Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Yesterday's Light


Some songs just fall from the sky.

And some songs are about falling from the sky.

Or more specifically, about waking up from a dream about falling from the sky.

Such is the subject of Yesterday's Light, the second song on In the Morning.

The initial and ostensible subject, at least.

Yesterday's Light is an instance where the process was more about stringing together images that I found evocative than writing about something specific. At least to start. Then, at some point, the images turned into a narrative and I was able to write with more focus and more direction, resulting in an impressionistic first verse and a more concrete second verse.

I wrote it all very quickly and the verse is just two chords, the chorus another two.

Most of the song is centered around a simple but pretty fingerpicking pattern I feel certain I stole from Jeff Tweedy almost wholesale. But, as is usually the case, the way we recorded the tune obscures its roots enough that it doesn't feel like a complete rip off.

Just a partial one.

The recording came very quickly in the studio. From the beginning we kept our playing very simple and sparse and after a couple tweaks to the feel we hit our stride and nailed a beautiful spacious take that just kind of simmers and bubbles like a neo-Soul tune.

Drew added a gorgeous reserved organ solo during overdubs, the kind of playing that is SO hard to do. It's hard to explain how tricky it is navigate the line between simple = tasteful and simple = boring, but Drew hit the tasteful side. (I think there's a Spinal Tap quote in there somewhere) with a crew of us coaching him from the control room. Just beautiful, emotional playing.

I added one ambient guitar (with Jay assisting on the wah) and it was on to vocals.

I pitched this tune fairly high knowing it would need to be sung as delicately as possible given the lyrics and subject matter. I think we attacked this in the middle of a 4 song flurry one night when my voice was super-warmed up, bordering on worn down. I don't remember doing a lot of takes of it. I just kind of got after it and suddenly we had enough good singing to make a take, the lesson there being to not over-think things, especially vocals.

Jay added one of his trademark layered background vocal choral arrangement and we were on to mixing.

And back to falling from the sky...

These lyrics wind up connecting to the album as a whole in several ways, initially with the "breathing in/breathing out" image (to the bridge of Lonesome Sound) and then with the "rooms" in the second verse, which are in Lonesome Sound and then turn up as a metaphor in Fading Days and again in Near at the end of the record.

In Yesterday's Light, the "middle of these rooms" is one of those anchors or land mines (or whatever I wind up settling on): soon after Andrea and I moved in together, we had to have a bunch of remodeling done to our condo, which involved the removal of walls and resulted in several of weeks of having all our furniture pushed to the middle of our rooms. Everything. Our bed, our couch, our dresser. Almost a month of living in the middle of our rooms. As hard as it was (what a great way to start our lives together), the image struck me as extremely real and powerful.

Other things I'm particularly proud of are "the tiny hours of night," and the way the whole first verse hangs together around the falling imagery and the not-so-oblique Icarus reference. Also, the verses don't rhyme but still find ways to be pleasant sounding.

The choruses connect the present and past, acknowledging that our pasts continue to touch who we are even after we move on. The last musical cadence is meant to be an echo of the last cadence of More, the first song on TWWRL. The "empty streets" are both the very real city streets of my early Sunday training runs for the marathon, and the symbolic empty streets of the morning of a new part of our lives.

The thing I'm most struck by is that this song marks a huge turning point for me in terms of being able acknowledge the "echoes of yesterday's light" without being crushed by them.

Both lyrically and in real life.

Which is really a huge part of what this record means and how it acts as closure for the first two Paper Arrows recordings.

Both lyrically and in real life.

To be continued...



Up in the sky and falling fast
The breathing in is easy, the breathing out goes first
And in these blue electric dreams
Our wings, they turn to dust
They burn into the dawn
We tumble to the ground

On empty streets with
Echoes of yesterday's light

Across a wire in the air
We come and go within the tiny hours of night
Quietly I kiss your cheek
And promise you that
Soon we won't be
Living in the middle of these rooms

On empty streets with
Echoes of yesterday's light


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