Okay. Take a deep breath, have a Guinness, and relax, because it's time for the scary part. Well, this is the scary part for me, anyhow, because I'm still getting used to the idea of sharing my songs with an audience - I hope you enjoy these MP3s of songs I have written and recorded, and that nothing you find here is scary. Unless it's a song that's supposed to be scary, in which case I guess I have failed as a musician if you don't get scared. But I'm overthinking this, which is a sign that you should stop reading this introduction and go listen to the music already.
Unless otherwise stated, I wrote, played, recorded, and produced everything you will listen to here. Feel free to distribute and share these songs in any way you see fit, but please be respectful of the time and effort that went into these recordings and give me the credit I deserve.
More Songs About Robots & Death
The Player Character's first officially-released EP contains four geeky cover songs and four humorous original songs. Buy it here as well as at other fine retailers. The song below is offered for free download.
|Yield||An obnoxious pop song about repeatedly attempting and failing to sleep with a video game character. We love you anyway, Alistair! Justin Hartley on drums; Beth Kinderman on vocals, acoustic guitar, and bass; Dave Stagner on electric guitar; and Nikki Walker on vocals.|
My second full-length CD saw me taking on more rock-oriented material with the help of an incredible band. Song topics include alien invasions, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and the women of Battlestar Galactica. Buy it here as well as at other fine retailers. The song below is offered for free download; go to my Myspace page to stream further tracks.
|Blue Horizon||A rock song about a beloved character from a roleplaying game. Justin Hartley on drums; Beth Kinderman on vocals and electric guitar; Dave Stagner on bass; and Nikki Walker on vocals and piano.|
All Of My Heroes Are Villains
My first full-length CD, recorded at Extraterrestrial Highway Studios under the watchful guidance of producer Dave Stagner, is available for purchase through this very website as well as other fine retailers. Here are a few sample songs to pique your interest.
|Hannibal Lecter||This is a song about having inappropriate role models. Featuring Justin Hartley on drums and maracas; Dave Stagner on electric guitar, bass, and synths; and Nikki Walker on backing vocals.|
|Rogue||This is a song about mixed signals. Featuring Dave Stagner on electric guitar.|
|Underneath The Mask||This is a song about Star Wars, and also not about Star Wars. Featuring Justin Hartley on drums and Dave Stagner on electric guitar and synths.|
The Lab Rat Demos
About a year after I set up my home studio, I put it to good use recording a 6-song demo/EP to help me get gigs and progress to the next stage in my musical journey. I called the project The Lab Rat Demos because the funding for the 8-track machine that recorded the songs, and most of the instruments I played on them, were purchased with money earned by participating in various bizarre and uncomfortable medical and psychological experiments. No, really.
|Fuse||This song came out of a time when I was frustrated with how my creative efforts were being received by the people around me, and how those same people were being well received in spite of the negativity that followed in their wake. It's one of the songs I'm most proud of.|
|Rogue||This is a song about mixed signals. It's one of my favorites that I have written, and I know that a lot of my listeners put it high on their lists too, so it's high time that I gave you a better version than the one that used to be here!|
|Swallowing Me||Judging by readers' responses to my lyrics and listeners' responses at my shows, this is one of the newer songs that people most wanted to hear recorded, so I made sure to do it right away. I'm very proud of how this turned out.|
|Distraction||If I ever have a breakout top 40 hit, I want it to be this song. It's catchy, and it's not a theme that gets visited in a lot of love songs. I dig the chord progression and the harmonies (when I sing them right). Here's hoping you like it too.|
|Underneath The Mask||The fruit of a songwriting challenge with a friend of mine in which we dared each other to write a song about Star Wars. The challenge was not really successful because he never finished his song, and I cheated because this song is definitely not only about Star Wars. Still, I think this might be my favorite thing that I've ever written, at least in terms of lyrics.|
|Valley||After receiving requests for it from many people, I wrote a song inspired by the phenomenal TV series Firefly. I was a little apprehensive to approach this subject matter but in the end I think it paid off. My appreciation for this song stuck, and now it's vying for a spot on my demo. What do you think?|
After five years participating in the annual Babylon 5 love month on LiveJournal, I decided it was high time for my recordings related to Babylon 5, my favorite TV show of all time, to get their own section on this page.
