting cluttered. There was an earlier version of “Ahead” that had way too many overdubs.

This may as well be the first HW release to not be intentionally made. It’s clear filler. “Aptitude Test” is basically an interlude given its own spot in the tracklist. “158 Years of Beautiful Sex” was recorded on my 18th birthday (or the day after) for a split that never materialized. At least the Yo La Tengo cover is good.

The hi-hat on the electronic drum kit I was using at the time broke, so it’s not on this album at all. “13 Days” is another song about college. I think it was also in 13/4 but I don’t remember. “Pretend You’re Here” seemed like the hit back then but now it feels just too similar to other songs I was writing around then. The percussion on “Purity” is a loop from the noise at the beginning of a vinyl rip I did of, I believe, that first Cash Rivers 7″. “Married In Mourning” was an old song, but this re-recording effectively just sounds like a better quality version of the original. It’s super faithful and I love that. Maybe it’s just because I always forget about this album but “#6” is really good. At one point in time, “Hero Ward” was my least streamed song on Bandcamp. Shame, because I think it’s truly a hidden gem. The record is currently held by three outtakes, a live track, and a great cover of Wire’s “Cheeking Tongues”. “Song For Nat Peterson” is my goofiest song, I think. It’s about one of the fish from SpongeBob. Most of the song is instrumental. The guitars were meant to sound like Husker Du.

Some of these were just sitting around. Others were recorded specifically for Writer’s Block 2. I recorded “Balancing Act” after listening to it once. I don’t listen to Volcano Suns nearly as much as I used to but I still like them, and this song. “Double Dare” was the first time I tried mic’ing my amp in about half a year. I lose the beat a few times so it’s kind of embarrassing. There’s something eerie about covering “Terms of Pyschic Warfare” only a month before its writer, Grant Hart, died. Poorest shame. If you’ve never heard the original, go listen to it, then go listen to the Living End version. Your life will be better for it.

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