19. 2021 Slow

Oh my god this block has 3 albums in it. It was only supposed to have 2 but the autumn just got busy. Speaking of busy, No Victories was my college senior thesis. I put way more effort into this than any other Hello Whirled release before and after this, and it shows. The album was (roughly) pooled from eight themed EPs, and while I’m not going to go into each one of them, I will mention them when I find it relevant. The title track “No Victories” is a good tune, but I think the most interesting anecdote I have about it is that I recorded all but the intro vocal at Gradwell House Recording in Haddon Heights. I hadn’t booked a session, but I was an intern there and I had time to kill. Immediately after finishing the vocals, engineer Matt Weber arrived with a really shitty Irish folk band and I had the time of my life laughing at this awful band that had no right being in a studio. Good times. “Left To Die Talking To God” was written on bass. This is the first of three songs on here to have that feature. It’s also only one of three songs to feature my shitty MIDI drum kit (the other two being “No Victories” and “Imitation”). I retired the kit while working on this album in favor of less frustrating methods. I always forget this song is under 2 minutes long, because while there are a total of 7 such songs on No Victories, it feels much more meaty than the other shorter tracks. I wrote the lyrics to “I’ll Hold The Mirror” during a walk around my neighborhood, and recorded the vocals without musical accompaniment. No, those vocals aren’t on the album. Yes, it is part of why the lyrics kind of embarass me. I recorded the drums at Gradwell House Recording as well. It was also slated to be a single, as well as the following track, “Lay To Rest”. It was mostly recorded with Matt Weber’s omnichord at Gradwell House. “The Way It Is” is bonkers. It might be my favorite track on here. The guitars are effectively 4-stringers, with a broken B-string and a thusly-ignored E-string. I recorded the drums in my basement with my twin’s kit. They don’t really like me using it though. The bit at the end was tacked on just because I had the idea and thought it would fit there. “It’s Just You” was the obvious first single from the second I wrote it. The bass is the infamous Delay Lama VST, and it’s full of vocoders. No guitars or basses in sight. It’s all MIDI. That’s pretty cool, I guess. It’s not something I do much but I think I did it well here. “New Crown” was a late add. I’d grown frustrated trying to make “Crown Of Fools” so I re-purposed the lyrics into another demo I hadn’t done anything with. I recorded acoustic guitars and vocals and sent the song to Todd Jordan from Floating Cloud Music to see what he could do with it. I was not expecting him to go as all-out as he did. It’s as much his song as it is mine, in a sense. The four non-EP songs all have a greater collaborative aspect here, so this is not the first time I’ll talk about someone else in this block. “Imitation” is great but it really would have benefitted from a tad more polish. It was recorded bass first with very little idea what I was doing. I find that I write great songs when I attempt to sound like Deerhoof (see: “Burn The Flower”, “Former Island”). It’s just not a great recording. “Easily Entertained” finally gets the credit it deserves with a much-needed upgrade. I recorded the drums at Gradwell House, and was lucky to have a click track alongside the song itself because I somehow forgot to render the last 20 seconds and had to play blind for the end of the song. The juicy lead guitar here is courtesy of Ethan Oliva from Barlow, Ex Pilots, Living World, Sober Clones, Gaadge, and basically every other band from Pittsburgh. I’d hoped he would record more guitars but he seemed to think I had the noisier stuff under control, which means I did something right. “Please Stop Dancing” has proven to be a sizable hit. It’s the first song I deliberately wrote for this album, and it’s really stuck it out over the course of 2021. It’s also completely true: I hate dancing with a passion. Maybe it’s just because every time I’ve done was because I had to, but it just feels like a failed art form to me. “Under The Brilliant Rays” is the last of the bass-first tracks. I recorded the drums again at Gradwell House (the last of the three from that session). I had attempted “Chariot” for No Victories but canned it. I revived at the request of now-current HW live guitarist Danny Loos, and because of it I asked him to be on it. He used it for an audio recording final and sent me way more stems than I knew what to do with. The guitars are his. The lead synth and bass are mine. He added a lot of other synths too. Truth be told, I don’t entirely remember what he did and what I did. “Mrs. Matter” is in the same camp as “I’ll Hold The Mirror” except it’s a lot better. It probably sounds more like Guided By Voices than anything else I’ve done since 2018 (besides the covers album). I put “Heroes Are The Best Villains” on the album because I wanted to piss people off by throwing a noise song with no discernible melody into what it is effectively a power pop album (ok not really but you get the gist). It ended up being a highlight for many. The song is the first half of a Kastle Drum + 1.5 jam I’d recorded. It took so many renders to get that ending to sound that good. “Money Is The Death Of Art” is, in a way, the funniest song on here. The original version was acoustic and had nine verses and choruses. The sentiment remains here but most of the vocals changed. I’d consider this a collaboration with Amy Tighe, another Gradwell House intern who engineered the whole song. Yep, the messiest and sloppiest song on the whole album was entirely in a proper recording studio. Granted, I recorded the drums by lining up five microphones in a row in front of the kit, so eh. “Savannah”…when I think about how this album was put together, I think about how long I spent on these vocals. The original mix sounded pretty good vocally, but I wanted them to be perfect and my god was that a stressful process. Most of the vocals on the album were re-recorded for the album and it’s a large part of why I don’t love this album as much as I used to. The discipline that went into this was so much to handle that the next few HW albums were made to offset it. “At The Bottom” is a good closer. It wraps up the album nicely.

