New album: Matter for the Bicycle Research

August 26, 2023

This past week, I recorded an album-a-day called Matter for the Bicycle Research, which you can now stream or download at that link. Recommended if you like Guided by Voices, Magnetic Fields, or guitar-and-boombox-era Mountain Goats.

Album cover for Matter for the Bicycle Research. Underside of a bridge over a body of water.

An album-a-day is when you write 20+ minutes of new music, record it, and produce it, all in a single 24-hour period, with no ideas from before the day and no outtakes. Actually, this album gets -1,000 points for taking a bit more than 24 hours of clock time over two days, due to poor planning WRT social engagements in the middle. But my total time working on it was like 12-14 hours, so it’s still in the spirit of the thing!

In a way, this is a return to form for me. I made more than 20 AADs you can find on the AAD site under the name Scrap Heap, and a slightly more recent one Listen on Bandcamp, but none for a while now.

But this feels brand new, because unlike those old albums that were mostly computer music, I played all the songs on guitar and sang. I also tried to go for “many short songs [rather] than long songs which drag on forever.”

It turns out this makes the project a lot harder! There were moments of near despair where I thought all my songs were sounding the same, or that I would never record an acceptable quality take (I ended up having to accept that the takes I used would contain mistakes, some of which may even be endearing, like when the singer comes in too early on “Louie Louie”). But it’s also more rewarding, and I really like some of the results. Many thanks to Tom 7 for describing the album-a-day concept and inspiring my songwriting approach, including the use of weird or awkward-sounding titles as prompts. Thanks to Steve Landey for making a band name generator that I used as a song title generator. When you go to Steve’s website it prints out like 50 randomly created band/song names, many of which sound quite silly, and I basically made this album by selecting names that tickled me and writing songs for them.

Notes on songs (listen here):

Sarcastic Recognition. This is the song I wrote first and it has way too many chord changes, which made it take two hours. For some reason I sang the title lyric as “somatic recognition,” and by that point it wasn’t worth recording another take.

Editor-Insect: With that title, who could resist the Kafka reference.

Sense of Gruesome Hotels. A favorite. Love to sing a cheery, jaunty song about the macabre.

Assistant for the Counter Mistake. First of several start-stoppy songs.

Matter for the Bicycle Research. Tight rock sound, but it’s a bit generic.

Excitement-Judge. One of 4 or 5 obvious filler songs with no interesting idea, but at least it’s brief and not self-serious.

Palatable Masculine Press. A dude wants to buy a tofu press, but can only find them for sale in girly colors. It’s a problem I think we can all relate to.

Wonderful Transition. Bitter irony? Lyrics are upbeat, but the music sounds angry.

Weekend of Frugal Insects. After the style of Guided by Voices’ quieter acoustic songs.

Performance. A seemingly saccharine, dead simple song ends up in a scathing satire of managerialism.

The Light Outcomes. Earnest song about my sunrise photo project.

Complex Nhealthy Child. Short song. Makes its point and gets you on your way.

Playful Thick Theory. I like this chord progression, but struggled to stay in time. Whenever I’d reach for B minor I’d screw up or worry that I was going to screw up and then compensate by speeding up.

Bus Above Me. Another complicated early song. Its energy suffered somewhat for the large number of takes.

Sure-Footed Percentage. The last song I recorded, I stuck it here because it captures my euphoria at being 100% done. Plus, by leaving a good song at the end, I force you to listen to the unsuccessful and filler songs I’ve been unloading just before this.

Now stream or download the album and enjoy!

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