|Beyond the Rim||In year six, I once again stepped a bit outside the constraints of direct inspiration to compose a tribute to the many people involved with Babylon 5 who have passed away long before their time. The song draws some of its imagery from the series finale, "Sleeping in Light," and is also intended to be comforting while leaving aside all that God talk for once, in deference to JMS's particular opinions on that matter.|
|Passing Through||My contribution to year three of the Babylon 5 love month is loosely based upon one of the great underrated episodes of B5, "Passing Through Gethsemane," as well as the things that preoccupied me at the time of its writing.|
|Patriot||Recorded for year number two of the Babylon 5 love month. This song was inspired by Londo Mollari's story arc and the song "Werewolf" by CocoRosie, and represents a major departure from my usual style.|
|Several Steps Behind||Year five of the love month found me writing a song about the character of Lennier, and regarding him with equal parts sympathy and annoyance.|
|Stand||Year four of my participation in Babylon 5 love month generated a song about the character of G'Kar and his moral and spiritual journey throughout the course of the series. Credit where credit is due: Many of the lyrics are adapted from J. Michael Straczynski's remarkable dialogue, but the music is all mine.|
|Unrequited||Recorded for the Babylon 5 love month that was organized in July 2006 on Livejournal. It's about the life of my favorite Babylon 5 character, Susan Ivanova.|
For the most part, these are songs that I have written since 2005 and allowed to take shape through the process of recording, but will be excluding from the official demo for one reason or another (although there are a few songs here that I am quite proud of). There are a lot of different styles represented here, and a lot of experimentation, so if you hear something you particularly like or don't like, make sure to let me know so I can revisit it later.
|5||I'm looking for a better title for this song, so if you've got one, speak up. I felt a lot more confident playing piano on this song than I have in the past, which was cool. However, I was sick when I tried to sing it, so I'll probably end up redoing the vocals someday.|
|Apocalypse Blues I: steady as she goes||I am an enormous fan of the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica, so much so that I was amazed when I realized I had never written a song about it. Therefore, I decided that the only solution was to write three. This particular song is about Starbuck on board the Demetrius in season 4.|
|Apocalypse Blues II: keeper||The second part of the Apocalypse Blues trilogy is written from the perspective of my favorite misunderstood and reviled BSG character, Admiral Helena Cain. Please forgive the screwy mixing, it'll be better with the band.|
|Apocalypse Blues III: what the river left behind||Part three of the three-part series. This song deals with the relationship between Bill Adama and Laura Roslin, which I am...uh, let's say "very invested in" and keep it at that. It also represents an attempt to write something more depressing than "Valley."|
|Boxing Day||A very short, very simple, very weary, very raw, very heartfelt song. I don't know what else I can say about this one since it's only 2 1/2 minutes out of your life to listen to it anyway. The version here is a revision of the one that was originally posted.|
|Brighter Things||This started out as kind of a gift for a friend, and it evolved into a song that I'm actually pretty happy with. Fun fact: most of the "percussion" tracks that appear here consist of me pounding on a plastic garbage can and the lid to a spaghetti pot.|
|The Chosen One||This is a weird one. It started out being about one thing, and then slowly morphed into being about another thing, until it finally got to the point where even I'm not sure what it's really about. I hope you like it anyway. This is my first time playing harmonica on record.|
|Clear Water||I'm a little bit nervous about this song - despite being somewhat fictionalized, it's the most confessional thing I've written in a while, and I hope that the people who are mentioned in it are not offended or angered by it. (If you've found this page and your presence in the song makes you uncomfortable, please tell me and I will take it down.) For the rest of you, all you really need to know is that it's a song about reconnecting with old friends and discovering that you don't have anything in common with them anymore except bad memories. The version here is a revision of the one that was originally posted.|
|The Devil You Know||A song about a particularly memorable plot from one of my favorite pop culture phenomena, Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Can you figure out which one? Even if you can't, sit back and enjoy the bass line, which I think is awesome beyond belief.|
|Drinking Song||I watch (and complain about) a lot of TV, usually while drinking, so when my friend Billy requested that I write a drinking song, this was the first topic that came to mind. It's not the best performance ever, but when you hear the demo you'll see why I had to keep this take. This song contains spoilers for Lost and Battlestar Galactica, so avoid it if you're not current on those shows.|
|Drive||Very much a demo; nitpickers be warned. This song is my tribute to Supernatural, which is one of the current TV shows that I most enjoy watching.|
|Every Angel||I'm pretty much crazy about this song. It's the first of what will surely be many inspired by my current and soon-to-end Hunter: The Reckoning game. The spoken word portions are borrowed from the Duino Elegies by Rainer Maria Rilke.|
|The Fool's Trilogy II: Amber||Song two of the Fool's Trilogy was inspired by the overall themes and philosophies Robin Hobb's Liveship Traders trilogy. There is a character named Amber in the books who is important to the trilogy as a whole (books and songs both!) but this song isn't really about her situation very much - I just thought it made a good title for a song!|