Once again, I don’t like talking about my live recordings. I will note that the historical importance of this show is not to be understated. I didn’t know that Marlton was even vaguely related to the “South Jersey scene” before this show, and I’ve made a lot of friends through this. Despite thinking I’d botched this, the venue I played at liked me. The next block features two much longer shows I did there. Botching so many lyrics despite the words being right in front of me, and a few false starts on “Datura” and “Diptych”, were a driving factor in getting Lexapro. Contrary to all of this, it may be the best my voice has ever sounded.

After No Victories, I wanted to make a rougher album, so I decided I’d make an album where every song had one-word titles and didn’t go over 2 minutes in length. I demoed 31 songs, and half of them made the final album. There’s more to the story than that, but one step at a time. “Witness”, the opener, was not among those 31 demos. Three other songs on here were written after the demo process. This is a killer opener in my opinion. Just fucking noise. “Process” is a personal favorite. When Danny and I were digging through HW looking for songs to do live, he called this one a chord blitz. That’s because it is. I was (and still am) listening to a ton of mid-period Kleenex Girl Wonder, and this is one of many attempts to rip that off. Since there’s a non-zero chance that Graham Smith may read this one day…hey Graham. You make good music. Yes Boss is better than Ponyoak. “Bloodletting” is another hit but I think it’s too violent to ever try to do live or anything. Like “Process” before it, this is just me trying to do “Long Time No Sleep” or anything else from Yes Boss. “改めまして” is a title ripped from a Midori album. I believe it’s Japanese for “once again”. I wrote a lot of the lyrics for “Diptych” at Gradwell House, funny enough. The idea was for the last word of one section to be the first word of the next section. Now would be a good time to acknowledge that I once again recorded live drums in my basement for this album. “Shaking” uses a bass line from 2016 in a radically different way. It’s much slower this time around. The end bit of this is the only part of any of the demos to make it onto the final album in any direct fashion. “Egregore” is like the A-side to the B-side that is “Process”. It’s an even more egregious KGW rip-off but I really like it. “Datura” was originally a good bit slower, but I thought it would be funny to just have a really fast punk track on this album, so I made it fast. “Rubber” is another song to emerge after the demo process. I recorded some Voice Memos off my phone into the pickup of my bass, which is what the noises in the background are. I recorded some guitars and MIDI piano over that. It’s a real cool song when it all comes together. “Wrench” was another post-demo song. The guitar in the intro was originally going to be the whole song, but it was a little too murky to sustain a whole song. I stuck an allen wrench into the strings to make it sound like that. This might be my favorite song on the album. “Quaintrelle” marks the return of vocaloids in HW songs. “Buzzcut” went through a few stages before ending up on the album, but I wouldn’t have predicted it would effectively be a Crash Course In Science-esque synth-punk track. “Normality” was written for No Victories actually. I’m glad I waited, because it fits better here. “Idioglossia” is a great tune, but apparently it’s pretty powerful because someone did a whole music business presentation about it. I wonder how many people have noticed the drums on this are just snare, kick, and hi-hat. Also, this song is not autobiographical at all. Just wanted to clear that up. “Thousand”…fuck. I knew I wanted the 1000th Hello Whirled song to be a big deal but…fuck. I’m not gonna talk about this one. Just listen to it. This is a good album.

