In case you want to stare at pretty pictures while listening to the new album, here’s a YouTube playlist featuring all 100 songs. Enjoy.
Due to its length, Curtains had to be split into 2 parts for digital distribution. So there’s a Curtains – Part One and a Curtains – Part Two out there if you look up the album on Amazon, or Google Play, or – I assume (because I don’t use it) – iTunes. Each has 50 songs and a curtain-y cover (part one in blue, part two in yellow). I’m not providing any links because it’s all a moot point – you can download the whole thing for free below. And if you wanna support me and my grotesquely-long endeavor, buy it through the Bandcamp page.
In related news, considerably more people than I expected have downloaded Curtains through this site. If you’re one of them, I thank you immensely – you truly mean the world to me.
At the moment, I’m in Roanoke for some reason. Greetings from Roanoke.
At the end of this past November, I left a friend’s house in Ann Arbor and started my drive back home to Nashville. Heading towards the highway, my mp3 player – permanently set on “shuffle” – started up one of my songs. That’s not uncommon – a lot of my songs are on there. And it’s not just due to narcissism – they’re there for a couple reasons. First, the overwhelming number of them are unreleased – when they pop up on my car stereo, they remind me that they exist and that I should really get around to either finishing them up, re-recording them to make them better, or just put them up on Soundcloud or Bandcamp and move on. Second – and most importantly – they’re good songs. I’m not-too-shabby at songwriting and really good with melody (if you doubt me, then you haven’t listened to my songs yet) – as a result, I’m really proud of these songs. Also – since I know all the words – they’re fun and easy to loudly sing along to while driving.
As my song was playing, I decided to cue up every Paris Street song on my mp3 player – an unapologetic marathon of me, me, me. Again, it wasn’t just narcissism - my intention was to see how far into the seven-and-a-half hours between Ann Arbor and Nashville I could go without hearing any of my songs twice. I pressed “play”, got on the southbound lane of Highway 23, and off I went.
Then I got pulled over for not having my tail lights on. But let’s stay focused.
I reached Nashville before any of my songs could repeat – I could have driven for 2 more hours before that would have happened. My immediate conclusion: This is stupid – this is really, really stupid.
And that’s how Curtains came to be.
It was stupid because all these really good songs – accumulated since the middle of 2002, when I was finally happy enough with my songwriting to go out and buy a digital 4-track and start recording – had been playing to an audience of one for way too long. They deserve to be heard (seriously – listen to the some of the songs before scoffing).
So I set about over the following three months ensuring that they could finally be heard. I went through everything I’ve ever recorded, and started separating out the best songs. I also separated out the ones that were just a few tweaks away (they mainly needed the vocals re-done) from being great. Lastly, I separated out a large batch of good songs that were either recorded poorly or only existed as placeholder takes over Darrin’s drum tracks, then set about to re-record them from scratch. My deadline was March – I’d be returning to my job on the road by that point, and wouldn’t have access to the hard drive that contains all my recording files beyond that.
Record, mix, re-record, re-mix, listen over and over again, curse loudly whenever my roommate’s dogs would start barking while I was trying to record a vocal – that’s been pretty much all I’ve been doing for the past three months. In between, I’ve lucked into 2 very long road trips that gave me the opportunity to listen to the whole thing multiple times in a distraction-free setting (except for that one time some asshole almost merged into me on Interstate 10) so I could ensure that everything sounded right. And it eventually all sounded right. And I couldn’t be happier.
Why now? Why all at once? Why 100 songs? Let’s work backwards:
It’s 100 songs because I knew that was an achievable number; I knew I could easily vouch for the quality of a 100 song album free of filler – no padding things out with crap solely to reach that nice, round number. If I had more time, I could have comfortably reached 120.
Speaking of time, that’s the main reason I’m doing this all at once. Again, I travel extensively for work – six consecutive months on the road, six months at home – I won’t have the time to focus on these on songs again until September. And, dammit, I want these songs out there – I want to be free of them, to not have them come up on my mp3 player and have me think, “Why haven’t I released that yet?”. Because when I release a song, I don’t dwell on it anymore; it’s finished – I can focus on other things. And I really, really want to focus on other things – new songs, of course, but also new creative projects far removed from the 3-minute pop song.
