Much as with our drive up, my wife and I are on the return leg of our Thanksgiving pilgrimage, and once again listening to random playback. In our attempt to evade the perils of traffic, we woke far earlier than reasonable for a Sunday morning and hopped in the Pot Roast wagon. This morning’s sleep-deprived playlist has included:
Nine Inch Nails, Avett Bros., Bruce Springsteen, TV on the Radio, Bon Jovi, Blur, The Talking Heads, The Pixies, Metric, Jonathan Coulton, Guns ‘n’ Roses, Soundgarden.
We still have 100 miles and 8gb of music left to go.
More listening has yielded Tenacious D and Cee-Lo. These seemed important inclusions.
Relating to Mark’s earlier post, Bob Dylan’s classic album Blood on the Tracks is also a $4.99 album deal of the day on AmazonMP3. You should already have this album, but if not you can pick it up now.
Writing music is like trying to remember the dream you had last night. It seemed so real for a fleeting moment, and you desperately claw at the memory as you tell it to others. Sometimes you get it right, and the story unfolds well. Sometimes, it’s close but not quite, missing something almost tangible. You get the gist, not the rest. And most of the time, it’s just gone, lost to the ether. But you enjoyed it while it was there.
Mixing music is like punching yourself in the face repeatedly. It’s like trying to win at yelling. It’s like playing the first Mega Man, and dying 147 times on the jump at the first level until you learn that painfully infuriating lesson that the controls are really precise, and this game is going to fucking own you. It’s like an exercise in Quantum Physics, where you ram your face into a brick wall a million times, expecting one time for the particles of the wall to separate and allow you to pass through like there was nothing there. After a while, sound, tone, timing, phrasing, everything loses all meaning. It’s a droning noise like tinnitus that rings in your ears.
In completely unrelated news, we’re mixing our new electronica album, You Have Died of Dysentery. It’s going great.
A last minute work trip has me heading out to Oakland. My hotel seems to be about 2 blocks away from the Occupy Movement’s common meeting ground. My office is about 3 blocks from the other side of the meeting ground. I have to walk betwixt the two before and after the work day.
This will be the second time I’ve traveled to Oakland and stayed in the middle of a protest (The first time was a union protest a couple years ago).
I’m thinking I need to travel less.
I’m honestly not worried about the protest itself. It’s the large gathering of people. Put a big enough population of people together in tight conditions, and someone’s going to be an asshole and do things like petty crime, etc. The whole of the protest seems well organized, but there are still those late night rabble-rousers that have ‘rioted’ and clashed with police violently. It is that crap I’m not looking forward to.
Maybe I’ll bring my ukuklele. No one attacks a guy with a ukulele, right?
Sweater Puppets - The Really Good Pot roast (And Friends)
This picture was taken back in July, at the start of a Really Good Pot Roast recording session. Rob and I joined forces with two friends of the band to ring in the weekend by having a scotch tasting. And by tasting I mean drinking an aggressive amount of scotch. We started off with thoughtful samplings, a tumbler with a splash of scotch, honestly trying to enjoy the different ages and flavors of scotch. Yeah, by the 4th bottle, we instituted some sort of self imposed penalty system wherein we were required to drink more scotch. I’m fuzzy on the logic of it, but the results were empty bottles and bold ideas.
A couple hours in, Rob and I played a few of the songs we’d just written. Mentioning the band name made someone wisely realize that we had no food to temper all the booze we were imbibing. The friends of the band set out to procure vittles, and left us with an edict: Record a new song to celebrate the evening before they get back.
So we did.
The music for this song was written and recorded in 20 minutes. Then we decided to add ‘vocals’. I put that in quotes because we opted for an idiots chorus of screaming some word. For reasons only scotch can provide, the four of us decided that word was ‘Titties’.
It took an hour to record the vocals. The hour ended with me having to use violent hand signals to indicate to the group their cues to scream.
The moral of the story: Scotch is a helluva thing.
This post has been floating in drafts for quite a while and I’m not sure why we haven’t posted it. Figured I’d throw it up today.
