Here is a new release of three songs. They were originally intended for my next album – until I realised that the album was becoming too big and unwieldy and unfocused, and that if I took these three songs out, they would make a nice EP, and it would leave the album more cohesive as a result. The album isn’t ready yet, but these tracks are, so... here they are.
The first track, ‘Invisible Threads’, now sounds to me like a song that should be written after the pandemic. However, it was written in early 2019. As well as the full arrangement, I've also included the original demo, which was just voice and piano, as a bonus track with the download.
The second, ‘Bright Underwing’, is the only song I wrote during 2020. I didn’t write any songs during the majority of lockdown, as at that point I felt that I’d already written all of the things I wanted to say about the pandemic in earlier songs, and had zero ideas for anything new. Also, my songwriting process depends on talking to people in real time, and group conversations with lots of ideas being generated – both trivial and serious – some of which turn out to be the last jigsaw piece in something I've been trying to write.
The song is about several things: the way time went all weird during lockdown, exploring the outdoors and noticing little things that might have gone unnoticed before, and staying connected to friends while physically separated. Most of the imagery comes from conversations with my friends about their own experiences in nature. I have come to associate particular plants, animals, birds, rocks, mushrooms, etc. with people who’ve talked to me about them, so when I see that thing I think of that person, and it’s a nice thing to have happening in my head when I’m wandering about.
‘Septemberlight’ is a song about seasonal sense memory, and was written after a conversation with a family member who noticed echoes of intense emotions she’d experienced the previous year turning up as the season changed to match the time of year they’d happened in. And I’ve noticed the same thing happening to me, sometimes. I don’t think we can be the only two people in the world who experience this. However, we've both just recently observed that we aren't experiencing it at the moment – perhaps as a result of the pandemic's time-flattening effect.
This track is based on a single live vocal and piano performance, so it is a little bit rougher than the other two. But I liked something about the energy of it, so I wanted to release this version, even if I re-record a different version in the future.
The lyrics for all three songs can be found on the Bandcamp page or on my website here.
This is a demo of a song that I wrote in early 2019, although the ideas in it had been brewing for some five years beforehand.
It's about corporate social media companies, mainly one in particular.
One of the main ideas came from the "shadow profiles" allegedly created by Facebook -- data collection on people who have never had a Facebook account -- ensuring that if and when these people do open accounts, there's a lovely welcoming creepfest of a website that already knows what you like and how your face looks in pixels and who you know, and isn't that nice?
I also wanted to contrast the patronising everything-is-lovely-we-care-about-you-blah tone in which social media companies address their users with the way that e.g. Facebook talks about its users (although maybe I'm basing this too much on that presumably unverifiable famous quotation from 19-year-old Zuckerberg's IM conversation).
And of course the main idea in it is that the algorithms of such companies are written in order to maximise engagement (which, naturally, turns out to mean maximising heightened emotions, primarily those based around outrage and identity) so as to encourage users to spend more time on the site, generating more data to be harvested and sold. To me this has felt for a long time like the social media companies ultimately want their platforms to become the primary mode of operation in the user's mind, not only creating a "walled garden" within the web itself, but with even the physical world rendered a secondary medium which merely provides nutrients to sustain the user, while that user is mostly thinking about their operations within the platform. Although to complicate the metaphor in the song, the "meat" the companies are harvesting is currently made of data, not human flesh. So far, anyway.
Anyhow, I have meant to make a more proper recording of this for a couple of years but I'm releasing the demo now because Facebook's further travel along that particular road has recently been indicated: apparently the plan now is for it to become a "metaverse company". (All I can personally say about this at the moment is: hmm. Multiple flavours of hmm.)
Now come on in, we’ve been expecting you
Your shadow’s been preparing things a year or two
Through keeping tabs on you
We’ve made a place for you
Come in, there’s so much time to waste
You’re free to go, but you should know the woods are scary
You don’t know what kind of predators you’ll meet out there
Here we make the predators register with the robot
And match their metabolisms with what you’ve shared about your taste
You like it here, you like it here, you like it here
The meat tastes sweeter when the brain in the jar
Can be convinced that it’s having a good time
Your friends are here, they’ll be protecting you
Our sponsors have requested that you do not change
Pick one identity
From the identi-tree
And everyone will like it as long as it’s not wrong
And through the window you will see the other ones
Who don’t agree on anything with any of your friends or you
They’re good at hating you
You’d better hate them too
According to our calculations if you do you’ll feel like you belong
You like it here, you like it here, you like it here
The meat lasts longer when the brain in the jar Can be convinced that there’s something to scream at
Some people have started saying we’re a menace
A societal macro-infection
But that’s not the kind of news you like to read
Sit still, it’s time for your next dopamine injection