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2015 - favorites "RELEASED THIS YEAR"

Well, folks -- though I didn't put out new music myself in 2015, and though my weekly blog RELEASED THIS DAY went to sleep 3 years ago, I still did a pretty fair amount of listening to new stuff, and here are the albums I enjoyed the most.


WHAT REALLY HIT ME WERE THESE:

1. Girlpool, BEFORE THE WORLD WAS BIG
-- This record makes me want to run around flapping my arms with the biggest grin I can muster, except that I don't want to miss a word or a detail. It leaps out of the speakers, partly thanks to the square, double-tracked dryness of the production, but mostly from the lemon-rind-smile of the songs and the dual harmonies. There's a quality that reminds me of Built To Spill's THERE'S NOTHING WRONG WITH LOVE, before all the guitars got in the way of the perfectly small-scaled lyric details and misleading tension between winsomeness and sharpness (P.S.: BtS's 2015 comeback UNTETHERED MOON sticks to the later approach of the band but gets the balance more right than they have in over a decade). By the time the title track launches into a friggin' *round* for its final minute, you will be unable to escape the Girlpool vortex... and it sure doesn't suck.
2. Baroness, PURPLE
-- Sometimes, the best response to soul-crushing life events (which, in the band's case, were also body-crushing life events) is just to absolutely pummel them with majestic balls of rockness. Baroness's majestic rockness balls happen to be PURPLE.
3. Sleater-Kinney, NO CITIES TO LOVE
-- The members' efforts while apart were always worth attention (Wild Flag in particular going far underrated), but the result of Sleater-Kinney's long-drooled-over reunion proves that there is no substitute for the unique chemistry of a perfect power trio. If anything, the hiatus seems to have created their most evenly balanced set of contributions. Carrie Brownstein serves as the dominant artistic voice here like never before, with Corin Tucker dancing around her, instead of the other way around as on most previous S-K records. The only thing keeping NO CITIES from being a career peak is that the Sleater-Kinney discography is entirely made up of peaks. Legacy burnished, not tarnished; all missions accomplished.
4. Deradoorian, THE EXPANDING FLOWER PLANET
-- ...on which I discovered that nearly everything I've enjoyed about Dirty Projectors albums was provided by Angel Deradoorian during her tenure. Polyrhythmic, layered, loopy hypnomusic.
5. Chris Stapleton, TRAVELLER
-- Real actual genuine bonafide got-damn country music incapable of generating embarrassment -- a seemingly impossible task these days prior to age 40. That even the CMA noticed gives hope beyond what I thought possible.
6. Alabama Shakes, SOUND & COLOR
-- For me, above all else, it's about "This Feeling" - the first new song of 2015 that gave me a genuine, uncomplicated, earned sense of positivity and optimism about life. These days, that is no small damn feat. There are many more challenging, bolder, more innovative albums out there, but SOUND & COLOR is classic,
7. Willie Nelson & Merle Haggard, DJANGO & JIMMIE
-- Effortless but never lazy, Willie & Merle could've phoned this in by playing up either their gravitas or their camaraderie, and no one would've faulted them. Instead, stubbornly as ever, they let the music come to them, let it breathe and be natural, while still letting an occasional wink ("It's All Gone To Pot") slip through. Backdoor barbecue record of the year.
8. Samantha Crain, UNDER BRANCH & THORN & TREE
-- If "When You Come Back" doesn't, at least a little, move you, I'm not sure we can still be friends.
9. Julia Holter, HAVE YOU IN MY WILDERNESS
-- After a decade's worth of brilliant but distant albums, Holter has hit on the balance between human and artificial, orchestral and synthetic, to create something that communicates as much as it impresses. Those who are coming to her work anew have my envy for hearing her overall body of work for the first time.
10. Jenny Hval, APOCALYPSE, GIRL
-- Saved from being overly didactic by the playfulness in her framing and delivery, Hval essays a unique take on keeping your heart at work when your head knows the world is out to get you for your gender / race / politics / being. On her 6th album (counting both early work as Rockettothesky and albums released under her own name, Hval arrives on a larger statewide stage and delivers the goods.


