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repression (intro)

REPRESSION (INTRO) - O
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When I’m lost inside my head I think of you;

all the manic, magic, madness we went through.

Even though the love we had it wasn’t true,

we toed the line;

ignored the signs.

 

In my heart I know it’s better on my own.

Far apart, depart all thought of undertone.

But the whispers linger of the great unknown.

They hide within.

What might’ve been…

 

It was always stop, go, yes, no,

Will they/won’t they kinda show.

Ev’rybody playing games.

Ev’rybody taking aim.

No-go, veto.

What more do you need to know?

I’m just keeping calm, carry on TO MY OWN FLOW.

 

See me, free me.

Nobody wants to be me:

Lying through the laughing like a promise with your fingers crossed tight.

No light.

But know it’s me not you, my point of view is...neurotic.

 

When I’m lost inside my head I think of you…

“No one knows what it's like to feel these feelings like I do and I blame you…”

“Behind Blue Eyes”, The Who

You know those songs directed at an unnamed person (or persons) known only to the listener as “you”? The most obvious example (as far as songwriting and otherwise Hollywood lore are concerned) is Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain”. The most “innovative” part of Simon’s writing is the fact that it metaphysically references the song itself: “I bet you think this song is about you.” Wow. Someone really crossed Carly Simon and she decided to not only write a song about them but make sure they knew it was about them, in a way similar to when someone directs a seemingly random comment to multiple people knowing one (or more) of them will actually know what they’re saying. Subterfuge, but to a scathing extent. Of course many songs came before Simon that were about someone, but that detail made it everything.

 

When it came to writing “Neurotic”, I knew I wanted to write a story with a sort of narrative through the album, not only lyrically but musically as well. I didn’t have a title when I started “Repression” but I knew it was the introduction to whatever this brainchild would become, and all I had going through my mind was “when I’m lost inside my head I think of you”. I wasn’t in a relationship so it puzzled me that I would think of a song directed at someone almost devotionally. I’m not religious or necessarily spiritual so it wasn’t a higher power. Who was I talking to? As time went on, more of the verse came to me, still almost yearning for some sort of forbidden love, but it all became clear by the refrain who I was referring to: myself.

 

Following this revelation, the rest of the album came together almost effortlessly. The structure of the piece as a whole is meant to resemble a meditation/self-hypnosis (“regression”) that opens a Pandora’s Box of sorts which holds the fears about my life that I keep locked away (“repression”), highlighting millennial culture, faith and “hedonism”, psychiatry, and depression. I researched various genres of music, basing my sound in the electronic arena akin to Kraftwerk, early Detroit Techno, and house/dance/EDM in order to create a sonic landscape of mental anguish and, through this project, rehabilitation. Inspired by Adele’s “19”, “21” and “25” albums, my goal was to write an album by my 25th birthday, something personal and cathartic, if not for anyone else, for myself. A year later and here we are.

ON BRAND

ON BRAND - O
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We so stuntin’, we so fly

On another level up here dancin’ with the devil

Trick, don’t come for us or our title

Welcome to the ball, this is no recital

 

Hate us if you ain’t us but you made us so proud

Wanted to be in and now we are the in-crowd

Can’t afford a thing including time for all your BS

So acquiesce the mic

Do it

Drop it now, on the ground

 

Like back, follow back, give a dog a bone

Inst-another man crush sitting all alone

Inst-another woman crush while you’re at it too

No offense, don’t mind me, do you boo

 

PC, we see every little issue

Try and break us down and you know you’re gonna wish you didn’t say a thing

Take another swing

Comin’ from the right, we’ll be on the left wing

On Brand

 

Photogenic generation, how you stay on brand:

In your world there’s no damnation, no one in command;

All you need is validation of your wonderland.

Photogenic generation, always stay on brand.

 

Trigger warning

Nonconforming

Living on our stage, performing

Independence

Nonattendance

Living in our own transcendence

L-O-L-I-M-H-O

S-M-F-H @ YOLO

T-B-H-I-C-Y-M-I you ain’t shit G-T-F-O

(On Brand)

 

Hashtag, body bag

Break to take another drag

Ashes, ashes we all fall down

“Infinite content [...] We're infinitely content.”

