I love this one; I was very proud of ‘Done Driving’ when I recorded it a few weeks ago, but Dan gave me the idea of trying a remix rather than a new song. That felt, on the face of it, like a bit of a cheat, so I decided to do it only on the condition that it was a radical re-vamp rather than just a slightly adapted take. Specifically, I wanted to change the mood without altering the basic bones of the song; so this version features almost all of the components of the original but filtered through a totally different mood; so we have upbeat horn breaks where before we had moody introspection. Thanks to Dan for a really good video, as well.
Posts Tagged ‘weeklysongs’
Because I’m writing so frequently, and seeking to prevent things from sounding samey, I’ve noticed little trends in terms of how I arrange songs – early on I was introducing electronic elements and looking to borrow from dance music and hip hop in how I structured things; a bit later I seemed to be working hard on intricate string arrangements. Following that, I concentrated hard on glockenspiels and harps, looking for warm ringing sounds to offset the bleakness of my strumming. Recently, I’ve used woodwind instruments and accordians, instruments I wouldn’t have dreamed of incorporating twelve months ago. I dunno if these surface differences keep things interesting for my listeners – assuming I have any – but they certainly keep things fresh for me. Anyway – here’s an example of the more organic sound I’ve opted for recently. This one’s called ‘Aldrington’.
For this week’s song, I was satisfied to shy back from creating something with a verse and chorus and, for the first time, dispense with lyrics. For reasons I’m not altogether sure of, I’ve never listened to any instrumental rock music; the likes of Mogwai and Godspeed You Black Emperor bore to me tears, although when you consider that I very much like listening to Durutti Column, jazz and modern classical stuff, perhaps it makes more sense to simply say I don’t like post-rock. Either way, I always think it’s rather pointless writing music and not lyrics, but that’s my own prejudice and one I should get over. For this, I tried.
It’s really just a slightly awkward riff, looped with some weird distortion over the top – but I’m pretty pleased with it. My friend Dan shared it with a friend of his, Linda, who took a bit of time out of her day to dance along; and Dan created the accompanying video. Thank you, both.
The song is called, aptly, Forty – it’s the fourtieth song in this project.
Get up to date with the other 39 songs here.
This song is really just another collection of images, inspired by a walk through Brighton on a foggy morning this week; watching prescription lines snake out of chemist doors and postmen rattle their carts down Buckingham Road. It ends with an image I didn’t spot, but which sprang organically to mind as I was writing – that of kids on bridges, noting down trains or dropping pebbles on cars. Lyrics below.
There’s a stupid typo at the end there; ‘kids go two ways, getting older / up on the footbridge / carrying notepads or boulders’.
I feel like talking about this song is kind of pointless when the obvious point of interest is Dan’s regal, rather scary video, made using his brother’s iPad and some somewhat emerging technology. The song itself is about being over sentimental and squeamish. Which I am.
Yet another song about siblings from someone who’s never had any. This was loosely inspired (in mood, if not in subject matter) by a couple of books; The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt, and Spurious, by Lars Iyer. Both are books in part about wandering, and looking for something. A mournful family song about trading, making compromises and deals.
The chords are Am, C, G all the way through.
- Done Driving
So on the road to the old town,
This doesn’t go, this doesn’t go fast enough.
I was on the road to the old ground,
where my brother lay.
I was on my way back home,
and then I asked myself,
“Do I know why I’m going here or not?
I know he’s old, and not in love”.
And maybe I’m done driving,
all of the road is edging me
back to where I’ll be in the end.
So I turn round and come back again.
I don’t know, I don’t know if I can.
I was on the road to the heartland,
where my brother lays.
I was on my way back North
and then I realised,
I don’t know how my brother came to this.
To call me in, without giving in.