AND ALSO:
11. Deerhunter, FADING FRONTIER
-- On album after great album with Deerhunter and Atlas Sound, provocation after provocation in a decade of interviews, Bradford Cox has made a new kind of statement on FADING FRONTIER. Oversharing-as-distancing-device is replaced with sharing-as-communicating. Thus, simple-seeming songs like "All The Same" and "Snakeskin" are simultaneously singalongable and heartbreaking.
12. The Mountain Goats, BEAT THE CHAMP
-- John Darnielle puts down his Bible and has fun watching some wrestling, like my dad used to do after sermon prep every Saturday evening. Probably that makes me enjoy this more than most. Lucky me.
13. Kurt Vile, B'LIEVE I'M GOIN' DOWN
-- Runner-up for my aforementioned "barbecue album" prize. More relaxed and yet more focused -- a neat trick that pays off.
14. Patty Griffin, SERVANT OF LOVE
-- The jaw-dropping pin-drop of the opening title track's piano-backed desperation calls back to the stark nightmare catharses of her 20-year-old debut LIVING WITH GHOSTS, and it's a slap awake that is sustained by a typically excellent set of songs. Other arrangement surprises (the muted trumpet of "Gunpowder", the mallets-on-ribcages percussion of "Good and Gone") keep this fresh. Griffin suitably keeps her pulverizing voice in a controlled range for maximum storytelling effect (likely something about which she and sometime collaborator Robert Plant have compared notes). While she's almost never put a foot wrong in her career, SERVANT is a particularly accomplished and affecting Patty Griffin album among many.
15. Rhiannon Giddens, TOMORROW IS MY TURN and FACTORY GIRL
-- The frontwoman of Carolina Chocolate Drops steps forward and claims her spotlight, with a timeless blues-folk-jazz hybrid that never feels staid or safe in its traditionalism. (For a pure jazz counterpart, try Cecile McLorin Salvant's torchy and exquisite FOR ONE TO LOVE.)
16. Viet Cong, VIET CONG
-- There's a lot of cranky 1979/1981 music I love that shares characteristics with it, but VIET CONG never feels like a throwback or a fashion statement unlike so many recent albums that call back to post-punk. It's by turns grating and lovely music that never lets up on kicking complacency where it hurts.
17. Ibeyi, IBEYI
-- Transfixing music, earnest but suitable for long sessions in bed or on the beach.
18. Ryley Walker, PRIMROSE GREEN
-- This is deeply lovely and earnest and pastoral, but sung full-throatedly by Walker with exuberant, jazz-inflected backing -- as if Nick Drake's BRYTER LAYTER were injected with fresh espresso.
19. Wolf Alice, MY LOVE IS COOL
-- ...sure is. I like imagining a TV murder-mystery with this as its soundtrack.
20. Beach House, DEPRESSION CHERRY and THANK YOUR LUCKY STARS
-- Two albums two months apart, both solid, both pushing their development forward while feeling integral rather than unfocused. What a roll they're on.
21. Torres, SPLINTER
-- Confessional, pain-riven songwriting, gut-felt singing, layered with rock drama and craft uncommon for an album released at this scale. Occasionally the album could do with a candle or two in all the darkness, but maybe the album's environment wouldn't support it.
22. Father John Misty, I LOVE YOU, HONEYBEAR
-- I wanted to hate this so much after his May 18th "Late Night With Seth Meyers" appearance -- so smug, so "meta," so full of itself -- giving the material its TV debut. Mea culpa: over time, that seems to be much more about that night's particular performance persona than the actual material. Which is frequently lovely and laced with personal romantic reverie of a type that I am too soft of constitution to resist.
23. Wilco, STAR WARS
-- Among the surprises of the year, and not just because of its hypeless instant-karma release "plan." Essentially, it's A GHOST IS BORN, except enjoyable.
24. Lightning Bolt, FANTASY EMPIRE
-- Bwwwwwwwwaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrraaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrr. Best title goes to the 11+-minute "Snow White (And The 7 Dwarves Fans)."
25. The Districts, A FLOURISH AND A SPOIL
-- To be absolutely as lazy a reviewer as possible, I'd say the Districts make me think of the Strokes, minus the pretense and fashion slavery, plus the kind of tension, drama, and quality songs the latter band has long forgotten how to create.
26. Titus Andronicus, THE MOST LAMENTABLE TRAGEDY
-- In a career of obsessive artistic ambitions in the service of lacerating self-expression, Patrick Stickles & co. have outdone themselves beyond even their punk-rock Civil War opus THE MONITOR. Perhaps a trim of a piano ballad here or a string overdub there would be welcomed, but this is a vision, widescreen and uncompromisingly executed.
27. Colleen Green, I WANT TO GROW UP
-- (Hint: she doesn't really sound like she does, and you just don't care.)
28. Wire, WIRE
-- Probably all they needed to get a higher spot on my list is a better, Wire-ier song title for the track "Blogging." It's the band's most focused work since Bruce Gilbert's departure.
29/30. (tie).
Empress Of, ME
Lower Dens, ESCAPE FROM EVIL
-- Two fine examples of new-wave-informed micropop with sustained musical moods and effective late-night details in the lyrics.


