I haven’t been on a plane to Florida in years. And why would I? My father’s railroad hands have allowed us to take the AutoTrain from Virginia to the greater Orlando area every time we’ve wanted to since 2000. Though it’s several times as long, the ride has provided me with two meals and the opportunity to watch the country pass by while I sit in contemplation. But here I am in seat 19C, gum in my mouth and seatbelt fastened. Jill is bringing me down to Walt Disney World with her mom and sister for her cousin’s 40th birthday celebration. It’s not a very long trip, but even a taste of Disney is worth the journey.
We land at the Orlando International Airport and take a monorail to the main terminal. I remember this from my youth, from the first time we visited Mickey Mouse. It was the first indication that I was entering a very special world, a place unlike anything that I had seen in my Delaware hometown. To me, that’s what Disney World is. It’s the wonderment of the world around you, a world that’s a combination of reality and imagination. Some people say that Disney World isn’t real. Well, what is real? Just because those buildings aren’t castles built by long-dead kings and queens or actual homes long since abandoned to ghosts doesn’t mean that they’re not real.
Since I’ve gotten back from Disney World, I’ve been diving deep into the history and criticism of this place and the man who thought of it. There are many blogs run by people who love the parks, especially WDW, and celebrate what makes it great while lamenting what sullies that greatness. One thing that’s great about the parks is the central beacon from which everything else flows. In Magic Kingdom, it’s Cinderella’s Castle. In EPCOT, it’s Spaceship Earth. In Animal Kingdom, it’s the Tree of Life. In Disney’s Hollywood Studios, it used to be a replica of the Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. But now it’s a giant version of Mickey’s hat from his performance as “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” in Fantasia. It’s repugnant – not because Fantasia isn’t a great film, or because it doesn’t deserve recognition in that park. That giant blue hat is repugnant because it immediately draws you out of the intricate, immersive world of 1930s Hollywood. You realize you’re in a theme park, forking over $20s left and right for food and plush toys. The sense of wonder is gone.
Still, I can understand that we can’t spend all of our time in the world of nostalgia. The past wasn’t perfect, and it’s important to remember that. For that reason, I’ve always loved EPCOT and Tomorrowland in the Magic Kingdom. These are the places that celebrate the possibilities of tomorrow, the chance we have to make the future a better place than today. To recognize what the mistakes we’re making with our interactions with the earth and each other.
But now those places are being overrun by cartoon characters and low-brow entertainment. And it’s not that those things have no place in Disney World, or that it means certain doom for the parks or guests. But it reflects a distrust of the future that didn’t always exist. When the parks were first built, people were excited about the future. Sure, there was the threat of nuclear annihilation – but there was also the hope that we would come together and create new and better worlds. Colonies in space, lands underwater. Healthier interactions with the earth and the people on it. Today, I don’t see that. I see venom spat by politicians at one another. I see distrust of the system, a cynicism that assumes the worst in others. We don’t listen to the points of view of others – we call them bigots or elitists or declare that they’re ruining the country. It seems like we don’t realize that we’re all connected, that we’re all a part of making the future, whatever it is.
I want to have big dreams of the future. I want to imagine technology that helps us get closer instead of isolating us. With our voices and faces being able to travel miles in seconds, there’s so much possibility of collaboration and connection. I want to imagine that diversity is celebrated not for points in the game of public relations, but because it leads to richer discussions and deeper insight into the challenges we face as human beings.
I have a new album out. It’s called E Pluribus Album, and it would not exist if it were not for the many friends and family members I have in my life. Starting in February, I began reaching out to as many people as I could to create an album celebrating connections and community. The album is being sold to benefit City Year New Hampshire, an organization that I served with for two years. Many City Year alumni are on the album in various forms: vocals, words, drums, guitars. The Compass’ own Tim designed the artwork for the album, as he has done for my previous three releases. This is my best collection of songs yet, and I hope that you listen to it and consider buying it.
We are not islands. We need each other. I enjoyed seeing a new post on here a few weeks ago and I hope it’s not the last. The world needs visionaries. The world needs people showing the power of teamwork. I hope we can be some of those people.
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.
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.
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!
It’s good to be back! I have a piece I’ve been working on for awhile now, “Goosebumps”-esque, that I should be showing you guys soon. It’s about a toaster.
Anyway, here are more videos of awesome live songs that I think you all will enjoy. I wanted to showcase this idea of well-timed madness, a control of chaos. It may sound insane at some points but at every single moment, the musician has complete control. It fascinates me how precise these artists can present a feeling.
- Untitled - Frank Zappa
- For the Love of God - Steve Vai
- Song for the Dead - Queens of the Stone Age
- Heathen Child - Grinderman
- I’m a Man - Bo Diddley
- I Was There - Fucked Up
- Underdog - The Dirtbombs
- Game of Pricks/I am a Scientist - Guided by Voices
- Throw Away Your Television - Red Hot Chili Peppers
- Damn Good Times - They Might Be Giants
- 21st Century Schizoid Man (King Crimson cover) - The Flaming Lips/Linear Downfall
It’s friday! You know what that means? Party? No. Work in the morning. That’s what that means.
Anyway, Paul sent and email out to us here at the Compass awhile back with some ideas, one of which was a weekly thing where we would make playlists. He wanted to chronicle our lives with music (which is an awesome idea) and share them with the rest of you.
I wanted to do one step more. I am a massive fan of live music so I wanted to share live videos. There is something about musicians that play live. They can sound one way in the studio but you can really tell an amazing musician from the rest of the shitty musicians when he or she plays live. They have gotten to know the song. They can dig down deep. They know the feelings within it. They know the words. They know where it is going. They know where it can go. And they take it somewhere else. They are so familiar with a song that they can play around with it. It no longer becomes a song. It becomes an emotion.
So instead of making a playlist, I wanted to share some songs with you but I want you to see them. I don’t want you to listen to the song. I want you to see it and hear it and feel it and learn it. And just like my old radio show “Leviathan!!!” on 107.7 WECW, the last song is the most powerful. Break out the good stuff.
These are videos of live emotion. I hope you enjoy.
NOTE: Best with headphones. And beer.
- Hey Sandy - Polaris
- Gabrielle - Ween
- I Can’t Go For That - Daryl Hall and Cee-lo Green
- Egypt (The Chains Are On) - Dio
- Muffin Man - Frank Zappa
- I’d Rather Be With You - Bootsy Collins
- Cannibal Summer - Wax Fang
- Soil - System of a Down
- Graveyard - Butthole Surfers
- Watch It Die - Bad Religion and Eddie Vedder
- Mornings - Portugal. The Man
- Trinkets Pale Of Moon - The Mars Volta
Recently I was hired to work at a bookstore thinking it would be awesome and I’d learn a lot and great things would pursue. I was wrong. It is boring and I don’t like it. I just shelve things and answer the phone. That’s it. So I went today to get a job at an awesome multi-story junk store and I think I got it! I’ll find out soon. I’d rather work with things and people that have stories and care about what they are doing rather than just make money and go home. So if, in the near future, you find yourself needing a mounted fish, coffins, gas masks, old bowling pins, or a box of prosthetic parts, just hit me up. You know how to reach me.
Anyway, here are some recommendations!
Recommended Album: America
Recommended Reading: The Mote in God’s Eye
Recommended Love Guru: GWAR
Recommended Mollusk: Glaucus atlanticus
Recommended Radiohead Cover: The Darkness (you read that right)
Recommended Beer: Brother Thelonious
Recommended Tweeter: @jamie_deen
Recommended Attitude Towards Work: this one.