Hey all. It’s pretty quiet around these parts. I hope you’re out there banging some pots and pans together yourself, because we all certainly are pretty busy. The Compass is, to be honest, not what it once was. But it still matters and will still serve as a space for our creations, your creations, for whatever we want it to be.
This is the latest episode of Soundtrack Stories. Can you believe that it’s up within a month of the previous video? I can’t. I rushed to upload it before the end of January because I will begin my work on FAWM in less than 20 minutes. I hope that you enjoy it.
An incredible thank you to James for his Soundtrack Stories acting debut. Let me know what you think of the acting - is it an element worth exploring for future episodes?
Thanks for watching. Take care of yourselves.
1) You may have seen previous posts about Carey Murdock. He’s a young musician with a wonderful voice and in “Shot In The Dark,” a powerful song. I’ve posted a video of a live performance of the song before. Below is the studio version that he recorded as part of his 45 Project. Every four months starting this January, Carey will release two tracks - a digital 45, with an A and a B side. “Shot In The Dark” is the first A-side and man, it’s outstanding. I know that it may not be your cup of tea, but it’s a song that is kicking me into gear as I write this to do something with my night.
“Shot In The Dark” - Carey Murdock
2) I must preface this next item with the acknowledgement that this is a developing story and all of the facts aren’t in. But if you are interested in hearing about how people working on Glee may have taken a musician’s song without asking, check out this piece from The AV Club. Jonathan Coulton, famed internet singer-songwriter and TMBG opener, originally recorded a cover of “Baby Got Back” with a radically different arrangement back in the mid-2000s. It looks like the song was directly copied with no notice to Coulton. You’re big kids and can form your own opinions, but I thought it was worth mentioning.
Have a great weekend, friends.
I’ve been registered on ReverbNation for a few years now. I don’t use it as much as I could, I guess. I’ve never been really good with the self-promotion aspects of life as a musician. I don’t have that driving force to get out there and find gigs, and I’m not sure how to describe what I do. So when the time came to write an Artist Bio, I avoided it. Until now.
Below is my attempt to create an artistic biography. I know that it doesn’t include the cool things I’ve done like other bios do - noteworthy performances, words of praise from those of positive repute. Mostly that’s because such details don’t yet exist. So instead I focused on where I’ve come from, musically, and where I intend to go. With this new year upon us, with its infinite possibilities, I think it’s an appropriate time to share my declaration of self.
Saturday morning. Any one. It’s cleaning day at the Riley house. His mom is dusting to the sounds of the artists that will shape his music for years: a man who sang of desolation and redemption, another who recorded scenes from a piano bench. Melodies created by pals too powerful to remain united, genius that drove a man to a sandbox. Paul Riley is eleven years old, and he knows this is his future.
Music has the power to change lives. To comfort you while sobbing alone after devastation. To guide you through the best day of your life. To keep you going when everything else wants to freeze you in your tracks. Paul Riley writes words to serve as a catalyst, like the great lines before him. “This machine kills fascists.” “How many years can a man exist before you call him a man?” “I was born in the U.S.A.” He makes sounds to bring joy to lives, to lift others upon ebullient gusts of acoustic guitar strumming and electric melody.
He’s aiming to take what he sees in the world - the injustices and the righteousness, the sadness and the beauty - and put it on the page and on his strings. To be an American folk singer for the digital age, informed by the world but not ordered by it. Paul Riley is an idealist with a voice to be heard.
P.S. Remember when I did FAWM last year? Well, I’m doing it again this year. But this time, I’m looking to collaborate with as many people as possible - even people who are not musical at all. If you’re interested in helping out in any way, or just want to keep in the loop, follow this Tumblr. Looking forward to seeing you over there.
“The Mother We Share” - Chvrches
I’ll post another essay or piece on Monday, and I’m working on another episode of Soundtrack Stories for this month.
