Back to college I go. I decided to use Cakewalk this semester, and didn’t try to use Musical Typing on my computer to do “fake drums”. As a result, the end of 2018 isn’t as universally bad as the beginning of 2018. “Memory Lane Bombing” is a good opener. Good riff to open the whole thing. “Police Dogs” is good too but was pitched up in Audacity after finishing it. Maybe I didn’t need to do that. I’m really happy that the key-hopping chords all work. It’s about police brutality, an issue that still pervades today because it’s been decided for whatever reason that police are a necessity. I think “String Lights” was written in the wake of a breakup, which doesn’t necessarily color this album as much as it does the next few. I recorded live drums for “Winter Parasol” but somehow lost the audio. “Our Own Black Hole” feels like a mega-hit to me these days. Wow, “Guided Mediation” sure sounds like Guided By Voices. Great instrumental ruined by a poor vocal. The lyrics are from an outtake called “Long Winded”. I’m not sure why I like “Word Bar” as much as I do, I just do. Can someone tell me when they’ve found the melody I probably stole for “Her Flaming Corpse”? It’s too good to have been used for this. It’s a well-written song ruined by a bad vocal recording. I recorded “August Is Sleeping Now”, or some of it, within a day of moving in, before classes start. It’s nice. I had “Week of Rain” in my back pocket for a while. It fits nicely at the end of this album. Gloomy and poorly recorded? Sure. But it feels like a week of rain, and that’s what matters.
Another month, another album. I recorded the piano for “Actors” with an old iPhone and an even older iPod touch, and had a ton of fun syncing the two. “Happening” is based on an older song called “Half A Nightmare”, but it’s a lot slower this time. There’s only actually one electric guitar here. “Wire Philosophy” was written for a GBV tribute album, where all the songs were about Robert Pollard. I planned to submit it, but the organizer said some nasty things about Please Be Honest on his podcast and I decided I didn’t want my name attached to that sort of mindset. I know it’s less problematic than, say vaccine denialism, but I don’t regret pulling the song. “Here And Somewhere” also has just one guitar. I wish I remembered how I played it the first time around, because it’s great. “Reaching Identical Moments” is about a friend and I having very similar breakups around the same time. “Proudest Defeatist” was a rare song to be written around the vocals. I didn’t record them first, but I had the vocal melody written first. It felt like a hit at the time. Not so much. The last 2 songs center more around my breakup. “Invisible Love” is a look at what could have, but never would have, been. “Camera” is another grand statement, also specifically about the breakup and how I felt in the wake of it. I still parade this around as one of my greatest achievements, because it is. That outro is a sight to behold if you haven’t heard it.
Another live EP. I ran my acoustic guitar through a fuzz for the whole show. This gesture was, shall I say, not tremendously appreciated by some. I don’t care, I think it sounds fine. I tend to be critical of my live performances, because I’m critical of performing in general. That attitude isn’t really gone for this, I don’t think it’s a great performance. I wasn’t built for it. You could do a lot worse, but don’t listen to this unless you’re a real completist. I forgot about Jared singing on “Third Generation Diamond”. It’s funny hearing our voices crash against each other. It’s also funny that “Invisible Love” was the only song from the “new” album Halos For Scars played here. To give you an idea of how quickly I worked at the time, I was starting to work on A Collection of Xs & Ys when rehearsals started. By the time the show rolled around, the album was almost done. I had the music for that album’s title track done before the first rehearsal so in hindsight maybe I should have picked that over, say, “Untied” or “Avalanche” or something.
Outtakes from the last few albums, and the next one. Kind of a mixed bag but there are a few actual good songs here. “All The Young Hopefuls”, for instance. That’s a good one. Wonder why I didn’t keep it on Collection. “Head Balloons” was slated for Halos For Scars, but that’s just kinda goofy. It’s a natural B-side. “Small Thunder” was too, but I must have deemed it too mean-spirited. “Guided Mediation (Long Winded)” has some good ideas but is ultimately too messy. “Solid Silk” was the song of that autumn for me, so it makes sense that I’d cover it. It’s my favorite Malkmus song ever, I’d say. Even “Grounded” can’t beat it, but it gets close. “Turning An Accordion To Heat” was cut from Collection as well. It’s weird to think that I think a 2018 album should have more songs, but those 3 weeks were very fertile songwriting grounds. “Old Time Folk” is a really pretty Collection outtake that I think just felt so old, in a way, that I couldn’t imagine it going on that kind of album. There’s an alternate universe where I cut nothing and I just released a 19-song, 44-minute album recorded in three weeks. It would still have been the best HW album of 2018, but more on that later. “Study” was a really messed up Equinox outtake. It’s intriguing but I’m glad I cut it. It doesn’t really serve a purpose.
I have often considered this the best Hello Whirled before 2019. “Desktop Christ” is a fun song about the marketability of Christianity. It’s an easy image to sell to desperate people. The remark at the beginning of “New Before” is true: the music was written in 2015. The lyrics are brand new though, and I think it’s one of the strongest tracks on the album for them. “A Collection of Xs & Ys” is a personal highlight. It feels simple (by my standards) but it says so much. The title is a bit of wordplay: “Xs” is “exes”, indicating that I had now ended 2 relationships in fairly shaky fashions, and “Ys” is “why’s”, like “questions”, for how much I was asking myself in the wake of this. “Lake Sylva” would rock pretty hard on any other album, but here it’s content to just stay cool while I sing about falling into a lake, but not dying. I added that last part to clarify that I’ve never been suicidal, and I’m certainly not here. “She Likes It Blue” is melancholy, which I either do way too much or don’t do enough. It’s short but doesn’t beg to be longer. The fuzzy solos tie the verses tigether really nicely. The organ floating around the second half is just a guitar with a lot of reverb, but it sure sounds like an organ. “Black Hair Everywhere” goes back as far as 2014, but the lyrics are all new. It’s about a girl I swear I saw everywhere throughout 2018 and later 2019. She was cute and, considering we always seemed to end up at the same events, we probably had stuff in common, but I don’t feel like I’m doing any worse because we never talked. Sometimes, the “what if”s are better off as “what if”s. The percussion on “The Wheel Is Fixed” is me smacking a recycling bin as hard as I can. I recorded quite a lot of this album in a study lounge down the hall from my dorm, and as far as I can it never bothered anyone, which is such a miracle. “Nicole Of The Paper Stars” is an old song from 2016 that I thought needed a new recording. Was this the right way to do it? Maybe not. It’s good but it feels long, and also is long. It’s still a nice song. I am truly not looking forward to the last batch of 2018 songs because they are the exact opposite of this album. Man oh man.