Although I did post one track to 50/90 before Mark came to New York for our recording session I consider this my first complete solo track of 50/90 (The other has no vocals and is really more of a remix). This song proves something Mark and I have joked about with each other for years. All things being equal, we gravitate towards lyrics that fit into one of 3 categories: death, doom, and bitches who don’t love us. In fact, “Death, Doom & Bitches Who Don’t Love Us” was one of the scrapped names for our album, Serious as a Heart Attack.
Rob and I are finding ourselves in some quiet post-5090 downtime, for various and sundry reasons. Last year, Rob and I had not only participated in our first 5090 (neither of us won, even combined), but we’d also recorded and released our first album. We eased into October with a couple ‘Rocktober’ cover recordings, but then segued into a post-5090 malaise that completely stopped all creativity. For me, anyway. I found myself so burnt out that I didn’t record anything meaningful until late February.
I’m hoping this year’s transition is smoother, and will allow us to write again sooner. In the meantime, we’ll likely go back over some of the material we’ve written this summer, and post a few songs here, and maybe discuss what worked, or what didn’t.
Today is the last day of 50/90. The goal of this exercise, as the name implies, is to write 50 songs in 90 days. That’s a lot. Not many people have done it.
On Wednesday, despite some conflicts and a horrendously busy schedule and tough circumstances, Rob completed the challenge and posted his last song of the year. It’s truly an awesome feat, and I’m proud of him.
What makes it more awesome, is that the ‘winning’ song was a song about me. :-D
One of the challenges was to write a song for, or about, another 50/90er. Rob chose to write a song about me that probably doesn’t paint me in the most flattering light, but it’s hilarious as hell, and a fitting ending to a challenge in which we pushed ourselves and each other to creative limits. It’s nice to end things with a laugh.
Today is my anniversary. As such, I thought I’d post a song I’d written for my lovely wife. Last year during 50/90, I was traveling for work a lot, and wound up writing a song called Worktrip, a pop rock song with heavy guitars and a punk beat.
This song is the complete opposite.
This year, just before the start of 50/90, I was on another work trip, and I wrote another song. This time, instead of a sarcastic view of traveling for work and having meetings, I wrote a quasi-love song for my wife. As I flew home on a night flight, I wrote the song, chords and all, on the back of my ticket. The day after I landed, I recorded this song for my wife when she went out to the gym, then left it in her car for her to play on her way to work that Monday. It has more of a country, folk vibe than I originally expected, but I think it works, and I’m very happy with it.
My wife listened to the song again recently, and asked me to post it to 50/90 so people don’t think I only write depressing or angry songs.
This is Right and Tired, and it’s a favorite because my wife likes it. I hope you enjoy, and forgive this small cheat of mine.
I’d also like to point out that our marriage was directly as a result of TLOTH's influence. She meddled and put my wife and I in the same room together. We met and never wanted to be anywhere but in the same room together ever again. Thank you, TLOTH.
This song is awesome. One day, Rob texted me and said he had some lyrics for a new song. A punk song. But he wasn’t sure how to move forward with the music. He tasked me to read through the lyrics and see what I could come up with.
I sent him a demo an hour later that is largely what you hear here.
This song is a throw back to 70’s and early 80’s punk rock. Fun, goofy lyrics with a driving beat and a 12-bar blues base. It’s rude, and funny, and I love this song.
This is an unusual song for Mark and I for a few reasons. Typically the vocalist for a Really Good Pot Roast song is whoever wrote the lyrics. This is one of only 2 songs we have that is an exception. The other thing that makes it unusual is the prose. I was in a rhyming rut when I wrote these lyrics so Mark suggested to forget about writing a song an just write a story. We’ll worry about song structure later. Mark saw this story and just put it to music without revision. (Actually, that’s a lie. The 3rd verse was rewritten because the original had too many words in it). The narrative of the song was missing something until Mark added the bridge.
Rob and I have been kicking this song around for a little while. We shelved it for a bit, but came back to it this weekend. This song is a bit of a groove feel to it, simply arranged. We’re not sure what, if anything, it needs. That’s not to say we think it’s perfect, but I think it’s come out pretty well. I have a question about the length of the song, if it should be sped up a bit, but I think the demo has some legs and can stand on it’s own for a while.
