Album Song Meanings

1. Tralfamadore- Named after the alien planet in Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughter House Five.

“All time is all time. It does not change. It does not lend itself to warnings or explanations. It simply is. Take it moment by moment, and you will find that we are all, as I’ve said before, bugs in amber.”

The little re-occurring tag line at 1 minute is supposed to represent a time jump. There are parts in this song that just seem a little off (the slide guitar and some improvised acoustic beats), and I like that; I don’t think alien races are depicted honestly very often….perhaps they too have quirks and flaws.

2. (!) – I didn’t know what to name this one, and because of the riff’s cyclical nature I thought it worked better as an intro to track 3…The exclamation point is supposed to represent the surprise at the speed at which the rain falls and leaves (referencing the album cover [which is in fact a recreated scene from Asterios Polyp, a graphic novel by David Mazzucchelli.])

The melancholic nature of this idea (it’s not really a full song…) came about one rainy Sunday morning when I was still a sophomore in high school.

I hated high school.

3. Salt Wives and Sugamonks – Sugamonk is a band named Jared and I once found on a random band name generator and the idea of this plump monk interested in sweets and human delights has stuck in my mind…

Salt Wives are essentially part time prostitutes who live with (already married) sailors for the duration of one trip or voyage. They came up in a few George R.R. Martin books.

There is something laughable and then sobering/sad about these type of people. People who are set in their ways, rationalizing their vices with faith and promise.

4. Advent – I had written this song after watching ‘Crash’ for the second time last year and crying my eyes out…The chorus is a series of revealing phrases, each time through offering something more (tapping parts, harmonics). In this way beauty is revealed through waiting, which is how I interpreted the term ‘advent’.

5. Baby Bryson – I had written this as a lullaby of some sort…something kind of childish with a hint of heroism in the theme. My aunt helped fund the recording of this cd, so I thought I better devote this one to her new baby boy.

6. A Whole New World – Cover of the Aladdin song…

7. Metropolis – named after my dog Metro. I had never recorded with a slide guitar before: I didn’t know you needed to hold down the strings BEHIND the slide, so the sound is pretty poor.

8. Riverborn – There was something proud about the tagline at the end of each chorus. I wanted the name to reflect that pride. There is something prideful shared among those born alongside the Mississippi, something that a constant and inexorable natural force teaches you. I used this name as the title for my boathouse project essay:


It is nighttime on the Mississippi. The river lies awake before me: an alive, horizontal experience, extending forever in diametric opposition.  I stand on the Centennial Bridge, the river a liquid eternity flowing beneath with rigorous intent. The bridge creaks and moans, its steel bones aching under the constant stress of existence: compressed by its weight and the weight of those above it, in a never ending task of endurance…Atlas holding up the heavens. The bridge sighs and I am moved to depart, touching ground on the northern side of the river’s expanse. I am in Rock Island now, a historic and industrious testament to human engineering. Looking back at the flowing entity behind, the city pales in comparison. Feelings of inconsequence are routine here on the river: each human life with its problems and triumphs will come and fade, but the river remains.

The air is alive with music and alcohol; good times from The District ignite my nose with familiar tinges of excitement. I greet those smells as I would new friends, with a quick wave or hug before continuing on my way. The District is not my destination tonight. Instead I venture toward the coastline away from the noises, following beer cans like bread crumbs.

Normally I find an immense amount of beauty in downtown riverfronts…beautifully textured and aging building facades, mixed with music and grime, all set along the wondrous views of the river…but tonight I’m looking for something a little more intimate.

In the dark, even the mundane seems mystical and foreboding. Dark alleyways become distorted cathedral naves, disappearing vertically into the atmosphere. Patterns in the ivy become networks and channels of the river itself. The few buildings here represent something timeless, something I pray the current trend of renovation and deconstruction never touches.

I arrive at my destination: the boathouse is set in the river, hidden in an alcove of rock and tree. I open the door and the city disappears behind me. The only noise I hear is the insistent lap of waves on rock, the creak of my rowboat’s rusted hull constantly bickering at the river itself. “Why can’t I lay here in peace? Why must you rock me so? I am tired. You have eroded away my cousin, Canoe and eaten my father, Towboat whole. I know what you are capable of, yet you never stop!” The powerful river never answers, it’s a little unnerving.

I leave the safety of ground and step into a quivering balance of buoyant and gravitational forces. After some struggle, I am safely afloat. I untie the rowboat and set out into the darkness.

As I turn out into the great Mississippi I am united with years of history. I become culture, language, myth, and form. I am the barge traveling upstream with goods and wealth, the steamboat full of drugs and jazz. I am change itself, influencing as far as the great river allows. The pulse of the river falls in sync with the swing of my oars, and the boathouse recedes. The current waxes and wanes along the shoreline, and my muscles adjust accordingly. Moving upstream toward the arsenal I see the old railroad bridge span ahead, its rotating segment open and parallel to the river. During the day train cars haul corn syrup and molasses in a sweet and sticky flow across the water’s bitter pace.

I begin to hear the distant sounds of frivolity drifting up from downtown once again. Beneath the Centennial I can feel Arsenal Island approach, its ominous silhouette looming in the darkness. More background noises. The Arsenal comes up beside me; its shoreline disappears into a unique and unforgettable fog, the kind which exacerbates human imagination and wonder. What kind of military operations take place behind all those fences and guards? The night answers with a scream, again from the District…it appears an intoxicated woman has just heard an especially funny joke. My mind snaps back to the boat, the water, the ache in my arms.

I begin to drift back towards the boathouse, physically tired from the trip, but exhilarated by the river’s vivacious under flow. Finally the current and I have joined forces, two friends sharing in a common goal: a swift return home. The boathouse appears and I realign to arrive safely in its central cavity. I sit for a moment in my mother’s arms, rocking slowly back and forth before stepping out of the boat and into the world. I am covered in sweat and grime, yet mentally clean and refreshed. I clean up and close the house before leaving, thanking the river for the night, promising to return soon.

The walk home is dark and lonely.

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