The Bitter Side of Sweet (2006)
this was a completely unexpected development. after some months of confusion brought on by having too many songs and ideas and not knowing what to focus on, i decided i would work on an instrumental cd and get even with a few usurpers in the process (i’d explain what for, but it would take a while). besides, i had several ideas that weren’t going to work with lyrics. it made sense to get them out of my system before throwing myself into all of the other songs that needed to be addressed.
a few tracks in, i recorded a long, improvised piano piece that was ultimately given the title emily in montreal. i liked how it turned out, and suddenly found myself playing the piano just about everyday, which wasn’t something i had done in a long time. only, something odd was going on this time. i was playing things i either never would have thought to play in the past or wouldn’t have even thought myself capable of playing. time would sometimes melt away into nothing; one night i sat down and messed around for what felt like about five minutes, only to discover once i got up that i’d been playing for an hour straight. the initial improvisation of emily in montreal was more than half an hour long before i decided to record it and render it a bit less rambling.
i thought i would record a few songs and then move on, but the ideas just kept coming every time i sat down. i ended up scrapping the original instrumental cd (which was going to be guitar-heavy) three songs in and concentrating on the piano entirely.
the end result was easily the closest i’d ever come to jazz up to this point, though i wouldn’t go so far as to call it that. i’m sure as hell nowhere near being at the level of a jazz musician. it’s more like the musical equivalent of a narcoleptic evening drive or something. it doesn’t feel like a proper album to me, and i’m not sure what to say about it, outside of the fact that the media broker i had been working with to replicate my cds and make them look presentable since NUDGE YOU ALIVE completely botched the first and only run of discs, which cast a bit of a pall over things, similar to what had happened with WHO YOU ARE NOW… the previous year. i ended up having to copy the cds myself just like old times, but with an exciting white label where there normally would be handwriting or nothing at all.
there are at least a few things here that i think rank up there with my best work, chief among them exit train left (specifically the vocal build-up at the end) and bridgette andersen, which is by far the simplest thing on the album but somehow feels like one of the most effective pieces. still, i’m not sure how i feel about this thing, and i’m not sure where it fits in my oeuvre. it was more of an unexpected sneeze than any kind of artistic statement. a few of the song titles are kind of interesting, lifted as they were from spam emails, and the cover is one of my favourites, thanks to maya.
one thing that’s pretty bizarre…in 2008, when this blog was in its infancy, i typed “tosteestostas” (the name of my imaginary record label/publishing company) into google, just for fun to see what it would pull up. i ended up finding an entry on the blog for the CJAM show sweet static, displaying the top ten albums on the CJAM chart for may 25, 2006. at number one was this cd. i couldn’t quite believe it. a few of my cds had made it onto the CJAM charts before, but this album was literally given to one dj at the station, and i couldn’t imagine the instrumental piano songs being the sort of thing anyone would really be into. so how on earth did my instrumental piano cd of all things become the most played cd at the station for a brief time in may of ’06?
the world may never know.
through the long black night
elbow to cheek
clap your feet
you package it well
i wear a gold watch & chain
emily in montreal
shook lady fancy shining
exit train left
the villain’s lullaby
laughing without saying anything