This song is a look into the trappings of suburbia, and peeling back the layers of the neighbors you know only in passing, and what they could really be. It’s like telling a story three times, but getting into more uncomfortable details each time. Not everything is as perfect as it seems.
Howdy, Tumblrisms! At FiftyNinety, there are two awesome people who create podcasts that showcase talented musicians in the community. Kiwafruit, whom we here at The Really Good Pot Roast owe a drink, and T.C. Elliot. Both have done excellent jobs, taking chunks out of their personal time to make these podcasts great.
In the last week, T.C. has released TWO podcasts of 50/90 music!
In which T.C. keeps new music coming, and offers us fellow FiNiners a bit of encouragement in these waning days of the challenge.
In both instances, T.C. offers a smooth, funny (almost absurdist) presentation of 50/90 selections. As always, the episodes move along easily and serve as a great primer to some of the music the 50/90 community has written in the last 75 days. And as always, they end before I want them to.
Go click on the link, head over to the podcast webpage, and download a few. Or, sign up for the feed in iTunes!
Rob’s Note: This is an unusual song for Mark and I for a few reasons. Typically the vocalist for a Really Good Pot Roast song is whoever wrote the lyrics. This is one of only 2 songs we have that is an exception to the loose rule. The other thing that makes it unusual is the prose. I was in a rhyming rut when I wrote these lyrics so Mark suggested I forget about writing a song and just write a story. We’d worry about song structure later. Mark saw this story and just put it to music without revision. (Actually, that’s a lie. The 3rd verse was rewritten because the original had too many words in it). The narrative of the song was missing something until Mark added the bridge.
Mark’s Note: Rob and I have been kicking this song around for a little while. We shelved it for a bit, but came back to it recently. This song is a bit of a groove feel to it, simply arranged. It’s our 12th collaboration of FiftyNinety. The song turned out well, and I think the demo has some legs and can stand on it’s own for a while.
Rob’s lyrics are awesome here. Like he said, they started more focused on the narrative, and I just found music that worked around it. This song is a look into the trappings of suburbia, and peeling back the layers of the neighbors you know only in passing, and what they could really be. It’s like telling a story three times, but getting into more uncomfortable details each time. Not everything is as perfect as it seems.
Okay, tumblr-ites. We’ve told you all about FiftyNinety. You’ve heard some of the podcasts, and maybe you thought, ‘Hey, that’s some good mellow music’. Scrap that. This weekend, the ever awesome Kahiwa (Kiwafruit) stacked together a new podcast meant to be turned up loud. Brace your faces, people, lest they be rocked off by awesome indie awesomeness.
You want rock? Check. Dancy-fun electronica? Yep. Want Hip-Hop, possibly with a bit of an industrial sound (like this one)? Gotcha. You want some old school punk? Damn right you do.
Rob and I have somehow found 5 of our songs on the podcast (with different collaborators), which is super awesome. On a completely unrelated note, Rob and I owe Kahiwa a few rounds of drinks.
Jonathan Coulton’s new album, Artificial Heart, is now available for download and purchase at the link above. Debuting by way of a tweet during his appearance at Dragon*Con this week, the album is being released first on his own website, then iTunes and other digital outlets this weekend, with physical discs to arrive later this fall. It’s 18 tracks of (mostly) new material, and the first album recorded in a real studio with a full band.
I’m a big JoCo fan. Something about his solid folk-rock style with core pop sensibilities, smart writing, and strong musical background make his music compelling and so enjoyable to me. I’ve seen him in concert 3 times with my wife, and have enjoyed every one. He’s a good performer, both engaging and funny.
The new album is a bit different than his past offerings. Recording with a full band, and produced by John Flansburgh of They Might Be Giants, the songs have a crisper sound, and much more efficiently paced (the average track length for the 18 song album is under 3 minutes). There’s definitely a TMBG influence felt in the arranging and instrumentation on some of these songs. The opening track, ‘Sticking it to Myself’ has a horn section behind aggressive, chompy, distorted guitars. ’Today with Your Wife’, a decidedly more somber tune than the name implies, is completely piano driven song. We’re not given many songs here about zombies and giant squid. There’s humor here, but there are also songs of loss, and some lyrical exploration of themes without a defined narrative, which is a bit different than the JoCo of the past. There are moments on this album where Coulton reminds you he’s a professional musician, not just a funny guy with music theory knowledge behind him.