|The Fool's Trilogy III: The Stone Game||My second trilogy of songs draws its inspiration from Robin Hobb's amazing series The Realm of the Elderlings. This concluding song is specifically inspired by the Tawny Man trilogy and the rather depressing plight of one particular chararcter in the books. I will say no more for fear of spoilers.|
|The Golden Age||Featuring Rachel Black, Nikki Walker, and Eric Zawadzki on backing vocals. This was recorded for a song challenge in which the goal was to write a song that would appear on the Billboard Top 40 in the year 2055. I think I cheated, but I like it a lot anyway.|
|Heavy As Stone||Inspired by one of my favorite anime series, Fullmetal Alchemist. The transitions and arrangement of this song need some work, but who knows, it could have some potential.|
|The Martyr||A story about someone I used to be. I started out not being too crazy about this song, but it totally grew on me as time went on.|
|Mary Sue||This song sort of fell out of me one day without prior warning. It stems from my conviction that all of the funniest songs are also a little bit depressing if you think about them. Otherwise, I think this is the closest I've ever gotten to straight-up filk.|
|No Dividing Line||An ode to the greatest bar in the entire world, and the things it has taught me about treating people like people regardless of whether you agree on the details of how to live your life.|
|Pangaea||Well, I finally got around to redoing this song, and although the redo was somewhat rushed I still think it's an improvement over the first version. Here's the first attempt if you want to make a side-by-side comparison. I hope you enjoy it even more this time.|
|Paper Cup||I like the lyrics to this song a lot, and also the chord progression, although the recording leaves a lot to be desired in my opinion. Still, I'm not sure it's as strong as other things I've done lately, so you guys are going to have to tell me if this one is worth keeping.|
|Princess||One of my very favorite songs. It began its life as part of my RPM 2007 project, and now lives on as a staple of my live shows. This version still isn't as perfect as I would like to to be, so expect me to continue revising it as time goes on. Also check out an additional version: Princess (La Maja Desnuda Mix)|
|Redeemer||I don't really feel like commenting on this song because I think it explains itself already.|
|She Saves You||This song attempts to answer the question, "Just how many words can I fit into 3 1/2 minutes, anyway?" This really needs a violin part or something but I think it has a lot of promise. Also, it was so much fun to do something uptempo for a change.|
|Traveler||The inimitable Baron Dave Romm suggested that I write a song about "Sputnik as a metaphor for a personal leap into the unknown." I suspect the finish product came out a little vaguer than he might have imagined, but here you go anyway.|
|Under An Awning||I think this has been the summer of testing out different styles of writing. This is kind of a skewed pop song about being on an pedestal and how much that can suck.|
|Vash's Song||Inspired by the last few episodes of the phenomenal anime series Trigun, which I won't say more about for fear of spoiling something really cool. It became something much broader in the writing of it, and I'm cool with that.|
|What I Get Paid For||In retrospect I like this song a lot more than I did when I first recorded it. I really needed to express these thoughts at the time, and although there are some mistakes I think the raw emotion makes up for them. Plus I always love getting to play my mandolin.|
|Yield||Sometimes you just need to write three and a half minutes of inane pop song. I'm rather fond of this one.|
Old Wine / New Bottles
What it sounds like: Revised and re-recorded versions of older songs.
|Blue Horizon||I love this song, and I know that a lot of you do too. The vocal performance is by no means perfect, but I love its energy so I decided to keep it flaws and all rather than beat the life out of it in repeated takes. Enjoy!|
|But Not For Me||A portrait of the songwriter, saying goodbye at age 17. The listener should be forewarned before clicking that this song, while it is one I am rather fond of, is nevertheless extremely depressing.|
|(Can't We All Just) Get Alone||Unearthed from the archives, here we have a throwback to the "jazzy torch songs about loneliness" period of my songwriting career, which lasted for longer than I like to think about. I'm currently revisiting those songs to see if they can be salvaged, so be sure to let me know what you think!|
|Hannibal Lecter||This was written 2001-ish but it never got its due on the other recordings I've done. It's another breakaway pop hit, or so I like to think. My listeners are the ones who asked to see this here, so if you don't like it, you've got no one but yourself to blame!|
|One Track Mind||Written in 1999. A new version of an extremely old song, as requested by my friend Billy. I used to play this song all the time when I was just starting out, but now I hardly even think about it anymore (ha).|
|The Poetry of Distance||Written in 2000 for a guy I was long-distance dating at the time, over the objections of some people I thought were my friends and the concern of others. Yeah, people were pretty scared that I had met someone through the scary, bad Internet, but here's a secret: I married him.|
|Pomegranate||By far the oldest song you'll find on these pages...I wrote this in 1998 at the ripe old age of 15, and you can definitely tell. You can also tell from this recording that I have a long way to go with bass and with piano. I include it here in the hopes that this song will finally stop wanting to be played, although if it hasn't done so in 8 years I don't know if it ever will.|
|Zombies||An updated version of the only song that anybody ever wants to hear me play live, minus the screaming that I thought was hilarious and awesome but nobody else liked. So here you are. Now everybody leave me the hell alone about this song, for God's sake.|
The object of these recordings is to learn my way around my new gear using music that I already know - and also to give me the opportunity to sing, play, and put my own spin on well-known songs. Let me know if there's a song you'd like to hear me take on - I do take requests!