“Infinite Content”, Arcade Fire

With each of the middle three songs on this album, I also wanted to pinpoint certain aspects of contemporary pop music that struck me as ironic or otherwise esoteric.  “On Brand” is an experiment in songwriting that is aimed at and almost celebrates a specific audience (namely “Millennials”, “Generation Y”, whatever you want to call us) but also satirizes their viewpoint (“photogenic generation, how you stay on brand”).  Stylistically, I see this song as a Millennial minstrel show, if you will, which would naturally make me an Uncle Tom. So it goes.

 

    Personally, I take great issue with the term “Millennial” and, more specifically, it’s misuse deeming anyone younger than 35 entitled, uneducated, and lazy.  It seems to me that it went from a basic alternative name for Generation Y to a social pejorative in a matter of minutes, almost in the same vein as “hipster” except that the latter has been around for far longer. Like “hipster”, I’m sure this clash of the older and younger generations has happened many times in history, but there’s something about the current moment that feels like it’s the zenith of it all. The media constantly portrays a culture war between Baby Boomers and Millennials and that is essentially the core of this song.

 

    There’s a part of me that believes there are some Millennials that give us others a bad name, but there’s another part that wonders if that’s a projection of what the world is teaching us right now.  I do consider myself to be an older soul, but so are a lot of my friends, as well as a lot of people that I look up to. I once enjoyed the pleasures of social media and sociological discourse, but it’s all taken a sour turn. In an almost highly predictable, Orwellian fashion, Facebook is rapidly becoming the scourge of humanity in so many different ways. Society is seemingly crumbling into itself over human rights, sexism, and racism/xenophobia, and conversation isn’t solving anything. It’s hard to imagine anyone who is not apathetic even in the slightest way. Now imagine being a highly disillusioned young adult who realizes almost everything we thought about life was a lie and basically everyone just makes it up as they go.

 

Discussing this song is incredibly difficult because it’s full of pitfalls and near fallacies and could go on forever into oblivion. It’s honestly been even more difficult to grow up in this generation because I can’t tell if I belong with my peers or if I’m just an outlier in the data, and from that is born a perspective of the world that is self-loathing, cynical, and untrusting. It’s entirely counter to the inclusivity we were taught as kids, that we all belong and everyone matters, but it is also a byproduct of it.

 

TL, DR: I don’t hate my generation, I hate society’s perception of my generation.


(EDITOR’S NOTE: Following writing this, BuzzFeed published an article entitled “How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation” written by Anne Helen Petersen.  Read it.)

DANGER (WILL ROBINSON)

DANGER (WILL ROBINSON) - O
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Warning!

Warning!

 

Now I lay me down to sleep

Pray the Lord my soul to keep

If I die before I wake

Pray the Lord my soul to take

 

Dance all night till the break of dawn

Raise your voice to the siren song

 

Danger!

Danger, Will Robinson!

 

Screaming on the battleground

We diviners on the town

Gather round the river and deliver us from going down

 

Something’s in the air tonight

No one’s gonna fear or fight

We just might start dancing take a chance we’ll see the morning light

 

I wanna dance all night till the break of dawn

Raise your voice to the siren song

We’re gonna dance all night till the break of dawn

 

Now I lay me down to sleep

Pray the Lord my soul to keep

Wipe every tear that I may weep

Ascend my spirit to the summit steep

 

If I die before I wake

Pray the Lord my soul to take

Fill my heart with the 8-0-8

Dance all night let the haters hate

 

Repossess my liberty.

SOS, my faith won’t set me free.

Reassess our liturgy

Is there anybody out there?

 

See the fire raining down!

Hear the terror on the town!

Home is now a battleground!

SOS, my faith won’t set me free.

“In the most Biblical sense, I am beyond repentance...”

“Judas”, Lady Gaga

The second pop nuance I focused on was the inversion of “faith” and/or religious imagery.  For fellow sinners and abominations my age (read: "bad kids"), our poster child is, without question, Lady Gaga, who was raised Roman Catholic.  Throughout her career, she has invoked religion in different ways, but the most blatant (and, arguably, controversial) example was “Judas”.  She crafted a piece in which she was a devotional woman (maybe not to whom she should’ve been) who spoke freely and lived freely in a patriarchal world, and who embodies that better than Mary Magdalene? Gaga knew that, probably better than most others.  She also knew that she probably wasn’t the most faithful or “pure” person/artist, and that sometimes she’s drawn to the darkness, but without that pull, she wouldn’t be who she is; “Jesus is my virtue, but Judas is the demon I cling to.”