That’s not to say I never want to hear these songs again, or never want to perform them at a show. It’s just that . . . well, I probably can’t explain this part very well, but here goes: as long as they’re unreleased and just sitting around in my hard drive and/or mp3 player, they feel like a burden to me. I love all the songs on Paris Street Is Paris Street, but – since its release in 2009 – they don’t feel like my songs anymore. I don’t concern myself with how I could make the vocals better or how I should have made the bass a little louder on track 3 – I listen to them as I listen to any of the other songs in my music collection. They’re not mine – they belong to all of you now, even though I’m likely the only one who gives them a regular listen.
It’s called Curtains because – for me – the curtain closes on these songs. For you, though, the curtain’s just opened.
Or something like that. I suck at metaphor.
Lastly, why now? Well, why the hell not?
Unless you’re taking a road trip, don’t listen to this all at once. Apportion it over time – listen to a couple of them in a row, listen to them again, let them burrow into your head (and they will, and you’ll hate me for it), then listen to a couple others. Bookmark the Bandcamp page (which has lyrics to all the songs along with exclusive artwork for each track) or the Curtains section of this site – in which the songs are arranged thematically instead of alphabetically – pick a random song, and listen to it and the following songs for 45 minutes or so. Then go listen to something else.
Again, I’m very proud of these songs. Also again, there’s no filler here – no covers, no instrumentals (they have their place, just not here), no pointless intro or outros – because I absolutely hate filler on albums and couldn’t stand myself if I stooped to that level. Even the shortest of songs manage to tell a complete story before they’re through. And the longest songs are long because I just couldn’t tell the story I wanted to tell within my usual wheelhouse of 2-3 minutes. To put it simply: I promise that I’m not wasting your time.
The album can be downloaded for free through the link at the very top of this post. If you’re feeling generous, you can purchase the thing through the Bandcamp page, which would help me to finally offer a wee bit of payback to the many folks who’ve generously given me some of their free time (emphasis on “free”) over the years and helped me make these songs better.
Two of those folks stand out among all others and are forever in my debt: Darrin Revell – who has played with me since 2005 and whose endless support has been invaluable to me – and Christy Anderson – whose voice graces a dozen of these songs, instantly making them the 12 best songs on this collection. Extra thanks also goes to Jenna Robl, who gave me a place to live after my previous apartment met its end due to Nashville’s sudden penchant for violent weather, and who also had a nylon guitar laying around her house that I instantly fell in love with and used extensively throughout the newer recordings on this collection.
This is an instrumental built off of a loop from a song by Broadcast called ‘Bit 35′ from their Tender Buttons album. It’s very long, so here’s some (incredibly NSFW) eye candy to make the listening process worth your while:
Or give it a boob-and-pube free listen via Soundcloud:
On Tuesday, my friend Katherine played the song for me via a YouTube clip and suggested I cover it. The next day, I got started. After immediately realizing that my voice would not cut it for this song (mainly due to a key change at the last chorus that led to voice cracks a-plenty), my friend Christy came over Friday night to record the vocals. On Saturday, I finished the mix. Here it is, on Sunday. Now I rest.
By the way, this is not a Christmas song. If it were, I wouldn’t have bothered.
Me – electric and nylon string guitar, keys, melodica, tambourine, egg, & a barely-audible ‘ooooh’ during the choruses
Christy Anderson – vocals
Christy’s vocals can also be heard in the song “YUL” from my Canada 1 EP. Listen to it here.
Everything I’ve released this year (Canada 1, Homeless Songs, Canada 2) can now be downloaded through the Android Market. Hit it up either by going here or by scanning the QR code below:
In October of 2001, two friends and I flew from Tampa to Winnipeg. The next day we flew to Thompson, Manitoba. The next night we took a 14 hour, overnight train ride to the town of Churchill. The day after that, we went out into the tundra to see some polar bears. Then we got drunk and trick-or-treated because it happened to be Hallowe’en. Then we skipped the train and another stay in Thompson and instead flew straight back to Winnipeg. Then I went home, while my two friends headed over to Calgary for a couple days.
This is a song about our journey. It’s called “Remembrance Day” because – while at a Wendy’s / Tim Horton’s in Winnipeg – I noticed a donation box at the counter that was filled with red poppies. They looked like this:
I didn’t know what they were for, so I either asked the cashier or one of my friends, who happened to be French-Canadian. Whichever one I asked (it’s been 10 years, so my memory is sketchy) answered that they were worn for Remembrance Day. Then they explained to me what Remembrance Day was all about. So I put a loonie in the donation box and pinned a poppy to my sweater.