|Betterman||Originally by Pearl Jam. I recorded this song as a birthday present for my sister Angie, who is a huge fan of Pearl Jam and who turned 19 on the day that I posted this song on the site. I hope she enjoys it.|
|The Book of Love||Originally by the Magnetic Fields. This isn't a really unique or groundbreaking cover or anything; I just felt like simply and genuinely singing a song that I simply and genuinely love.|
|City Of New Orleans||Originally by Arlo Guthrie, I think. My dad used to sing this song to me when I was a kid so I figured I'd record my own version as a gift for his birthday. I could get used to this "cover song as gift" thing.|
|Hallelujah||Originally by Leonard Cohen; later covered to perfection by my musical hero, Jeff Buckley. Because of that, I was very trepidatious about doing a version of this song at all, even though I'm singing different verses than the ones on Jeff's recording. Still, Nateboi asked for it, and when he commands, I must obey...|
|Holy Grail||Originally by Hunters & Collectors. This was a test of my theory that anything can be improved by adding mandolin to it. I love this song and I had a great time singing it. Still, I apologize to the people of Australia if I have not done it justice.|
|Hurt||Originally by Nine Inch Nails. When my friend Iain asked me to cover this song, it really intimidated me because as we all know, the definitive cover version of this song has already been done. I don't pretend that my version even approaches Johnny Cash's cover or the original, but I hope it still meets the very high standards of the person who requested it. (c:|
|I Think We're Alone Now||Originally by Tommy James & the Shondells, who are not Tiffany (thank you for the correction, seven million people who emailed me about it!). Recorded at the request of my friend Jinx - sorry it probably didn't turn out anything like how you envisioned it. You can tell from listening to this that I really, really like PJ Harvey. In the process of recording this I discovered that my respect for this song is definitely not excessive, so otherwise I can't say that I feel bad at all about what I did to it...|
|Listen To Your Heart||Originally by Roxette. Another request from Jinx, and a version that adheres a little more closely to the original. It didn't quite come out the way I heard it in my head, and the key is pretty bad for me, so I may revisit and repair this someday depending on how violently Jinx reacts to this. (c:|
|Losing My Religion||Originally by REM. I was surprised by how difficult this song was to sing - it only sounds like it's simple. It was recorded for Laura, who told me it was her favorite song in the world - way to make me nervous about covering it when we all know full well that I tend to destroy every cover version I touch in one way or another.|
|No Man's Woman||Originally by Sinéad O'Connor. This was recorded for my friend Randy, who wanted to see if I could come up with a version that would be superior to the original. I'm not sure I've succeeded, but I had a good time playing and recording this nevertheless. I hope it meets your high standards!|
|Paint It Black||Originally by the Rolling Stones. Recorded at
the request of a dear friend (hi Randy).
I had never played this song before when I sat down to record it, so you can judge for yourself how well that worked out for me. This is my first time playing mandolin for a recording, and also my first time making a few of the vocal noises that show up here...
|The Rebel Jesus||Originally by Jackson Browne. I recorded this around Christmas 2007, because it pretty well expresses my position on the holiday season in general.|
|Sheela-Na-Gig||Originally by PJ Harvey. I love the hell out of this song, and it's been too long since I took my mandolin and messed up a perfectly good tune, so I figured I would give this a shot.|
|Wish You Were Here||Originally by Ryan Adams (nope, it's not the Pink Floyd version, sorry - though I can try to do that one if you want me to!). This was a request from my friend Nikki, but unfortunately, I liked the idea of singing this song more than I like the reality of how it sounds right now. Also, it is probably not safe for work unless you work at the Swear Word Clearinghouse.|
Underneath The Mask - older demos
In May of 2004, I recorded a 7 song CD (with 2 hidden tracks) with my friend Jon Lindsley of the one-man band Apt Abraxas. The recording and some of the arrangement and production is his, the rest is stuff I did. The results represented a big step forward for me at the time, in terms of the complexity of my arrangements, the permanence of my work, and in the size of the audience with whom I would be sharing my songs. The nominal purpose of this CD was to enable me to promote my music for an audience outside of St. Olaf. As you can see, that did not exactly work out mostly due to my own laziness and shyness, but putting the CD together taught me a lot and was a great experience. I'm still pretty happy with the finished product - and you can still buy a copy from me if you're happy with it, too.
|Good Intentions||The first hidden track. I'm really happy with how it turned out. There are maybe 8 people in the world who actually understand all of what this song is about, and I intend to keep it that way. Nevertheless, a lot of people who aren't included in that 8 have told me this is their favorite song from Underneath The Mask, so I thought I would post it here so you can decide if it's fun or just incomprehensible (or fun AND incomprehensible).|