This song started as a sort of joke, so it’s odd to be presenting it as a serious contribution to my Weekly Songs project; but I felt like I was getting a bit bogged down in regretful, slow indie rock so I wanted to try to capture some of the spirit of the music I was enjoying this week – the perky lyricism of The Kinks and the clean elocution of Laura Marling; and I felt like I wanted to try a more traditional accompaniment, too, switching from my normal fare of synths, glocks, pianos and electric guitars to accordians and fiddles. The resulting song is half serious, half comic – a quickly penned and slightly arch story about a little town that decides it’s had it with marriage. Thanks once again to Dan for the video.
Here’s the 35th song of the year; written in the week after the End of The Road festival, and with some lovely EOtR footage in the video courtesy of Dan.
This song was influenced, I think, by the book I was reading that week – The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt; it’s a tale of two brothers on a long journey together, and I had fixed in my mind some notion of a final journey, almost hallucinogenic, weighed down by the symbolism of its finality. I think maybe there was some chasing in there; bolted horses or UFOs.
Thanks Dan for the vid!
I’m a massive fan of character songs – Colonel Brown by Tomorrow, Casey Jones by the Grateful Dead, David Watts by The Kinks, Tracy Jacks by Blur, Peter Pumpkinhead by XTC – and this is my contribution to the genre. Wilson Brown we don’t know an awful lot about, except that he works out of town and keeps coming back. No-one really knows him, or knows why. In my imaginary England, there’s a Wilson Brown in every town. And there probably is.
Last week’s film-making activity has caused me to fall a bit behind with my weekly songs, but don’t worry, I shall catch up soon. Here’s song 32, recorded at the end of a very busy couple of weeks by Sam. It’s the first truly live song I’ve included in this project, and also the first song I’ve written using an open tuning. This gives me, as you’ll spot, the ability to keep playing and adjust my glasses, fiddle with my hair etc without losing my thread. Good stuff.
This one’s called ‘Waiting’.
Well, I’m half way there; this one is the 26th song of 2011. It’s freewheeling from hereoin in. This song started out a bit harder, trying to sound like Wire or mid-period Blur, but it ended up a it more relaxed and tuneful, as my songs generally do.
The video was shot in Portslade at the weekend, where to my shock and surprise there are horses. I didn’t have the finished vocal yet, so we filmed me singing the backing vocal. It makes the video quite hard to watch, actually, so it wasn’t an unequivocal triumph. It’s counter-intuitive to watch me sing words that are in the background not the foreground, and it actually makes it quite hard, I think, to hear the main vocal. But be interested to hear what others think of that? Anyway: week 26:
Instead of just saying, here is my latest song, it’s about… I thought I’d use this week’s post to describe something, if I can, about my experience of writing lyrics. Specifically about the way that songwriting in this way is very different to any song writing I’ve done previously. I’m writing a song every single week of this year, and doing so, with all the time limitations that come with it, means adapting my technique according to circumstance. Previously, it would have been quite normal for me to occasionally get my phone, or a notebook, out, and jot down lyrics on the train, with the knowledge that, one Saturday in the future, I could sit down with my guitar and spend a few hours cycling through chords and looking for ways to hang the words on interesting melodies. In that scenario, there’s no urgency at all in the equation; you think through, abstractly, a few ideas, until the opportunity presents itself to do something with all that unguided preparation.
Having a deadline, naturally, changes everything. It’s unavoidably true that while, in the greater scheme of things, I regard lyrics as being unarguably more important than music, I can do less at the end of a week with a complete set of words and no tune at all than I can with a chord progression, a melody and no words to use. For that reason I sometimes idly fantasise about spending *next year* writing no music at all, and concentrating exclusively on writing words which I can come back to the year after. But this is planning gone mad. Either way, the fact remains, I’m now having to write chord progressions, bass lines and drum patterns on the train, and until Sunday afternoon, lyrics are forgotten. (Thank heavens for my iPad, which enables me to do this stuff – otherwise it’d be pretty impossible).
So I’ve had to approach words in a different way, and the whole song-writing process has changed as a result. For example, imagine that I had started off with the notion of writing a song about, say, being haunted by ghosts. Starting with the idea, it’s deeply unlikely I’d have opted for a bunch of cheerful major chords, and would instead have opted for eerie minor chords and a stilted, atmospheric rhythm. But writing the other way around, the scenario is reversed. I create something bouncy and optimistic sounding? There go lyrics about the First World War.