Among the new songs are some collaborations with other artists. For Nemeses, he brings in John Roderick from The Long Winters to handle vocals. ’Now I Am An Arsonist’ is a duet with Suzanne Vega, who’s voice adds a lovely but haunting quality to the acoustic song. And then there’s the new version of ‘Still Alive’, featuring Sara of Tegan and Sara on vocal work. This song flows right into ‘Want You Gone’ as a nice little Portal couplet.
The album is not without it’s flaws. John Roderick’s inclusion is somewhat odd. He does a fine job on the vocals, but given that ‘Nemeses’ is arguably one of the most traditionally JoCo-sounding songs on the album, it’s just odd not to hear Coulton sing it himself. The new version of ‘Still Alive’ features a theramin intro that feels tacked on. Were it a separate song unto itself, it would make more sense. But the transition from intro to the song proper is abrupt. And staying with that same song, Sara does a decent job with the vocals, but Coulton handles the few spots of backing vocals. This is a minor point, but the song is from a singular point of view, a single angry character singing to someone, and when Coulton’s voice comes in for backing vocals, it breaks the narrative somewhat. Like someone else was there. I’m being picky, but this song doesn’t seem like a vocal duet.
Those small concerns aside, I’m really pleased with this album. If you’ve read any of the preceding, you know I’m not a professional writer, or music critic. But I like Jonathan Coulton, and I’m enjoying this record. If you’re a fan of the zombies and code monkeys and squids and space dog Jonathan Coulton, you’re going to have a bit of a learning curve here, as I did. But there’s a growth in musicianship, production, and composition here that makes it all worthwhile.
Today marks the 1 year anniversary of the release of Serious as a Heart Attack, our first album as a band. If you haven’t picked up a copy for yourself, go to Amazon or iTunes now (All proceeds are donated to the American Heart Association).
Go ahead, I’ll wait…
Oh, good! You’re back. Like I was saying, 1 year anniversary. Mark and I thought it would be the perfect time to launch our new CafePress Store. Want a Really Good T-Shirt? How about a Really Good Coffee Mug? Or snuggle up with some Really Good Pajamas…. aw yeah.
The time to purchase some Really Good Swag is now always!
It’s a Collab-o-rama on this week’s 5090 Podcast! Hosts Kahiwa ‘Kiwafruit’ Balfour and T.C. Elliott let their hosting powers combine to make the Captain Planet of indie musician radio podcasts.
This podcast is awesome because it’s awesome.
The theme this week, as the title infers, is collaboration. Kahiwa and T.C. showcase 11 excellent collaborations by 5090 artists from around the world. Funk, electronica, smooth jazz, pop rock, country… it’s all captured here with fun discussions between tracks. And awesomeness.
Oh, and did I forget to mention that this podcast features A NEW POT ROAST SONG?!?!11?!!!!eleven!!? Rob and I have separate profiles on 5090, and separate songs, but we’ve collaborated on a few this year, including the song ‘Deeper Shades of Gray’, which Kahiwa and T.C. so excellently added to the podcast playlist.
Jump on over to http://5090podcast.blogspot.com to check out the podcast blog for this, and all the other podcasts. Episode 5 clocks in around 1 hour, 17 minutes.
As as I’ve said before if you’re a musician, dude, seriously, come join us. Rob and I have posted a combined 40+ songs (counting the one’s we collaborated on together only once), and have received and contributed tons of feedback from and for artists from around the world. Maybe the ship has already sailed on trying to write 50 songs in 90 days, since, you know, there’s only like 32 days left, but it’s more about just writing songs. One or one hundred, doesn’t matter.
TC’s back for the fourth 5090 podcast, and the intarwubs are working with him. In episode #2, TC had to fight against the 5090 website being down, but still managed to pull out a short, quality show. This offering is full length, and stacked to the gills with awesome FiNiners.