Did you know that there’s an Adventures of Pete and Pete zine? Well, there is. And while you will not be able to order a copy for your favorite little viking before Christmas (both because it’s three days until Santa arrives and they are delaying their third run of printing), there’s no reason you can’t keep Christmas going through January or February. Just remember that you’ve got to keep your tree inside. -Paul
Everyone knows there’s one person in Wellsville who knows how to do anything: Monica the Kreb Scout. She’s got merit badges in everything from ethnic dance to ninjitsu—so we asked Scoutmaster Shaenon K. Garrity to draw up a set for the zine (where they’ll be laid out so you can cut ‘em out and affix them to your official Kreb Scout sash without damaging the rest of the book).
For now, though, here’s a preview of nine of our favorites:
- Astronomy - Scout can accurately identify at least six constellations.
- Bowling - Scout has demonstrated mastery over the ball.
- Cephalopods - Scout has demonstrated proficiency in the care and feeding of our tentacled friends.
- Chemistry - Scout can use science to pinpoint the source of urine in a public swimming pool.
- Funeral Arts - Scout has successfully completed courses in embalming, interment, and monument design and construction.
- Lunar Ballet - Scout has demonstrated proficiency at Lunar ballet (Earth-gravity variants acceptable).
- Nightcrawler - Scout has successfully stayed awake for a minimum of 24 consecutive hours.
- Survival (Indoor) - Scout can survive for up to three days on the bounty of the classroom.
- Time Travel - Scout has successfully traveled in time and can identify at least three sources of riboflavin.
(For Ethnic Dance, Extraterrestrial Life, Food Service, Halloweenie, Orienteering, Rooftop Gardening, Survival (Outdoor), Word Problems, Wrestling, Little Viking, Waiting for October, and the world-famous Bus Driver Service Award, you’ll have to wait for the zine itself.)
Last week was the Riley Brothers’ Third Annual Holiday Hootenanny. I prepared for it by listening to the Christmas episodes of my old radio show, It’s Still Rock And Roll. (In college, I recorded all of the episodes - except for those of my first term - for posterity.) I enjoyed listening to those episodes as I cleaned the house, thinking of where I was when those shows were recorded, hoping to hear the voices of friends who would sometimes guest co-host with me in the later years.
A lot of this time of year is spent repeating the past. We bemoan the incessant revolutions of the Christmas standards, the early arrival of candy canes and toy deals in stores. We seem to want something new, and every year we watch and hear people attempting to put a different spin on the season. But, at their core, holidays are about traditions. We do the same things year after year because they help to tie us to something. They connect us to who we were the year before, as younger beings with wider eyes and bigger mouths. Much of adulthood is spent in a dark building, trying to make your way from one door frame to another with too little light to guide you. But the holidays are bright spots, times when you’re able to rely on pathways familiar to you.
We bundle up, go to the homes of friends and family, and get closer to one another. And that’s why Christmas has continued to be my favorite holiday. Because it’s a time that brings us back to each other. There’s no distance of time or geography that can’t be negated by a Troll Doll bearing gifts and a playlist of familiar songs.
If you want to know the lyrics, you can read below. I was able to decipher most of the words except for one line. If you think you’ve figured it out, let me know. It would just be nice to know it.
Experimental Collaboration #2
What a great party this is,
hanging out with people playing instruments.
When it comes to improvising,
I can think of two lines at a time.
And then I gotta pause - oh wait, I guess I don’t.
I’m just gonna keep singing every note.
If you want, come up closer to the microphones.
Uh, Bandit, cause that’s not your real name.
And The Doctor, ‘cause those are wind instruments
and you might not be able to be heard.
But that’s okay, we’re gonna keep playing for another 15 minutes.
You can blame Lester because we have a quota to fill
Just a few more measures.
This is sounding better than
and Britney Spears,
and Taylor Swift
and Sonny Bono and Cher.
But not better than the fifteen people assembled here at this party tonight.
1) The past few years have seen me grow more interested in songs like this: slow, repetitive and ethereal tracks. The lyrics may be unintelligible, but the song still conveys a feeling. Maybe it’s not a feeling as gloomy as the images of this video, but I prefer videos of moving images than a static image of the album cover.