...I MEAN, LIKE, OF COURSE THESE ARE GREAT, EVERYBODY ALREADY KNOWS THAT:
Kamasi Washington, THE EPIC
-- A conceptually linked three-album set of retro/future jazz? In 2015? Why not -- you've got co-conspirators like Thundercat (a gifted bassist/vocalist, with his own great 2015 album THE BEYOND / WHERE THE GIANTS ROAM on the books), with whom you've already adorned the world's consensus Album Of The Year (TO PIMP A BUTTERFLY). ...*shit*, Kamasi. Go ahead, man. And next time some kid calls a tv episode "epic," throw this dense brick of genius music at his head. (For a less jazzy, funkier, but similarly freewheeling brew, see Hiatus Kiayote's CHOOSE YOUR WEAPON.)
Kendrick Lamar, TO PIMP A BUTTERFLY
-- (...like I said. And for real, it's a generation-definer.)
Courtney Barnett, SOMETIMES I SIT AND THINK AND SOMETIMES I JUST SIT
-- Big Ol' Curmudgeon-Face Me initially brushed this off as lacking the ferocity of her Pitchfork-Festival-owning live energy. But the album grew mightily on me, and though I'm still certain her best work is well ahead of her, there's no denying this as one of the year's best. 
Björk, VULNICURA
-- It's too reductionist to file VULNICURA as just another major artist's breakup album ("BJÖRK ON THE TRACKS"™), but the work makes no secret of the events, nor of the depth of her pain and the strength of her resolve to emerge from it. The mourning mood is matched musically at every step, and with VOLTA and BIOPHILIA having taken on first a worldwide and then a cosmological scope, VULNICURA's abrupt perspective shift inward feels true to the circumstances. (P.S.: don't sleep on the secondary release VULNICURA STRINGS.)
Grimes, ART ANGELS
-- In a year with no St. Vincent album, Grimes gives us an un-guitar-y equivalent: veering between the brash and the interior, experimental and ear-catching, always intelligent, and always fun. ART ANGELS improves on her breakthrough VISIONS with just a degree more boldness and self-assuredness in the sound and perspective.
Sufjan Stevens, CARRIE & LOWELL
-- Sure, I enjoy it when he fucks around - he's got a sense of play like few other grown folks in music. But the payoff for sitting through underwhelming ambient sessions and goofy creative-writing-workshop exercises are the way he gets quiet and real, reaching his sweet, wounded core. Without those elements in balance, either way is too far and he reads as obnoxious. Taken together, his zigzags make him a figure something like his generation's Neil Young; here, he's in TONIGHT'S THE NIGHT / ON THE BEACH form, both in terms of tone and achievement. Perhaps a more deserving objective achievement than my #1, but full of emotions that are less fun to engage every day.


EVER-SO-SLIGHT FALL-OFFS FROM PRIOR ALBUMS, YET NONETHELESS QUITE FINE INDEED:
Jason Isbell, SOMETHING MORE THAN FREE
-- I mean, how do you kvetch about an album this great, except that it has to follow the impossible-to-follow SOUTHEASTERN? "24 Frames" is just the first example of a perfect song that comes to mind.
Dwight Yoakam, SECOND HAND HEART
-- Continuing the direction (and the hot streak) launched by 2012's 3 PEARS, Yoakam's latest is just a notch behind its predecessor in the freshness of the songs and the sense of the new. Still, a big winner.
Dawes, ALL YOUR FAVORITE BANDS
The Damnwells, THE DAMNWELLS
Justin Townes Earle, SINGLE MOTHERS / ABSENT FATHERS
Krallice, YGG HUUR
Lianne La Havas, BLOOD
Laurel Halo, IN SITU
Lucero, ALL A MAN SHOULD DO
Kacey Musgraves, PAGEANT MATERIAL
Pugwash, PLAY THIS INTIMATELY (AS IF AMONG FRIENDS)
Punch Brothers, THE PHOSPHORESCENT BLUES
Josh Ritter, SERMON ON THE ROCKS
Tame Impala, CURRENTS
Richard Thompson, STILL


HONORARY "THE BEATLES' SECOND ALBUM" SECOND ALBUM AWARD:
Lady Lamb the Beekeeper, AFTER
-- Some serious sudden-loud-chorus suckerpunching here, to the point that the trick gets a little old by the end, but there's a nifty lyric around every corner -- and the opening one-two ("Vena Cava" and "Billions Of Eyes") alone earns AFTER the big soph prize.
Diamond Rugs, COSMETICS
-- Thank goodness D.Rugs weren't just a one-off! The Deer Tick / Dead Confederate / Six Finger Satellite / Black Lips members who take sonic vacations with Steve Berlin's baritone sax every so often are back, and it's an absolute gas. (Member T. Hardy Morris also came up a double-winner with Hardy & the Hardknocks' DROWNIN' ON A MOUNTAINTOP.)
Chastity Belt, TIME TO GO HOME
-- Subverting the patriarchy was never so dreamy.
Fuzz, FUZZ II
-- Ty Segall's MANIPULATOR dominated my 2014. In a rare year with no new original albums under Segall's own name (just the Record Store Day TY REX covers album), FUZZ II does plenty fine enough to tide over the fanatic. And it's a double album! But really, a few ideas get rehashed by side 3, and it ends with a 14-minute jam that doesn't connect, so... really, it's a single album with bonuses.
Metz, METZ II
-- OH MY HEAD AND NECK THE BANGING YES OW YES

GLASS BREAK DEMENTIA - track 14 - "Sweetest Day"

Another in the holiday calendar series, this is of and for Kerry my sweetest. Not so afraid of love songs after all, I guess.


Sweetest Day

On one 3rd Saturday of October
the candy came to those with none
A generous spirit trumped being sober
And Sweetest Day had just begun.

This is the 15th day of July
New message here, a bell has rung
It's a sweet day to become your new guy
My sweetest days have just begun

I was sure I would never do this again
And I was wrong and I am blessed
So let's go out and pay for some Piper
'Cause I knelt down and you said "yes"...

