12. 2019 Trends

This block is named as such because it captures (most of) the sessions for You Are Not Immune To Trends. It started with a warmup in the form of the first Writer’s Block in almost a year and a half. “One Machine, One Long Fight” is a bit overblown, but I’m quite fond of “The Princes of Suburbia”. Something you notice on this song, however, is that my voice is a bit congested. I didn’t really pay any mind to it, even as it was clear something was up with my throat, and by the end of summer I just kind of had a sinus infection that made vocals a little harder even into the start of my junior year of college. I’m saying it here so I never have to mention it again. Part of me is a little embarrassed by my falsetto on “In The Image Of Youth”, but in many ways I actually think I owned it. “Ark 2” and “Mountain” are kind of messy. It’s not a process I abide by, but I understand why a lot of people record drums first.

This doesn’t actually have anything to do with You Are Not Immune To Trends. The first two songs were outtakes from Some Shred Of Optimism, and the third was an unfinished Writer’s Block 4 track. There’s a strong irony here, considering “What The Light Hits First” was deemed one of the obvious hits for a while before getting booted off the album. It’s actually a good song, it just needed a cleaner presentation than this. The same can be said for “Just For You” after it.

I ended up putting out three outtakes EPs for Trends as I was recording the album. The EPs were an outlet for songs I knew wouldn’t make the album as I was working on it. The thing is, I knew “Jump” was a hit, so I don’t exactly remember why I gave it an EP. Of course, the album version was better, but nonetheless it’s not an obvious cut. The other three songs certainly are, though. “Uncanny Eyes” sounds kinda cool, especially the tremolo guitar in the center, but it’s mostly a forgettable Beat Happening rip-off. I wrote “Legacy Admission” in a friend’s room some time during the Shred sessions. I sang the song poorly because I hit a wall with it and decided what Shame and The Fall do: just kind of talk. I hate “talk singing” so fucking much. I also hate “Legacy Admission”.

One of my initial goals of Trends was to bring back a few old EP tracks that I felt deserved a “glow up”. That didn’t really work out, as you can see here. I can’t believe I recorded two versions of “White Diamond” and neither of them made it onto the album. That’s probably for the best, in a sense. No need to dwell on the past (a statement I will definitely not regret making). Anyway, listening to “White Diamond (Version 1)”, I’m not sure what was missing that not only prompted me to re-record it, but scrap both. “Report To The Ghost” is pretty rough though. It has a few classic-era GBV-style hooks in the vocals but the music itself is just a mess. Maybe Swell Maps fans would like it. Do not mistake this as a jab against Swell Maps. They’re great. “All Parties Rational” sounded way cooler in my head. It’s not actually that bad, just rougher around the edges than it needed to be. “White Diamond (Version 2)” might actually be a bit weaker than the first version just for trying to be a bit grander.

Sometimes I’m amazed I recorded this much over a summer. “Red Eye Flight” is a good example of a solid instrumental that I just could not think of equally good lyrics for. Same goes for “Brighter”. “Indie Rock, Domesticated” was a knock against someone but I forget who. It’s something I still kind of believe, that music is a serious craft and the idea that it’s just a fun thing to do with your friends is one that completely eludes me. I understand that it’s a thing people can believe and do, but it’s not a perspective I can ever embody. I can respect the idea that I may be way up my own ass. I defend my “it’s cool to like pop now” line though, especially in its sarcastic context. I fucking hate pop. It’s just annoying. It’s often too produced, leaving little room for the mix to breathe. There’s too much processing on the vocals, whether the Auto-Tune is obvious or not. Sometimes music should sound kinda shit (but not always, King Gizzard). Okay enough of that. “Beads” is back but without the real-life emotions backing it up this time, and instead just treating it as a normal song, I find it lacks the oomph of the original. Man, it’s such a bummer that “Having A Time” ended up here. I’m really proud of that piano part, but as someone who normally doesn’t care what sounds I use to make a song work, this really demands a real piano. Doesn’t matter what quality of piano, just something that isn’t synthesized. I wrote the piano part just hours before moving out of college to end my sophomore year. Anyway, even this version goes pretty hard. In hindsight there are songs I could have cut to make room for this.

A culmination of 2 months of nonstop recording, working at Staples, and increased political tension. The new version of “Jump” isn’t perfect either, but I think the improvements it makes are incredible. Right before the final chorus, I think there are three different sets of lyrics being sung at once. “Arrows of Color” returns from Arrow Fantasies with several new coats of paint. I was kind of hard on this one for a while but I really like it now. It’s a perfect track 2. “Zero Heart Return” uses the music from a song I wrote in 2015 but never released. The lyrics are mostly new. It feels kind of basic in the grand scheme of things though. There’s something about the guitars on “Je L’ai” that kinda haunt. It’s like the perfect mix of tremolo and reverb that make the left channel guitar in particular just kind of…exist. It’s a fun song, in a sense. “Always Be” is a nice mellower song in this context. The percussion is, I believe, me smacking a stuffed animal against my bass amp. The new version of “Indifference” leaves me cold like the demo. It reeks of needing another shot. Also it really doesn’t belong in the middle of an album. In a perfect world, this closes the album. “The Sweetheart of the Razors” originally used electric guitars as the lead instrument. I didn’t love that first version, so I re-recorded it with acoustic guitars and organs. This version isn’t much different otherwise but I like it a lot more. Distorted organs are cool when they’re not used by prog bands. I wrote the title track without an instrument in my bed very late one night to make fun of how overly simplistic I felt “current indie” was getting. It backfired because people liked this one. It’s buried somewhere in the Hello Whirled Hall of Shame. I wish people had gravitated towards “Blanket Alienation” instead. That song rules. “Emma Goldman in the 21st Century” rules too. It’s probably the “hardest” pre-Witchcraft Hello Whirled song. “Put The Torch To Grace” was going to be the title track for the longest time. I can’t believe these acoustic guitars to sound this good. It’s not an easy feat with the equipment I have. As you can probably here from the lyrics, it wasn’t supposed to be a political song, but it became one because I needed words. Oh boy, “Lovers In A Dangerous Timeclock”. I wanted to make a multi-part epic, and somehow managed to do so. I don’t go back to this one often so it’s kind of like listening to a brand new song right now. The first part (Dream Logic) is actually really good. It’s a solid power-pop tune. Hey, so is the second part (The Soft Reality). They sound like one song. It would make sense for a song to go from that first part to the second. It doesn’t feel all that forced, which means in a sense I did something right. The third part (The Hard Truth) feels a lot less focused in comparison. It’s here that the cracks show. I will say that this song is a lot less aimless than I remember it being, which is proof that maybe I was onto something way back when. This third part is still a mess though. The fourth part (It Seemed So Nice) is actually lifted from an outtake that I thought would work inside the narrative of two retail workers falling in love. The way it’s used here is sloppy, and makes the song drag on. The lead guitar from the first part comes back in the ending here though, which is nice. This album is better than I remember, but also roughly equal in quality.

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