Once again, the podcast is a great showcase of some of the talented people in the 50/90 songwriting community.
If you want to check out a stack of good music, follow the link and download the podcast, or any of the three before it.
And if you’re a musician, seriously, come join us. Rob and I have posted dozens of songs there, and have received and contributed tons of feedback from and for artists from around the world. Maybe the ship has already sailed on trying to write 50 songs in 90 days, since, you know, there’s only like 40 days left, but it’s more about just writing songs. One or one hundred, doesn’t matter.
OK. We’re shifting gears from the instrumental electronica stuff we did for the Trevor Project (The wait is killing me). This track is from our album, Serious as a Heart Attack. The album is available on iTunes and AmazonMP3. All proceeds will be donated to the American Heart Association.
Lyric writing is always tough for me. I have a little journal I carry in my bag just in case I get an inspiration while I’m on the road. 85% of the lyrics in that book will never see the light of day, nor should they, but every once in a while something good happens.
I wrote these lyrics on the subway home from work. I’ve always wonder what the emergency cord is for since the signs tell you never to pull it, even if there’s a fire or a medical emergency. Mark and I both liked the lyrics, but had a hard time putting together music that worked. This song was the last track on the album to be finalized despite being one of the first tracks we started.
The third 50/90 podcast of 2011 is up. Kiwafruit returns to host a show with that posits the world needs harmony… vocals. Using a discussion from the community forums as a launching point, and songs from FiNiners (5090er’s? 5090 contributors?), Kiwafruit illustrates different uses and applications of harmonies, and some tips to make them sound better. Kudos on the lessons, but the only way to make my vocal harmonies better is to have someone else sing them.
Once again, the podcast is a great showcase of some of the talented people in the 50/90 songwriting community.
If you want to check out 48 minutes of good music, follow the link and download the podcast.
And if you’re a musician, come join us. The 50/90 community is where Rob and I have posted dozens of songs already, including our Trevor Project songs. 50/90 may be about the goal of writing 50 songs in 90 days, but it’s more about just writing songs. One or one hundred, doesn’t matter.
This is the third of three songs we wrote for The Trevor Project’s soundtrack music contest at Sallydoodle’s behest in the last 4 days. The request was for instrumental electronica based songs, using the Postal Service as a point of reference. The songs had to be between 1:30-2:00 long.
This song is 2:00 on the nose.
Again, the Trevor Project is a good organization doing some really great work. You can check their website at: www.thetrevorproject.org
Sallydoodle here in the Tumblr-verse made us aware of a song contest by The Trevor Project (www.thetrevorproject.org). And by ‘made us aware’, I mean ‘publicly challenged us to submit music’. So Rob and I put our heads down and wrote.
This song is the first of three we wrote (that’s right, Sallydoodle. We skipped ‘single’ and went straight to ‘EP’ on this.) and submitted to The Trevor Project. The request was for electronica instrumentals, between 1:30 and 2:00 long. They used The Postal Service as a musical reference. This is a musical style that Rob and I drift into on occasion, so we felt comfortable jumping in.
The Trevor Project is a good organization that does some really great work. Here’s a link to their website.
The second 50/90 podcast of 2011 is up. While Kiwafruit kicked things off, T.C. Elliott takes charge for episode 2. It’s a great showcase of some of the talented people in the 50/90 songwriting community.
If you want to check out 20-odd minutes of good music, follow the link and download the podcast.
This song exemplifies why I like writing with Rob. This was our third song of the day we put out on 50/90. We’d worked on other things, made some trips outside the house and whatnot, but we came back to the studio area, and just picked up instruments. Rob had his acoustic in Open G tuning, and I just started picking around, seeing what i could make of it. The sound of the open tuning was awesome, and I really wanted to work with it. Rob showed me a riff he had been playing with in Open G. I took that and combined it with a riff I was messing around with. Then Rob picked up the harmonica, and we hit record.
The music is the first and only take. We just played what made sense. I wrote the lyrics during playback, and we laid them down in one take. The whole recording and writing happened in less than 20 minutes, but I feel like it’s a beautiful moment in time that we captured.