...on the 26th of September
A new ring for the prize I've won
This is the sweetest day I remember
My sweetest days have just begun

I was sure I would never do this again
And I am blessed to be so wrong
One year and three days have gone flying
now arm in arm we two go on

So on the 29th of September
We wed by a red sleepy sun
This is the sweetest day, but remember
Our sweetest days have just begun

This is the 3rd day of December
Another new song newly sung
This is the sweetest day I remember;
the next sweet day is soon begun.

GLASS BREAK DEMENTIA - track 13 - "Hip Bones"

In those dark pre-Christina-Hendricks-on-MAD-MEN days of 2006, I spat this song out of frustration with a culture that seemed to be literally starving out a generation of the young and talented. But... a straight guy ranting about female body image issues in pop culture is automatically suspect, isn't it? Also, I probably should've known better than to go topical about young Hollywood -- the references date the song immediately. Hopefully it's taken in the spirit it's given: that real women are awesome just like they are; that it's sick to tell your society that starvation is the standard of beauty; and that if one is what one eats, being frightened to eat says frightening things about what one's been emotionally fed. (P.S.: at one point, I wanted to invent a character named Emaciation Jones. Dibs.)


Hip Bones

I'm sick of looking at your hip bones --
at every actress / model / heiress
who takes her orders straight from Paris...
When will the industry please spare us
their emaciation jones?
I'm sick of looking at your hip bones.

I'm sick of looking at your hip bones --
as every waify, strafey richie
goes blase' goosestep-strutting, which we
choose to misread as fierce or bitchy,
not misguided, tragic clones
I'm sick of looking at your hip bones.

I'm sick of looking at your hip bones --
Kiera, we dream about you nightly,
but oh, your skeleton's unsightly
atop a pirate ship of fright; we
would fill your treasured chest with scones.
I'm sick of looking at your hip bones.

What did a burger ever do to you?
What did a pizza ever do to you?
What did a french fry ever do to you?
What the hell did your parents do to you?
How can our culture keep on killing you?

I'm sick of looking at your hip bones.
I guess it started back with Twiggy,
but she's a long way since "Shindig;" she
might be size 6 – is that now piggy?
Lay off the Botox, all you crones,
And get some marrow in your hip bones.

GLASS BREAK DEMENTIA - track 12 - "32"

The 32nd piece I worked on with my digital 16-track is an instrumental using the Moog MG-1 into the Boss GT-3 "riff" setting, while also recording a raging thunderstorm through the window.  "32" is also the title because of a reference dating back to the first band I was in during college (Gordian Knot).  Our drummer, Steven Cherry, wrote a beautiful lyric about space and titled it "32" because 32 is the ASCII numerical code for a single space.  I set that to music (which is completely unrelated to this "32").  Since this current piece is also spacey in nature, the fact that it was "Song32" on the 16-track display was too good a coincidence to pass up.

GLASS BREAK DEMENTIA - track 11 - "Water From A Bourbon Glass"

This song came quickly and in a single piece, as if straight from the hangover of Athena.  For those of you that don't like puns, here are some puns... with booze!  

____________________________

Water From a Bourbon Glass

Over, hung over
Well, I'm over whether I was hung last night
The case is packed
She may be stacked, but stocks have sunk
Over, hung over
but the doggy hair might hold me til tonight
and so I think
it's time the drink & I got drunk

it all floats up from my disturbin' past
I'm drinking water from a bourbon glass

Water, need water --
well, I need it 'cause of all the rot last night
as glass gets stains,
the memory wanes, the wax is mess
Memory, sweet memory,
I watch you wash away and wash away last night
Kentucky fried
burn to one side, burn nonetheless

no southern comforts for my urban ass
I'm drinking water from a bourbon glass

Jim and Basil, and Old Weller
give four roses to this feller
Elijah, Evan, Ezra, Elmer, Sam
Another plan that I may botch
but something no one else can scotch
so trace the buffalo, who gives a damn?

Water, sweet water --
well, it's sweet because of what I had last night
The wheat was high
Some jokes were wry but most were corn
Water, sweet water --
comfort me after the way I got last night
I found the note
that's all she wrote, a death reborn

but there's one last thing that I've gotta ask:
was that her bourbon in my water glass?

GLASS BREAK DEMENTIA - track 10 - "Break"

"Break" is another in a long line of cases where a lyric gimmick tricks me into revealing my state of mind.  I'm grateful that I'm still this subconsciously gullible after 23 years of writing songs -- many of my favorites have come out of this kind of origin.

In this case, it's simply that that the word 'break' is a sharp percussive call all on its own as well as being part of a variety of common expressions, leading me to try shoehorning as many of them in one song as possible. 

In the end, it turned into a rather forceful pep talk to myself, a mirror held up with reminders of breaks past (both interpersonal and psychotic).

The verse riff and melody appeared in a dream on 12 September 2009. Two days later, I premiered the song as an acoustic number at the Flossmoor Station Brewing Company.