What happens more and more is a kind of free association, and it’s an oddly accurate way of working. I’ll record the bare bones of a song, with a few suggested melodies picked out on my guitar or in garageband, and from then on it’s the case of looping the recording and singing nonsense over the top, repeatedly, looking for harmonic clues that get me nearer to having a finished song. On almost every occasion, in doing so, I find a phrase that seems somehow apt, and it’s from there that the lyric springs. (Sometimes I leaf through a book of poetry while I’m searching for vocal melodies, so quite often the turn of phrase which sparks my imagination is not my own at all).
Anyway, this week’s song worked in the following way. I wrote the chord progression on the train between Kings Cross and St Neots on Wednesday, embellished it in the kitchen of my parents’ house in Cambridge on Thursday, added guitar at home in Brighton on Sunday morning, and worked out some lyrics that afternoon. The free association here came from finding something in the music which had that kind of mournful, country rock grief which centres on a failed relationship. There’s a wonderful lyric on the (terrific) Caitin Rose album which goes:
“remember the day that the whole thing started / and the little black box in the glove compartment”.
I found myself forming a mental picture of a couple sat in a restaurant, with the guy opening up a jewellery box to reveal… not a ring but a necklace. That was all really. But from that sudden image, summoned up through sheer free association, I present this:
Week 25 of 52; hope you like it.
This song is so morbid lyrically, and personal sounding, that I thought I’d better start with a disclaimer – I wrote it cheerfully on Saturday morning, sat bleary eyed at my desk watching a glorious day ferment over Brighton, looking forward to a day wondering around the suburbs of Brighton & Hove with a friend. So while it sounds avowedly miserable – the theme I had in mind wasn’t just that of someone whose partner has left, but of someone who fears for the disappeared partner’s safety – it is a complete work of fiction.
It’s also one of a number of songs I’ve written this year which has come out well despite being terribly simple. Just three chords, a very simple pattern, and a squiggly synth riff. Quite pleased with it though. It’s the 22nd song I’ve written in 2011 – meaning I’m not far off being half way through this mammoth challenge (for latecomers, I’m writing a song every week this year). Hope you stick with it ’til the end – I’m going to!
I won’t list the lyrics ‘cos they’re not that good, but the chords are A, Am and Dm, so figure out the sequence and you’ll be able to play along to your hearts content. Not sure why you’d want to, though.
Well, this one is late, but it was worth it, I hope. I normally write and record my weekly song on Friday and Saturday, so this one was delayed by a very lovely trip to see Anne-Sophie (who is of course my erstwhile bandmate until anyone tells me any different) and Rich. We spent the weekend traipsing around Alsace filling up our bodies with alcohol and having a frankly brilliant time. On Sunday morning, while AS, Rich, Vic, Alec and Ant headed off to get some bread, I sat down on the balcony and wrote the following song. The video contains footage shot over the course of the weekend.
Thought there might be a storm,
Fattened rain breaking up on skin,
Thought we might be locked in
wondering if things had taken a downward turn.
Just earlier, we ate white asparagus with cucumber,
walked in the sun,
through trenches and castles
from Strasbourg to Basel.
We walk down the road, it’s not so far,
and we’re not nostalgic.
It’s not that far to Danny’s Bar.
We’ll jump on a plane it’s not so far,
not even that expensive.
We’ll jump on a plane and rent a car.
We break into grins
Another car triggers the car park lights
the barriers rise
and we drive away, looking for birds of prey.
We could eat for hours,
sharing jokes, discussing summer plans.
The next table laughs;
bad pronunciation and daft conversation.
We walk down the street, it’s not so far,
Everything seems so present.
We’ll go for an hour to Danny’s Bar.
- Danny’s Bar is a weird little bar about half a mile from AS’s and Rich. We went for dinner round the corner and strolled there afterwards. It’s a nice little place, except for two oddities: funny glass tables stuffed with goose feathers, and a big TV overhead showing pornography. Couldn’t quite get our head round either.
