As our fifth birthday approaches in September, I’ve started listening to every release roughly in order, making notes as I go.
Bulleted lists aren’t displaying correctly on the site, and bold/italic text hasn’t for a while, either; I’m starting to ponder a re-design. -h
- MFR 002 – echoes “nickel EP”
- Better than I remembered; better execution, better arrangements/production.
- Good snare sound, which I’ve always strived to re-capture. Maybe it’s Mom’s high ceilings.
- The guitars are sort of buzzy/fuzzy, but round enough to work.
- MFR 001 – Shacker “Knowing Her Best, Blackbeard Defends the Open Sea”
- Criminally underheard, which is our fault. We barely played beautiful tunes like “Save You From Me” or “Maybe Tomorrow” live, which had to do with travel and school schedules
- My kit sounds great. Love it.
- The breadth of Cory’s writing, from “Prove It”‘s warped riff and beautiful/trashy progression to the pure power-pop of “One Stereo.”
- The title and art are so packed with meaning for me, and I’m not sure if that comes across. In short, they go back to the Don Quixote story, which I love; the nobility within and significance of the impossible or ridiculous quest – tilting at windmills.
- MFR 003 – Shacker “The Dimly Lit Room”
- Hearing this brings back strong sense-memories of the night we made this record. It was in my parents’ living room, James, Cory, Annie and I sat in a circle with mics and things plugged in. It was raining softly outside; we turned out the lights and lit some candles. We just pressed record and played; a few songs got second takes, but most were first. I remember playing the different guitar leads to “Sophia,” and saying goodnight to Annie at the front door. I can smell the rain and feel the air on the porch, under the porch light.
- Cory loves how our verse lyrics in “Autumn” – “so much/slightly” – don’t match
- When Cory recorded “Goddamn the Scene,” he inexplicably said “hip-ters” – we had to overdub the “s” to make “hipsters.” I think it turned out pretty transparent; no one would know, except I just told you.
- MFR 004 – Bike “How Is That Possible”
- I love this record; it’s comfort music for me. When I’m anxious, it’s aural serenity. Not because it’s easy listening. In fact, the opposite; the distance, tension, dissonance, and vague uneasiness of some tracks (“Robot Love,” “He Came To Steal Your Children”) reassure me that I’m not alone. Of course, other tunes (“Bad Attitude,” “Out of Control”) are pure beauty.
- If MFR ever had a particular sound, it started to diversify here, and I’m proud it happened so early in the catalog. Nate is a friend of Cory’s from his California days, and his music was an unexpected gift at several levels.
- I have a very specific memory of driving home from Minneapolis listening to bike in winter ’04-05 – freezing cold and frosted ground, but no real snow – the sparse stretch between the northern Iowa border with Minnesota and Ames. Mostly, a certain small bridge in the middle of a shallow S-curve; I’m sure I’d know the spot again, even now.
- When Nate brought the “Great Distances” bonus track to me, I was skeptical at first, because I loved how the album ended with “To Cure.” I’ve come around; “Great Distances” is essential to my hearing of the album now. It’s a coda, playing while the credits roll, after “To Cure”‘s conclusion to the record.
- MFR 005 – Beach Puppy (Cory Kibler) “Creepy Eepy”
- One of my favorite MFR releases. I love the minimal aesthetic, and the piano lines, which came to my imagination in unexpected places: lying on the couch watching The Daily Show, in the car (which I’ve since found is a great place for writing harmonies and overdubs), etc.
- “Nature vs. Nurture”!!!
- The piano belongs to Bob & Nan Woodburn, who I rented a room from during my year in the Twin Cities. My longest mic cable only put the mic within about 10 feet of the instrument, which turned out to work in our favor; their fairly large, high-ceilinged sitting room created a nice natural reverb.
- MFR 006 – GiLMO “Points of Parallax”
- Scott and Allen made these tracks for fun, but I’m happy they’re a part of MFR. Again with the diversity! And they get catchy with repeated listens; I start to anticipate what’s coming, and get the pleasure of being right. Plus, these guys can both wail.