Break

One day I found that I'd wasted all
the terrible things in my mind
So I looked around and replaced it all
with whatever else I could find
I started trying to taste it all,
the love and the food and the drink
But nothing could nourish the place that all
the guilt filled right up to the brink

But it felt like enough
I began to feel tough
Until the break

Free to no longer be chaste at all
I tried to run all amok
Shocked that I didn't get maced at all
I only managed a fa-fa-fafa-fa...
I thought I'd only debase it all
-- like cold eyes had lectured me once,
as if I had used no toothpaste at all --
at hedonism, I'm a dunce.

Why can't it be enough
to fall headlong in love
and take a break?

break out
break in
break glass
break wind
break fast
break up
break down
break

Pointlessly pumped up the pace, did all
the things that they told me to do,
And still I could never have braced it all
enough that it wouldn't fall through
As much as I thought I'd erased it all,
the pencil smudge won't disappear
So I guess it's time that I faced it all
to lose my illusion of fear

Self-hate's long past its shelf
date, so I'll give myself
a fucking break.

-- Dolph L. Chaney, 12th Sept 2009, 8:30am (music for the verse arrived in a dream); 13th Sept 2009, 6:06pm; 14th Sept 2009, 7:05pm

GLASS BREAK DEMENTIA - track 9 - "Ms. Papathanassiou"

This song started when I realized I'd never written a song that prominently featured me singing "ooooooo." So I decided I would, and what would be good to rhyme with "ooooo"? "Papathanassiou," the surname of Aphrodite's Child keyboardist, Jon Anderson collaborator, oh and Oscar-winning composer Vangelis. While I'm at it, why not also the birthname of Yusuf Islam, before he was Cat Stevens -- Steven Dimitri Georgiou? Then, I asked myself, what else is Greek in my mind? Alex Karras (hence Papadapoulos). Also, Indianapolis -- home of the Butler University Bulldogs and beloved town of my upbringing.

This song is a trifle. I file it alongside "Going Steady" from CLIMBING MOUNTAIN TIME -- tiny little flighty songs that were more fun during writing than at any other time. But sometimes those are the ones that listeners like the most, so who knows...

------------------------------

When you say "it's all Greek to me",
I know what you mean, and then
I think you won't talk to me
unless I'm Athenian

Ooooooooooo
Ms. Papathanassiou
I just don't know what to do
but I want you
Ms. Papathanassiou

I'm just a grecophile Anglo kid
from Indianapolis
I wish to Zeus my last name
was Papadapoulos

Ooooooooooo
Ms. Papathanassiou
I sure haven't got a clue
but I want you
Ms. Papathanassiou

I bet you get this all the time --
are you related to Vangelis?
And when Chariots of Fire came out,
did you go to Los Angeles?

Ooooooooooo
Ms. Papathanassiou
I'm no Steven Georgiou
but I want you
Ms. Papathanassiou

8/28/06
1/18/09

GLASS BREAK DEMENTIA - track 8 - "41"

Drum solo!!!  Err, not really, just a beat that I never ended up using for anything else, repurposed as a transition to "side 2" of the album.  In my dreams, this will end up sampled and tweezed by some famous rapper and I'll make $41 dollars in royalties.

GLASS BREAK DEMENTIA - track 7 - "Thanksgiving"

I've been writing songs about various holidays for many years -- some day it's likely that my Greatest Hits album will be a calendar...

This is the first song I've ever written starting from a Facebook status update.  "Dolph Chaney has a big bird brining in a bucket."  (Which I did -- a 21-pounder to feed us and the in-laws.)  As soon as I wrote that, I started bopping all around the house saying "big bird brining in a bucket" to myself, and in less time than it takes to make a pot of gravy I had the song.

______________________

 

Thanksgiving

 

Got a big bird brining in a bucket

Got a big bird brining in a bucket

Got a big bird brining in a bucket

And I'm thankful that I do

 

Got a safe house sitting in a suburb

Got a safe house sitting in a suburb

Got a safe house sitting in a suburb

And I'm thankful that I do

 

But mostly

I thank you

for you

 

Got rutabagers, taters and tomaters

Got rutabagers, taters and tomaters

Got rutabagers, taters and tomaters

And I'm thankful that I do

 

Got a good dog giving me her belly

Got a good dog giving me her belly

Got a good dog giving me her belly

And I'm thankful that I do

 

But mostly

I thank you

for you

 

Got cranberries cryin' in the crisper

Got cranberries cryin' in the crisper

Got cranberries cryin' in the crisper

And I'm thankful that I do

 

Got kittycats curlin' up and cuddlin'

Got kittycats curlin' up and cuddlin'

Got kittycats curlin' up and cuddlin'

And I'm thankful that I do

 

But mostly

I thank you

for you

 

Got a fine funny fun-filled family

Got a fine funny fun-filled family

Got a fine funny fun-filled family

And I'm thankful that I do

 

Got a beauty love calls me her bucket

Got a beauty love calls me her bucket

So I’ll take the turkey from the bucket, give it to the bucket

And be thankful that I do

 

- Dolph L. Chaney, 25th November 2009

 

GLASS BREAK DEMENTIA - track 6 - "So Where Were The Spiders?"