And that’s that. Now let me explain a couple other things about the song:
She enjoyed my Churchill poems
Their imagery, meter, and tone
But – to her – the best thing was
How she factored in each and every one
I wrote one very long poem while at the Churchill Motel on Hallowe’en (yes, I’m spelling it the Canadian way – deal with it). In the week following my return to Florida, I wrote 4 more inspired by the trip. I shared most of these with my friend (the French-Canadian) and she said good things about them.
The story of the northbound train
The antics that the cars contained
A fourteen hour ride
Underneath the stars and northern lights
We first saw the northern lights during our flight from Winnipeg to Thompson. Halfway through the flight, I looked out at the night sky and there they were – green and flowing beautifully. That fourteen hour train ride was the next night. The northern lights returned – we would watch them while smoking in that outside area between the train cars.
Past the tree line, towards the place
Where the wind destroys your face
As the ice forms on the bay
At one point in the train ride, the trees just disappeared – as if they knew it was foolish to go any further. That was the tree line. The bay in question is Hudson Bay, which is where the polar bears hang out and wait for enough ice to form so that they can get on the ice and start gobbling up seals.
Earlier in Thompson bars
Buying drinks for pool hall stars
At 55 degrees
The latitude that weakened Gordon’s knees
At the time, Thompson, Manitoba was the most depressing city I had ever been to (before I discovered the sad majesty of Steubenville, Ohio) – everyone there just seemed really, really sad and eager to be drunk as often as possible. The northernmost Wal-Mart in North America is there. That’s pretty much the only place to hang out at, too.
Anyways, Thompson is located at 55 degrees latitude. I knew this ahead of time because of a song by The Tragically Hip called “Thompson Girl”. In it, lead singer Gordon Downie sings, “Looks like Christmas at 55 degrees / This latitude weakens my knees”. THIS IS HOW I MAKE LYRICAL SAUSAGE! Neat, eh? Give the song a listen – it’s really good:
Stumbling back to our hotel beds
As the lights danced overhead
Giving us a complete sense
Of our total insignificance
Our lives mean absolutely nothing. Don’t dwell on it too much.
And everyone so generous
The cab drivers and Thompson drunks
Happy to lend a hand to us
We paid a local cab driver in Churchill to drive us around and show us the sights. She was awesome. This is her:
She took us to the polar bear jail (where the polar bears who sneak into the city are taken after they are caught and tranquelized), the sight of the Miss Piggy C-46 plane crash, and several other places we would never have been able to go without her.
Red plastic poppies on display
Pinned to a nation’s chest – they say
It’s for Remembrance Day
I explained this part already. Remember – the box at the Wendy’s / Tim Horton’s (this was back in the day when they were owned by the same folks)? Geez, this post has gotten really long. Let’s wrap things up:
Trudging through the ice and snow
In boots too big and borrowed clothes
Too cold for my Florida bones
Being from Florida, I had absolutely zero winter clothing. Prior to departing, I borrowed a pair of hiking boots from my friend Bryce. Another friend of mine gave me gloves, some heavy sweaters, and a toboggan cap. The temperature hovered around the 20′s (Fahrenheit) for most of the time we were there. That’s not too bad, but it was still the coldest temperatures I had ever been exposed to.
And that’s all you need to know. Actually, you didn’t really need to know any of that – if you’ve listened to the song and have enjoyed it, then that’s all that really matters.
Hey look, it’s Canada 2 – the exciting follow-up to Canada 1. As with it’s predecessor, it features two songs that were inspired by my various trips to Canada at the beginning of the last decade. Unlike it’s predecessor, none of the song titles involve airport codes. Yay, eh?
“Remembrance Day” is about my trip to Churchill, Manitoba to see polar bears. Along the way, I also saw the Northern Lights, discovered the saddest town in the whole wide world (Thompson, Manitoba), learned the meaning of Remembrance Day at a Wendy’s in Winnipeg, and had a wet dream on a train. That last part was cut from the song. You’re welcome.
“Sensing Endings” is a somber waltz inspired by an evening in Vancouver. It’s the second-saddest song I’ve ever written.
You should give it a listen, like RIGHT NOW! Click on the Bandcamp thingy below to start enjoying the Canada-y goodness. Then go to the EP’s Bandcamp page and download it. It’s free, yo!
And hey, if you download the EP through Bandcamp, you get a bonus track! More free stuff! AND if you send me an email (carl@honeybrownblues) inquiring about the saddest song I’ve ever written, I will send it to you. All the bonus material ends up being longer than the EP itself – THAT’S how goddamn nice I am!
Enjoy. And, as always, thank you for listening.