 

    I, too, was raised Catholic and have the Eternal Guilt™ to prove it.  However, once I had completed my “education” and was confirmed, I, not so ironically, made it my personal mission to just not go to church anymore.  For me, none of it stuck, I questioned everything, and I was a walking contradiction. I decided not to continue the mental anguish of submitting to the parade of lies every week, mine and those of the people whose hands I shook in the name of peace.  Now that I’m older, I understand the importance of religion, but also recognize how it has been bastardized in some corners of the world, capitalized in others, and generally devoid of value in the increasingly rational collective conscience. However, we still say things like “oh my God” and cry out “Jesus Christ!” and even “bless you”.  The ecclesiastical influence throughout time is systemic and virtually indestructible.

 

    I am not a believer in a singular “higher power” and the collective hypocrisy of church on Sunday is just not something I want to be a part of, yet it still surrounds me.  “Danger” contains a writing credit from someone who, in a time of great stress, questioned their faith and belief in reciprocal good and light, and it reminded me of when I was a child praying for a “sign” that someone was listening.  There was no relief from the pressure, in fact it was increased as it occurred to me that nothing was going to happen. This became the encapsulating lyric “SOS, my faith won’t set me free”.

 

    On a different level, this song was written also as a common pop song.  A “bop” the kids would call it. I brought in different lyrical references to create a pastiche of dark jubilation and inner turmoil.  In that scope, I see this as a song that a robot wrote with some key phrases and ideas provided. Additionally, and probably all-encompassing, I wrote this as a reaction to the “fire and fury” days of the Trump...presidency.  Not the book, mind you, but the war of words between Trump and Kim Jong Un and “threat” of nuclear action. Was someone going to crack and push the button? And then the Hawaii incoming missile clusterwhoops happened. It became clear to me that when it comes to the end of days, all we really want to do is live out our last days for all they’re worth, even if it means becoming complicit in our own demise.  In the end, mankind will continue until the very end when the bomb finally drops, or we will run burning in the fires of war until Armageddon is over: “we’re gonna dance all night till the break of dawn”.

NEUROTIC

NEUROTIC - O
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Push and twist and
Turn your wrist and
Pop and lock and drop
Resist the ups and downs
The rounds and rounds
Of doubt and fear
No darkness here just
Flaunt. Strut.
In the cut
Never mind this coo-coo nut
Just dancing through a dream quixotic
Aeronautic, so neurotic

“Yes I'm neurotic, I'm obsessed and I know it...”

“Better”, OneRepublic

#ThrowbackThursday time.  Remember P!nk’s “Just Like a Pill”?  She and fellow songwriter Dallas Austin wrote a narrative of escaping abusive and/or otherwise painful relationships paralleled with the motif of drug use.  Personally, even though I had my angsty days as a young whipper-snapper, the drug angle came out more, which is probably come from the music video and the red pill/blue pill philosophy introduced to my generation by “The Matrix”.  Even though I was just about 10 when it was released, I somehow understood the sort of anti-Big Pharma notion of “you’re just like a pill: ‘stead of makin’ me better, you keep makin’ me ill”, and now almost two decades later, I’m bringing out the subtext, and adding in a dance for your next wedding or Bat Mitzvah.

 

    As I entered adulthood, I started experiencing more depression and anxiety and I decided to try what seemed so stigmatized through my life: going to therapy.  Long story short, it became another thing in my life that was a rudimentary lie. Of course, I wasn’t fully honest (if I was, I probably wouldn’t have been able to finish this project strapped to a bed. Fellow millennials in therapy, amirite?), however I also felt that no matter my answer there was a predetermined outcome simply because I had made the appointment in the first place.  In my journey, I found that taking the time to directly confront my demons to be time consuming, so I resorted to seeing a psychiatrist to try and tame my issues instead of working through them. I’m not one to open up to anyone (this is all an illusion), but I have realized one important thing: the pills aren’t making me any better.