Here's me trying to laugh through my anxiety attacks.  Most of my immediate family has dealt with anxiety disorders; I've fought them since I was 13.  At the most anxious periods in my life, I have experienced hallucinations, many involving spiders.  This is not hypnogogic / hypnopompic, which occur during sleep or awakening -- this was during regular daily activities.  

During a particularly tough stretch in 2002-2003, I was rather frequently hallucinating that the people around me were turning into person-sized spiders, wearing clothes, often driving oncoming cars.  One day after such an episode, Bowie's "Ziggy Stardust" came up on shuffle play, and after David sang the line that became this song's title, I laughed.  A lot.  For several minutes.  Where WEREN'T the spiders?  So I started writing a list of where the spiders were.

I wrote the chorus/turnaround in '09 to finish it.

_________

 

SO WHERE WERE THE SPIDERS?

 

In my chair

In my hair

I see spiders everywhere

On my door-

Knobs and floor

I freak out like a crackwhore

Super-big

Dancing jigs

Even as they write “Some Pig”

 

I don’t like the way

They trap their prey

In the webs of lies they say

‘Cause it reminds me of you…

 

In my place

In my face

On some album art by Space

Drunk in bars

Driving cars

(that’s how they got here from Mars)

In my dreams

Sewing seams

Plotting deaths and graves and schemes

 

I don’t like the way

They wrap their prey

In the webs of lies they say

‘Cause it reminds me of you…

 

At the mall

On my wall

Crawling up towards my left ball

On my toe

In my fro

Right by my office window

In my veal

As I squeal

Who cares if they are not real?

 

I don’t like the way

They poison their prey

With the venomous lies they say

‘Cause it reminds me of you…

GLASS BREAK DEMENTIA - track 5 - "Afraid Of Love Songs"

It started as a joke.  I just couldn't resist the idea of singing a love song about refusing to sing love songs because of love-song phobia.  Then I fleshed it out with references to other phobias and superstitions, and in final form it's about the superstitions people add to romance.

My wife says this is my "Every Rose Has Its Thorn."

------------

I've always been afraid of love songs.
Like a camera to a tribesman,
I would rather turn down bribes than
steal the soul of this love.

So you'll just have to get used to the fact that
I'm never gonna sing the words 'I love you'
I'll have to find another way to tell you
and compel you to my arms
and though I know that rhymes with 'charms'
I won't
'cause I've always been afraid of love songs.

I tread with extra care near love songs.
I don't want to be the one to
make the terminal affront to
break the back of this love.

So you'll just have to get used to the fact that
I'm never gonna sing the words 'I love you'
I'll have to find another way to tell you
and impel you to my side
and though I know that rhymes with 'bride'
I won't
'cause I've always been afraid of love songs.

I've always been afraid of love songs.
Like a hammer to a mirror
If I shatter, trapped in fear or
loathing if I break this love

So you'll just have to get used to the fact that
I'm never gonna sing the words 'I love you'
I'll have to find another way to tell you
and propel you next to me
and though that rhymes with 'sexually'
I won't
'cause I've always been afraid of love songs.

I'm never gonna sing the words 'I love you'
'cause I've always been afraid of love songs.

GLASS BREAK DEMENTIA - track 4 - "37"

One of 3 short interstitial instrumentals I used to break the album into sections.  Telecaster --> Boss GT-3 --> board.  Basically one marching chord, with a couple of mutations.  The title is because this was the 37th song recorded on my Fostex 16-track system.

GLASS BREAK DEMENTIA - track 3 - "Queen For A Day"

Did you think I'd forgotten you?  Never fear.  Just dealt with a mind-fogging cold and some other energy drains for a few weeks.  Back to comments about the tracks on GLASS BREAK DEMENTIA.

"Queen For A Day" started with the idea behind the 3rd verse.  Having grown up in an environment that was, shall we say, less than friendly to gay folks, I now find myself blessed with GLBT friends as well as straight ones.  And, coming from whence I have, and eager to please as I am, I sometimes find myself feeling like I could understand my queer friends' perspective better somehow.  As with so many things, I occasionally go to the point of overcompensation, which is not actually what anyone wants out of me.  If they're friends of mine, they want to be friends with ME, being natural -- just as I want them to be themselves. 

Naturally, as I wrote this, I then began overthinking about my overthinking.  Would this sentiment be offensive to my friends somehow? 

But I worked the idea over by writing the first 2 verses about HRM QEII and the authors of "Radio Ga Ga", then eventually I pulled my head out and finished the 3rd out by transitioning it to a tribute to the queen of my castle.  (Aw.)

Perhaps an awful lot of fuss for a breezy little 2-minute wonder -- but I like how it turned out.

---------------

Queen For A Day

I'd like to be the Queen for a day
though I might have to shave
raise my scepter and wave
send Camilla and Chuck away

But I know that's a farce --
I'm a regular arsehole Yank
I'm not even from Queens
and I haven't got beans
in the mattress or stocks or bank.

I'd like to be in Queen for a day.
With Taylor, Deacon & May,
I'd get together and play
and firmly free the bad compa-nay...