No demos this time around, but also no outtakes, sort of. Basically everything I finished for Wood Anniversary made it onto the album. Some unfinished songs got axed though. It’s easily Hello Whirled at its most experimental. For starters, the titles have gotten really obnoxious. “Chance Encounters With Everyone I Thought I Loved: A Fiction” opens the album with carefully orchestrated guitars. I love this song with all my heart. If there’s anything that defines this album, it may well be the strength of this album’s vocal harmonies. “Crown Of Fools” finally gets its due on here, and boy is it sweet. It was actually demoed for History Worth Repeating but didn’t make the album, so this version is roughly a mixture of the music from the original and the lyrics of the next attempt. “Teacher Takes Drugs In Front Of Students” is about a teaching job I took up not long after graduating. “There are walls…#8” is the title I gave the lyrics when I wrote them during a particularly slow shift at work. A few of these were written at or inspired by the various jobs I held during the summer of 2021. This was one of them. There are more. “There Goes My Guesswork” is somewhat enveloped by all the other grander tracks on here but I like it fine enough. “Maximum Riffage And Cartoon Violence” sounded pretty different the first time I tried it out. The bass work on this song is probably the hardest I’ve tried to make a bass part work. “God It” was almost cut from the album entirely. I added a lot to the mix to make it work the way I wanted it to work. “They’ll Make A Movie About My Life But It’ll Be A Bad Animated Kids Film Exclusively Starring Washed Up Actors” only exists because I came up with a wacky tuning and needed to justify having thought of it. I like it but lyrically it’s not very interesting. This album has a lot of repeated choruses and to me, it’s a sign that while the creative juices were still flowing, they weren’t flowing as fast as I would have liked. “Life As A Series Of Dead Ends” is secretly one of my favorites on here. It’s just odd. The percussion is me palm-muting an electric guitar at different speeds, then chucked into a convolution reverb. It ended up sounding kind of like a train, which certainly works for me. “Crystal Time Star Dream Journal”, inversely, is probably my least favorite on here. I kept it on the album because I liked the instrumental, but I always feel kind of funny about the vocals. “Let’s Dance” was written for a game jam (specifically, the one that produced +1 Witches) at the request of Tyler Tomaseski. “Labor Day” was written after a panic attack during a shift on said bullshit holiday and quitting my job over it, less than a week after getting it. “Full Blown Makoto” was intended to be a send-up of a Japanese alt-rock band called MASS OF THE FERMENTING DREGS. They’re great. Anyway, I noticed that a few games I’d been playing had characters named Makoto in them, so I imagined what a theme song for that game would sound like. The lyrics, of course, have nothing to do with that sort of thing. “Voicemail” is just an actual voicemail I got and couldn’t understand a word of, with some sick leads over top of it. “Wallpaper” is an 11-page short story I wrote during a really slow shift. I took a Delta 8 gummy before I read it, and if you listen carefully, you can hear it kick in. It’s pretty amazing all things considered, but I don’t have anything massive to say on the matter.

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