- The first and third verses refer to our trip to Strasbourg; at the end of a long day looking around town, we went back to the car-park and, halfway to the cars, were plunged into darkness. We thought we’d be locked in overnight. Cue a short panic. We got out.
- The laughing dining companions were nice; they found our French pretty hilarious. I don’t blame them.
Weeeek 19: sorry, too tired for a long explanation – the endless weekend of gigs has taken all life out of me. It was The Great Escape in Brighton. I am exhausted. In a rare moment of energy, I recorded this: mad people sat in cars by river banks.
This is the eighteenth of my weekly songs; another attempt to use a beat which isn’t quite as straight as those I normally employ, although I’m not sure it ends up sounding so different. Nevertheless, this is a dreamy, vague sort of thing which is essentially a straightforward chord cycle repeated incessantly, but hopefully with enough variation over the top to stop it being too boring.
The video was filmed by Dan last weekend, at the Prince George pub quiz, and on the walk home afterwards.
Here’s the 17th of my weekly songs – this one is called ‘Paragraphs’ – and it’s a vague one, ever so slightly informed by the Royal Wedding palavar which dominated – at least until Osama bin Laden found his way dramatically back into the news – the sunny bank holiday weekend.
The video was shot by Dan in Snooper’s Paradise on Saturday. He kept gravitating towards the Star Wars cabinet. I wrote the song over a few days, finishing it up on Sunday morning. Lyndsey said the ending has shades of David Tattersall – a compliment for which I thank her enthusiastically.
It’s been a stunningly colourful and sunny Easter in Brighton; lots of wonderful lime green trees and blooming flowers, so although this week’s song is about less local pastures, it was kind of inevitable that my video would end up being in shot in the parks of Seven Dials. It’s been a long bank holiday weekend of gradual sun-burn, lots of reading, and squirrel-chasing. Then, last night, after the pub quiz, Lyndsey and I stood at the end of a breezy Buckingham Road in a shower of tree blossom.
This weekend’s song has been through a few various iterations – coloured by hangovers, heatstroke and contrasting moments of urgency and ennui. It had lyrics about rheumatic disorder, churchyard theft and story cassettes. Eventually it ended up, as all of the best weekends do, in the zoo. It’s called ‘Berlin’.
The gestation period for songs, when written on a weekly basis, is short. Often the whole things are done in a 2-3 hour burst, leaving little time for reflection or reworking. The best way to write, I’ve found, is to get something basic done very early in the week, which allows the tune and a selection of possible memories to ferment in my head for a few days before I come back to it and finish the song. Paradoxically, this usually leads to a better song but a harder to finish process. I suppose I become more ambitious if I take my time, and lose the momentum that a quick composition brings.
I’ve an excuse for delivering this week’s song a couple of days late – busy with work last week and occupied with a parental visit this weekend – but the fact that I wrote this week’s effort across the week, rather than in one burst, definitely complicated and slowed things down. I started off last Monday with a quite electronic composition, and edged it towards a more low-key acoustic song in the tail end of the week. What I had was neither one thing nor the other, and hard to resolve.
By the time I’d entertained my parents and taken a day or two off from it, I came back not quite knowing what I’d end up with. And yet when I plugged in my microphone last night to finish it, it all came together in a fairly dreamlike fashion – as close to auto-writing as I recall this year; the melody had been lurking somewhere and the lyrics came easily. And the dissonance between acoustic strumming and electronic squiggles didn’t seem quite so dramatic. So here’s week 15’s song – it’s called ‘The Stained and The Sick’.
Here’s week 14′s song. Lyndsey has pointed out that I’ve committed the cardinal film making sin of including a shot of flowers in the video, at the precise point I sing the word ‘flowers’. Sorry. The song is my song-writing taking a turn in the sun – feeling v cheerful this week. Ignore lyrics about bombs falling and admire my attempt to squeeze a hip-hop beat into proceedings. Fittingly for my upbeat mood, the song’s called ‘Yeah’.