But I know that's a laugh --
I've got half of the chops I'd need,
I'm no showman to boot,
and my chestless catsuit
would make all the front row's eyes bleed.

I'd like to be a queen for a day --
not to lay with some guys,
just to see through your eyes
and be a better Friend O' Gay.

But I'd never succeed
'cause the one that I need's my wife
and I don't need a band
or a royally-waved hand
'cause it wouldn't rule like my life...

My baby's the queen of my day.

-- 21 February 2007
-- 5 February 2009

review at Popdose

Eccentric, gooey, rhythmically-challenged wanker/baby or witty, funny, clever, nicely sentimental king-to-be?  You be the judge...

http://popdose.com/rob-smith-cant-say-no-dolph-chaney/

GLASS BREAK DEMENTIA - track 2 - "The 5th Dementia"

So what is the 5th dementia, anyway?  Possibly, it was the dementia that led me to think I could play this correctly on overdubs without a click track...

Generally, the lyric is about taking myself down a peg while encouraging me to keep it together and not sweat the small stuff.  In typical fashion I was both proud of and repulsed by the horrid "dimension" / "dementia" puns I kept putting out there, the conflictedness delaying the completion of the song for about 3 years.  I would work on it for a few days, get stuck, and move on to more natural creations. But it would simply not leave me alone, so there you have it.

The music to the bridge (the part mostly in 7/8) and chorus was written in 2006.  I tried several different sets of music for the verses, most even more oblique than the rest of the song.  I'm pleased with the verses as they ended up, though -- straightforward enough to allow room for a bit of wiseacre smarm in the vocal.

The fade in and fade out are overdriven guitar run through my Ibanez delay/echo on infinite repeat.  Oh, and spot the sounds of a bad cable shorting out between the chorus and 2nd verse!  

I have an idea for re-recording this (yes, *with* click track) with less fuzzy guitars and more space in the mix.  If I do that and get it right, it'll come out as a digital single or on an EP.

__________________

The 5th Dementia

It was demented to brag about my length
It was demented to say my mind was wide
open, as if just saying gave it strength
as if the truth can hide the slide inside

No depth or height can stop this
No brains or might can top this

It's wide open season
It's long past overdue
It's high up beyond reason
And it is time I saw it through
The fifth dementia's up to you

It was demented to call myself so deep
It was demented to say I had the time
traveling on, I price my talk as cheap
tricks just for kids to climb the slime sublime

No length or width can pinch ya
don't take the fifth dementia

It's time that I embolden
It's long past overdue
It's wide open and golden,
solid and high like Ms. McCoo
koo-koo but absolutely true
the fifth dementia's up to you...

It's wide open season
It's long past overdue
It's high up beyond reason
And it is time I saw it through
The fifth dementia's up to you

GLASS BREAK DEMENTIA - track 1 - "About Face"

I wrote the music for the chorus and all the lyrics for "About Face" in 2005 but never came up with a satisfactory tune for the verses.  I was also envisioning it as more of a loud 90s-ish rock song originally. 

The chorus stayed with me for years, but I didn't really come back to it in earnest until January '09, as I was starting to pull together a few nagging stray ideas.  "About Face" was one of the first ones I wanted to nail down.  Thankfully, the verse tune came quickly, and the song was finally written on January 27th.

Lyrics-wise, I see a throughline to this song from a few past ones -- "High Wire" from INFINITY DOGS, "The Mirror In Your Mind" from the very-limited-release HUMBUG GLORY, "Automatic Caution Door," and others. 

Voice and guitar was recorded in a single live take, as with all the acoustic-only tracks on the album.

I think "About Face" is one of the class tracks on the record, and I'm so glad it stuck around long enough in my mind to let me finish it at last.

________________________

 

About Face

 

Always wallowing in plunder

from the treasure that it takes

Don’t you ever start to wonder

why the cycle never breaks?

 

Jab a stick between the spoken promises

 

About time that you face

the face this is about

you’re turning an about face

and it’s really a close shave

 

Single, single, little vixen

How I wonder if you are

All the poison that you’re mixin’

Leaves you close to no cigar

 

The air is thick with all the smokin’ promises

 

About time that you face

the face this is about

but babe, it’s not about face

that you think you can still save

 

In a candy-cradled stupor

In a frozen lake a splash

You intended to be super

It’s unhealthy; it’s a smash

 

Aren’t you sick of all the broken promises?

 

About time that you face

the face this is about

Your ‘what’s-it-all-about’ face

Don’t you take it to the grave.

 

and all the lyrics

GLASS BREAK DEMENTIA - the title

The album is titled GLASS BREAK DEMENTIA from 3 of its songs: "Water From A Bourbon Glass," "Break," and "The 5th Dementia."  I like the way the words sound together and the different meanings you can get by inserting various punctuation marks between the words.  Some examples:

* "Glass break ---> dementia": Whenever I break a glass, I get demented from guilt and from the frenzy of cleaning up the broken glass.

* "Glass break = dementia": Somehow, my clumsiness and propensity to break glass is symptomatic of my dementia.