 

    Honestly, writing this song and this manifesto have been more psychologically rewarding than chatting with a stranger for an hour every so often.  For my title track, I went back to the beginning, to where it all began, but musically. I used the very first two songs I ever wrote back when “Just Like a Pill” was first released.  When I was in the fourth grade, I received a Casio keyboard from a teacher at my school as a way for me to study music and practice at home, and I began taking piano lessons with my music teacher.  I wrote a song inspired by Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” and, in experimenting with the presets in the keyboard, plunked out a pop melody which became the perpetual ostinato and “verse” respectively.  Lyrically, I aimed to write a dance song like “Macarena” or the various slides and shuffles be they electric, cha-cha, or Cupid. Similar to the Whip and Nae Nae, you “push and twist”, then with the other arm “turn your wrist” as if to open a pill bottle and pour some out; next up, pop, lock, and drop it, drop it again, twerk, freestyle for four beats, walk forward, finger wag into double crazy ears (you know, the finger around the ear to signify someone as *crazyyy*? Two of those.), then freestyle for eight.  It’s not transformative or innovative, but I meant for it to be a chance for me to really choreograph an audience subconsciously.  There’s no line dancing or moving your arms around your body mindlessly, it actually paints a picture of the monotony of popping a pill in order to feel some semblance of “ok”.  

 

    It gets better.  Eventually.

MULATTO

MULATTO - O
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In my mind, I dream of darkness, cold and empty

though I try to fight to stay alive.

In the light of dawn forsaken, all my fears become mistaken.

Blood divided, bona fide mulatto.

 

One last look, one more final touch

Don’t look down in this double dutch

Jump Jim Crow, no Mood Indigo

Curtain up. Welcome to the show.

 

One last look, one more final touch

Queen to rook, checkmate in the clutch

You don’t know what you think you know

But don’t go. This ain’t over though.

 

One last look, one more final touch

Don’t look down in this double dutch

Jump Jim Crow, no Mood Indigo

Move on up. Down low [skrr] Too slow.

 

One last look, one more final touch

Don’t get shook, pack it to the crutch

You don’t know what you think you know

That’s the show. Thank you very much.

 

Hid away, I fight to find my own way forward

through the pain. To rise above it all.

In the end, the journey matters even if it’s all in tatters

Tears in rainfall. Curtain call.

Mulatto.

“Don't lose any sleep tonight I'm sure everything will end up alright.

You may win or lose but to be yourself is all that you can do...”

“Be Yourself”, Audioslave

Well, it all leads up to this.  The demons that chase me through my own mind have led me to a door and I can either open it and face the world and find the “light” or let them consume me and submit to the “dark”.  Good vs. evil, yin vs. yang, life vs. death, etc.

 

    This track is definitely the magnum opus of this album, and there is definitely quite a lot to unpack.  In the course of the overall narrative, we are now back in the present, outside of my mind, and, after a little trepidation, I decide to finally turn away from the metaphorical cave wall.  Still haunted by a fear of the unknown, I rework my social mask to better assimilate and play my part in this circus called life. In reality, I learned this lesson during the first couple weeks of college, when my defense mechanism in the event of any possible social situation was indignant contempt.  I was afraid to open up, even though I desperately wanted to meet people and maybe have a friend or two, but I quickly learned that it wasn’t about baring it all, but the allure of the reveal, the eroticism of foreplay, if you will. Life is a performance, and I happen to be a natural clown, yet with more of a taste for black comedy and surrealism (...sooo, a clown), which is definitely a lead I wanted to bury when it actually ended up being a boon.  It’s kind of like a FAR less sexist reading of the ending of Grease (although I traded the sexism for racism so that probably doesn’t make it any better), where no one cares how smart you are, it’s about how you use those smarts to beat the system while also playing the role dictated by it.  It’s one big cakewalk: jovial yet satirical, and knowing I could dance far better than I’m letting on.

 

    It took me about a year to finally settle on the name of this song.  My first thought was “Mulatto”, but there was something in me that felt it might come across as somehow offensive, when it’s always what I felt I identified as in the rainbow of racial colloquialisms (I guess when you’re half African-American, one-quarter Puerto Rican and one-quarter Polish, it’s kind of fun to learn that there’s a pejorative even for someone like you).  Instead, I decided to play the subtext card with “Last Looks/Final Touches” as foreshadowing to the short film I plan to adapt this album into, which this song would obviously be the end of, however I felt that even that was problematic as it could portray the swan song of a character at the end of their rope.  Through writing and producing this whole album, but specifically this song, my focus was identity, and so I settled on the title that I felt I connected to more; less “Suicide is Painless” and more “Niggas in Paris”.

 

    Musically, I wanted to blend my urban and European roots so I drew from hip-hop, trap, and the electronic music of the 1980s and 90s.  However, I didn’t want to innovate the music industry and create a Franken-genre, but show how a simple melody can translate between different genres, have an identity in each one, as well as an identity that makes it unique on its own.