Side note: I love it when Rob plays the harmonica. He just makes it work. During one of our 5090 songs last year, he played a harmonica solo with the harmonica upside down. We were drunk, but the song was awesome.
It’s R Day for the Alphabet Music Challenge. Celebrate by scrolling through the archive and listening to some tunes.
I’m feeling pretty proud of myself right about now.
Check out the 5090 Podcast Show blog for the show details and link to listen in. You can subscribe there until iTunes accepts my submission.
This is an awesome showcase of some of 5090’s great songwriters. It’s an excellent podcast, really well assembled, and quite entertaining. She takes time to really discuss the songs she plays, and offers some insight into our supportive songwriting community.
This is my first track of 50/90 2011. My first track last year was an acoustic track, written quickly with the thought that, if I don’t start now, I never will. Well, same thought here. Honestly, I was just finishing up my EP, and I thought I was completely tapped out. Then the first line of these lyrics popped into my head. I had to sit down and just see them through. Not the most amazing lyrics ever, but enough to get me motivated to finish the thought. I adlibbed the bridge vocals, though, so I’m not sure what’s going on there.
The music is rough, entirely acoustic. Written in about 30 minutes, recording in just over that. It’s a scratch recording. I could see this being a ‘band’ song eventually, but right now, it’s all acoustic, with some scratched in parts. It’s straight out pop-punk, basic chord structure and a driving pace to it.
While Mark and I consider this a part of our 50/90 productivity for this year, the song actually pre-dates it by little bit. The song started as another one of our musical experiments. I programmed some basic drums (just to keep time), wrote a melody and recorded it using my MIDI keyboard, then set it to be an acoustic bass sound. Then I sent it to Mark and told him to really explore the MIDI functions in our recording software to make this song something different. By the time the file made it back to me, Mark had transformed the melody from that acoustic bass sound into an entire horn section.
I really like Mark’s lyrics here because they capture our brand of humor quite well. I think his line, “I’ll travel back in time and get your mom to abstain / and the best part of you will just go down the drain.” is one of his best to date.
I wrote these lyrics this past week at the library. I showed them to Mark and he immediately had an idea for the music. The rest is all FourLoko and goofing around. It’s the sweetest love song from the nerd you know and love. Hope you all enjoy.
This song has some of my favorite lyrics by Rob. Really funny, and such a fun narrative. Seeing the words on the page was a little difficult to think about how to put music together under it, and how to sing it, but once I had a guitar in my hand, it all fell together. This turned out to be one of my favorite demos we’ve done in while.
It took Guns ‘N’ Roses 14 years to release an album. The album had 14 songs.
Between July 4th and October 1st, Rob and I are going to try to write 50 songs.
That’s 50 songs in 90 days. Or about 100 between the two of us.
We’ve signed up for a song writing challenge and community called, aptly, Fifty-Ninety. (http://fiftyninety.fawmers.org/) This is our second year doing it. And no, last year, we did not write 50 songs last year. Combined, I think we hit about 30-40 songs. Honestly, not all were keepers, but a couple tunes we collaborated on during the challenge last year made it to our album Serious as a Heart Attack, and a couple made it to my new EP, Rolodex.
So why would we do this to ourselves? Because it’s an awesome experience. It’s a great chance to give yourself a simple goal: write music, and if possible, record it. Fifty songs is the target, but the true goal is to write anything. Sure, some people banged out 50 songs before I wrote the bridge of my first track. But that’s not what’s important. If you write one song, you’ve succeeded.
The community at 50/90 is fantastic, sharing constructive criticism, production tips, plugins, songwriting ideas, even collaborations. The aim here is to foster creativity and writing, not focus on crafting finely tuned and polished recordings. It’s about the writing, not production. Some people have home studios that rival anything you can book; other people record one take acoustic tracks using the built-in mic on their computer and Windows Recorder. And some people focus on lyrics only. It’s really the full gamut, with people making of this experience what they choose. It’s just so wonderful to share music with hundreds, thousands of musicians from all across the world.
In the coming weeks, Rob and I will be sharing a few of our 50/90 produced tunes here on the blog. If you’re a musician, though… come join us.