* "Glass, break dementia": A command to my glass (and whatever's in it) to break my dementia.

And countless others!  Make your own!

GLASS BREAK DEMENTIA released!

At 11:59pm Central Time on New Year's Eve, I hit the "upload" button  to put my newest album online.  It arrived a few seconds after 2010 began.  The album is called GLASS BREAK DEMENTIA, and I like it. 

 

I started with a core of unfinished songs that wouldn't leave me alone, dating back as far as 5 years.  While beating a few of these into reasonable shape, other new songs started showing up.  All told, I ended up with 11 songs and 3 brief instrumentals to link them.

 

1    About Face    3:25
2    The 5th Dementia    4:11
3    Queen For A Day    2:19
4    37    0:33
5    Afraid Of Love Songs    4:41
6    So Where Were The Spiders?    2:18
7    Thanksgiving    2:56
8    41    0:36
9    Ms. Papathanassiou    2:19
10    Break    2:53
11    Water From A Bourbon Glass    2:47
12    32    0:58
13    Hip Bones    2:51
14    Sweetest Day    5:06

 

Several of my albums have a similar shape -- intro, songs, intermission, songs, outro.  When I was planning this one, I wanted to see how a different shape might work, so GLASS BREAK DEMENTIA is Act 1, intermission, Act 2, intermission, Act 3, intermission, denouement.  It's also the shortest album I've released, at just over 38 minutes.  I wanted to see about putting out something at a more old-fashioned album length and scope than I've usually done.  It would fit neatly on vinyl as a 12" LP or a double EP -- maybe someday...

 

This is my first original album recorded using my 16-track Fostex MR-16 digital home studio, after breaking it in on my holiday album HIPPO HOLLANDAISE in 2008.  Gearwise, for those of you who care, I also relied on:

 

mics -

MXL 990 as the main vocal mic
Groove Tubes GT55
AudioTechnica Pro 4L

 

effects -

dbx 286A (compression on all voices and most instruments)
Boss GT-3
Ibanez Smash Box
Ibanez Tube Screamer
Ibanez Delay/Echo
Danelectro Tuna Melt Tremolo

 

instruments - same cast I've relied upon for years remain:

Takamine EG-10C acoustic guitar
Electra X260 Invicta as the main electric
Fender Squier Tele
Fender Squier Precision bass
Pearl Rhythm Traveler drumkit
and of course the infamous Realistic Moog Concertmate MG-1 synthesizer I bought in high school. 

 

I wrote a lot of the songs on my Washburn Montgomery J-6 hollowbody and Line 6 amp, but I still haven't figured out how to make either one sound how I like on recordings...

 

As usual, I sang, wrote and played everything, did all the engineering, mastering, artwork, giggling, screaming, crying, and sighing of relief. 

 

You can listen to it in several ways through http://www.dolphchaney.com/ --

* look at the very top of the page for the Flash player and hit the "play" button; it will keep playing while you browse through the site

* go to the "Music" section of the site to download or stream individual tracks, while reading lyrics and facts about each

* click the link on the main page or on the "Albums" page to download the zip file (cover art, mp3 files, lyrics) here

 

Soon, I'll also have the album available from iTunes and many other online services, thanks to my partners at CD Baby.

 

It was really fun -- hope you enjoy the results.  Let me know what you think, won't you?

 

Watch the "News" section at dolphchaney.com or my Facebook fan page over the next few days -- I'll be blogging about each track in order, with lyrics and background info guaranteed either to enhance or ruin the experience for you permanently.  And in 2010, I expect to play these songs in front of people from time to time and keep on writing new ones.  Thanks for reading and listening, as ever.

 

Peace,

Dolph

 

Dolph Chaney

Hippo Gnu Ear

This has been a great year at Studio Dolphty! It was my first two-album year ever, with GUMSHOE KOALA completed in March and HIPPO HOLLANDAISE finished about two weeks ago. Both projects were lots of fun, and I'm really enjoying my new space in the 'burbs. I also had the pleasure of playing a gig in a bar. I know, that sounds completely pedestrian -- I am a musician, and that is what they do. But... not me, so often, so far. June 3rd was a really fun night at the Horseshoe. Perhaps I can begin to work up to playing out at least annually? Dare to dream. I feel a good energy about where my creativity is going for 2009. I walk a thin line between feeling reverent about it and flat out scared; right now, I'm leaning reverent and at times even stumbling over beyond that into the really fun irreverent creative space. I am, after all, internationally renowned as a goofball. I'm really grateful for your encouragement and good wishes. May your year be filled with joy and expansion.

GUMSHOE KOALA now available on iTunes!

GUMSHOE KOALA is now my 4th album available from iTunes! See the iTunes Store for your downloading pleasure.

GUMSHOE KOALA now available on eMusic!

Yes, that's right -- in addition to downloading directly from me, you now also have the option of using your credits at the fabulous eMusic for GUMSHOE KOALA. The eMusic page also gives you handy 30-second preview clips, in case you're somehow a reader of this blog who's managed never to hear what I sound like. Go see!

Poll: What's your favorite Dolph Chaney album?

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