- There was an “As Seen From C” track that was cut from the project; the improvisation didn’t match the level of A or B. There was also a weird track of all 3 takes playing at once; what was interesting was which recognizable parts of which songs jumped out in moments where the others were relatively quiet.
- MFR 007 – D-Rockets “Matt Wisecarver’s Secret Fantasy”
- Derek, formerly of The Return, is another of Cory’s California bros and it continues to be our honor to host the music of such a gifted artist.
- Count the cowboy hats on the cover!
- Derek has some other solo stuff released under the name The Ashtray Life – if you can find it online, enjoy! I have a few tracks on my laptop, which is currently un-turn-on-able due to a blown power supply.
- MFR 008 – “Furious Instance” (Compilation)
- “Furious Instance” doesn’t seem to have gelled quite the way I hoped it would. For myself, I tend to write *albums,* so I don’t have extra tracks/b-sides or lone songs without a home on a record.
- “…Instance” is kind of uneven, due to the nature of the thing, and some of its weaker tracks are mine (the acoustic “I Don’t Even Know How Right This Sounds,” the live “Tweaky”). On the other hand there are absolute gems like “Lunch By Yourself” and “Try Harder Or Not At All.” “Cooky” and “Lost” are good tunes, I think, but will end up on a record eventually; they’re slotted for my “Rogue Demon Hunter,” which will be an album of pop songs entirely devoid of an organizing concept. (In some ways, heir to the original echoes EPs.)
- “Pretending to break strings” *never* fails to brighten my day; I always laugh, or at least smile idiotically.
- MFR 009 – “Nebraska Verses” (Compilation)
- “NV” was an attempt to create something listenable out of the vast minidisc archives of mostly live, acoustic recordings from what amounts to my and Cory’s college years. MFR didn’t exist when this stuff was put down, but these songs contain the basic idea; Cory’s music, mine, and our friends’.
- I’ve always like the cover, with the old state highway sign. It was especially resonant, as I put the comp together after seriously moving away for the first time.
- The comments to each mp3 file contain some good info about times and dates of each recording.
- The “Yes” interlude at the end of my “Staircase” demo foreshadows the direction h&s was heading, almost two years before “signs.comets.”
- I love how Mike, Scott’s dad, basically tells the story of h&s in about 45 seconds for the intro to “Mightier Than The Sword.”
- For a long time, I basically strummed the guitar as hard as possible all the time. (I guess I drummed that way for a long time, too.) It was part immaturity, part from idolizing Dave Matthews, and part trying to match the saxophone’s volume.
- Listening to “JATC,” I realize what a gift it has been to have started writing songs with others’ poetry as lyrics side-by-side with my own. Charles Muff wrote all but the “Just around the corner” line to this one. For another example, Aileen Nowlan wrote for the unreleased “Wish U B Happy,” also a really early tune. I’m hearing now how the example they set for freedom from rhyme and stock phrasing is something I’ve continued to explore.
- Besides being a test run for the new ProTools system over Thanksgiving ’02, “God Bless The Strokes” was the first song I didn’t feel had a home in howie&scott. Pure pop/rock/punk just didn’t feel right next to our other stuff. In that way, it’s a major marker on the way to MFR and everything that’s happened since.
- The insane snare reverb on “One Stereo” came off a dry soundboard recording, meaning that the sound guy was adding it *on top of* the natural reverb of Butler Gym. I could punch him. (Also, for not turning my backing vocals on until partway through the next song.)
- Ohhh… flat. :-(
- ScoMo tears into “After Hrs. War,” I love him on that!
- It’s weird that the three howie&scott songs that end the project are all in 6/8 time; those just happened to be our best performances from that night’s recording. The rhythmic interplay between Scott and I has always seemed to work really well in 6/8. It’s a rich foundation for musical conversation.