“Have A Nice Life” - Bloodhail
2) Brand New is a band I was slow to come to. A buddy in high school wanted Deja Entendu for his birthday, so I bought it for him. But he got it from somebody else, so he made me keep it. Once I listened, I found a few songs that really mattered. I’ve lost touch with the albums after The Devil And God Are Raging Inside Me; this song is a reminder to get back there.
“At The Bottom” - Brand New
3) What makes a song a novelty? Growing up, my favorite artist was “Weird Al” Yankovic which required me to explain how I could like somebody who only did joke songs. But why should they only be joke songs? Weird Al’s songs mean something to me. They helped me in some dark times. In that spirit, here is something that could be more than a silly song.
“Ahab” - MC Lars
4) Danceable tracks, I like them.
“Groove Me” - Maximum Balloon
5) I think that if a few things in my life had been different, this is the kind of band I would’ve been in as a high school kid. I’m happy with the acoustic songs that I write now, but part of me will always want to get an electric guitar, crank up the distortion and jump around a stage. This song lets me live out the fantasy.
“Analog Boy” - RX Bandits
6) In that spirit, I close today’s grab bag with Donald Duck dancing to NoFX. Because this is the internet, and nothing makes sense.
“All Outta Angst” - NoFX
[This post is, as all others, unaffiliated with City Year.]
I had hoped to upload this video on Halloween since it centers on that day in 2004. I didn’t for a few reasons, none of which matter much now. I really enjoyed putting this video together and I think that it’s even better than the last one. However, it is lacking any performance footage for the music portion, to its detriment. But I’d rather have this video up now than have to wait even longer to shoot it.
A great thank you to James for helping me to workshop the essay, to Jill for the use of her camera and Jamieson Riling for shooting the footage on the campus of Elmira College. Collaboration is the name of the game.
Now, I’m going to get to work on the next video. I’m aiming for a January release. Look out!
Sitting in a lounge of an Atlantic City casino, I think, “I would love to come into easy money.” I have spent enough money to know that the big payoff isn’t going to happen this weekend. After finding a game that I liked, a game that I could understand, I devoted myself to it. I realized sometime later that the big money comes from the tables, but I didn’t want to learn how to operate them. The interactions between me and the dealer, between me and the other people hoping for big money - I don’t want to have to practice my social skills. So I stayed away. I have decided to end my time at the casino and now I’m sitting, waiting for my friends.
To be given a sum of bills north of four figures is to be told, “You don’t need to worry about things for a while.” Bills and other expenses we’re responsible for - they cease to be a yoke pulling us down a path we would have otherwise ignored. The freedom that comes with a large bank account is one that I assume others want as well. If only I had more money, we tell ourselves, I could do the things that I really wanted to. But are those possibilities suddenly within reach once we have greater resources? I don’t think that’s true.
Consider a person with a job and friends in her town. Is it suddenly easier for her to abandon things that have been reinforced as responsibilities? No. I don’t think so. Those things still demand her focus. Many things swirl in the mental to-do lists we have.
But maybe you’re not like this. Maybe you really do live free of constraints. Maybe you view everything that others view as burdens as opportunities. Or maybe you refuse to do anything that doesn’t jive with who you are.
But I’m not like that. I feel pulled in many directions: the need to make money, the desire to make music, helping out with the alumni board, posting something to The Compass, reading all those books I have, meeting up with friends, finding interesting things to do in the city. All of these things and more swirl around. Still I hope to catch a big break. Because the promise of a future time when things are magically easier is tantalyzing. It’s the magic that I crave, the comfort of knowing that I didn’t have to work that hard to get what I wanted.
But what kind of life is that? Just waiting for things to turn themselves around while I lie back and float? Why should I allow myself to be a passive figure, a background character in my own story? “I’d rather be working for a paycheck than waiting to win the lottery,” as Conor Oberst once sang. Not because we need to just put our heads down and work with no dreams. But because waiting means you’re missing something. Waiting takes away your agency. With so many things demanding you do something, why give in?