17. 2020 Finish Line

I’d call it a stretch to say the burnout just sort of ended. Falling Short Of Heaven is still the product of burnout, it just also had enough bangers to mask it somewhat. These seven songs were recorded for the album but got cut for various reasons. “Play 45” is the second version of that song (version 1 is later on the EP). It’s good, but I’m glad I cut it because it paved the way for “No Victories”. “Decision” is okay too but I just thought it was way too unfocused to work on an album. “Mission Trip” sounds as cool as it does because I made the delay time really low and the repeat count fairly high. I can see why I cut it (lazy vocals, stolen drums) but it’s a good tune. “To (End Than) To Pause/​​Change/​​Relax” was a phrase I’d written on my whiteboard. There was context when I wrote it but on its own it means basically nothing. It’s another decent song with some really fiddly timing changes, but it really didn’t fit the vibe of the album. “Crossed Streams” and “Play 33” were actually proper B-sides. They’re on streaming, which is wild considering what they are. “Crossed Streams” was made to be messy and annoying, and amazingly it got more streams than its A-side (which I think was “Forever Mine”).

It took three tries to get the ball rolling on this one. That’s how scattered its process was. I always remember it as “the disappointing one” but it’s not that bad. Many of my favorite HW songs from 2020 are on this. “Disembodied Head” is a monster of an opener, and flows great into “Forever Mine”. I’d play that song at every HW concert if I remembered what tuning it was in. “Crisis Aid” is cool because I wrote it on bass and wrote everything else around my wonky bass part. The song kind of loses direction, which is not excellent for a sub-minute song, but I think it came out pretty okay. “Nostalgia Creeps” is kind of weird for me. It’s not bad, but I don’t think in hindsight that it needed to reprise “I Sing For The Clouds” and “Mirrored Aztec March”. “Atlas For The Useless” is back and better than ever. “Future Shared”, “Overexposure”, and “Distant Past” are all connected to something I don’t really like talking about…that time I was really obsessed with Blaseball. It carried me to the end of 2020 and then stuff happened and I haven’t paid attention to it all year. It’s complicated. Anyway I made some music for it and I re-used some of the tunes for this. Funny enough, I made a second EP and none of those songs ever got reworked. I think “Distant Past” is the strongest of the three. Anyone with ears could tell you it’s a Sentridoh rip-off but I’m proud of it. To get that specific effect, I had a moment right at the end of the first “chorus” where I doubled the vocals without panning them. I know that’s commonplace, but I personally hate doing it so it’s wild when I do it. “There She Goes” is sort of the song for this album. The song was already demoed in the second attempt to get the album going, and that version sucked. The reason it sucked was because it didn’t have a good chorus like this one does, lifted from “Christ’s Second Child”. It also has the rare distinction of being one of the only HW songs to feature an actual lead guitar part. By the end of the song, there are three different drum tracks playing. I’d used microtones a few times before, but never to the extent that I did on “God Save The Queen Bee”. It’s fundamentally impossible to play this song live without a modified guitar of some kind…okay maybe if you had a really specific pitch pedal. Keep your ears for me hitting the ceiling of my vocal range on the last chorus. Hey, since we’re here, here are some fun facts about the album on a meta level. Fact #1: 11 of the album’s 17 songs are less than 2 minutes long. Fact #2: The title was stolen from Fire Emblem: Three Houses. Fact #3: The dog on the front cover is mine. Her name is Penny. She was 13 in that picture. “Plain Sight” was originally much slower, but I thought it sounded too dour so I sped up the guitar a considerable amount. The instrumental for “Watch The Hour” was the first thing recorded for the album in the first attempt. The lyrics are basically about how it took almost half a year to finish it. “Pipe Dream Baby” didn’t enter the world in this state. There was an original version that was recorded live with a shit-ton of effects, but I axed it because the lyrics were extremely vicious and I didn’t feel comfortable putting it out into the world. The updated version is way stronger and feels almost life-affirming.

I forget why exactly I released this. It may have been to build up hype for Hole of Infinity. Did it work? Probably not. The tracks labeled “Demo 1” are the original versions of the songs that I improvised in a single evening on April 19, 2020. The tracks labeled “Demo 3” were recorded live in my DAW once I had most of the lyrics written. There was a set called “Demos 2” but it was just “Demos 1” with electric guitar overdubs. Worth it at some level to hear how I initially wrote “Never Asked” before Danny changed it. Oh, come to think about it, “Former Island” also evolved a good bit, originally having a third verse instead of a longer bridge.

Some songs I made for a video for the final for a class I hated. Good final project though. You can watch it here. Each song uses a different instrument. “Dream 2” and “Outside” are the highlights in both the video and on the soundtrack.

The big fucking kahuna. What started as an attempt to try writing songs after a month of not doing so turned into an eight-month adventure into full-band production I hadn’t even attempted in almost four years. It remains very singular in the Hello Whirled discography because I didn’t even attempt to do everything myself (case in point: Angela Branchek plays drums on every song). The album was conceived by writing a list of 14 songs (only one of which ever changed), assigning each a genre or two, and demo-ing them with just an acoustic guitar and a Casio VL-1 without actually knowing how anyone of them would go. The original plan was to do the whole album with Angela on drums and Luis Vera of King Puzzle, Goth Goth, and like every other band in South Jersey, on bass. Luis did half the record then got really busy. June Gill was brought in to do the other half of the album, with Angela and I each taking a track for ourselves. Danny Loos was brought onboard fairly late but he’s on every song. I still can’t believe the songs still hold up. “You’ll Never Understand” is a perfect opener. “Plastic Glass” and “Excess Jane” are excellent slices of rough twee. “Early Color Film” is accidentally stoner rock at its finest. “Replace” is post-punk bliss. I wanted it to be the first single, but Luis and Angela both hated recording recording it so I withheld it out of respect. “Screening” was supposed to sound like Stereolab, but the more we all worked on it, the clearer it became that it was mutating into something else. June has said repeatedly that they would have played the bass part differently if they’d known how the song would end up sounding. I think Danny played an instrument called the Organelle on this. He plays it all over the album but I think it’s most pronounced here. Okay, maybe that honor goes to “Glad You’re Here”. It was supposed to be an innocent and jangly song, and while I guess it still is, the noise factor really transforms the song. I certainly wouldn’t have thought of it, and I still like how it sounds, so no issue on my end. I always forget about “Glad You’re Here” though, because it’s followed by what may well be my favorite Hello Whirled song of all time: “Former Island”. It may not actually be my favorite but god damn am I proud of it nonetheless. I tuned my A-string down to G# and slid an E(add9) shape up and down the neck and wrote a song I use to open (or nearly open) most of my shows now. It just fucking rocks. This may have been another attempt at writing a Deerhoof song, like “Burn The Flower”. Neither of them sound like Deerhoof, but most are amazing so maybe I should try to do that more. “Never Asked” is tricky for me. I could never really get a hand on the vocals, especially once the chords went from mine to Danny’s. The last two songs feel more like an encore in a way, but I like them. All 14 songs had scratch guitar and vocal tracks that got sent out to each collaborator, many of which were wiped for the final album mixes. A lot of the vocals stayed but I’m quite certain this is the only guitar track that definitely stayed in the mix. Danny’s acoustic guitar on “Disease Elementary” may in fact be the only one on the whole album. Kind of amazing, really. And with that, we move on to the current year of Hello Whirled.

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