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31 Flavours

I mostly write songs for concept albums or projects. But over the years I've acquired a lot of songs that just don't fit anywhere, or were intended for projects that I've given up on. 31 Flavours is my way of making use of those songs. By compiling and releasing them, I clear the shelves of them and no longer have that itching backlog. A new flavour was released for every month in 2010 that contained 31 days.

31 Flavours Volume 7 - Peppermint
2011-01-01

The final volume of 31 Flavours is Peppermint. Due to a blizzard, this was released one day late. Sorries. Happy 2011 everyone!

31 Flavours Volume 6 - Butter Brickle
2010-10-31

31 Flavours Volume Six (or is that 666?) is Butter Brickle. Released on Halloween, it is filled with creepy songs. Listen to it in the dark with someone you love.

31 Flavours Volume 5 - Albatross
2010-08-31

Albatross, the fifth installment of 31 Flavours, is bleedin' seabird flavour. These songs are - dare I say it - silly. The album was released on 31 August 2010.

31 Flavours Volume 4 - Rocky Road
2010-07-31

Rocky Road is the fourth volume of 31 Flavours. It's more rock-like, made with good, strong hands. It was released on 31 July 2010.

31 Flavours Volume 3 - Strawberry
2010-05-31

Strawberry, the third volume of 31 Flavours, is a collection of my style of love songs. It was released on 31 May 2010. Cover photo by Basia Kruszewska.

Liner Notes

Far Too Long
Written 7, 13 January 2002.

Simple country ballad. This was written during my first 50 Song Challenge, which I used to learn to play guitar. In fact, this is the recording from those sessions. I felt there was something pure in this original demo, so I present here with no additional work. I don't like songs that are simply about a guy who is sad because his girl left him. I generally write about a guy who goes insane as a result of his own lack of self-confidence. In this one I gave the narrator a good excuse to mope about - the girl has died.


Our Love Violates Corporate Policy
Written 12-13 March 2005.

This was an entry for SongFight.org. Mike Lebovitz asked me to write these lyrics. The next day he broke his finger, so I ended up writing the music too. My original recording was purposefully played poorly, because I felt the website had devolved into a bunch of hobby musicians who reviewed everybody else's submissions with a thinly veiled 'I don't like it because it doesn't sound like me.' This recording is better.


Whatcha Gonna Give Me?
Written 1 October 2005.

I wrote this on the last day of my second successful 50 Song Challenge. I picked up my baritone uke and this song just came out. That uke is so funky. For this recording, I kept only the uke and built upon that. At some point (probably when I added the drum intro) it moved from funk to 1980s dance pop. Sure, that works.


Not Going To Bring Me Down
Music written throughout August 2007. Words written 24-26 August 2007.

I wrote this while performing in a production of Twelfth Night. The show's music was written by Mickey Zetts, but there was one part that didn't have any music so I improvised a piece that became this song. It features an intentionally difficult time signature change and a bunch of easy time signature changes (just 4/4 and 3/4, don't get too excited). The lyrics are about a guy who doesn't want to feel bad anymore, and consciously raises his self esteem. However, in this case the guy really is a jerk and should feel bad for himself.


Worst Boyfriend
Written 26 November 2006.

This is a song about how I'm the worst boyfriend anyone ever had. I mean about how the narrator of this song is the worst boyfriend anyone... oh who am I kidding. I'm terrible. This was a lot of fun to record, though. I'm really starting to understand how bass and drums work.


Bandits
Written 21, 22 August 2005.

I wrote and recorded the music one day and set it aside, knowing I'd have lyrics for it at some point in the future. Little did I know I would bolt upright in bed at 1:30am that night giggling over the phrase 'make out like bandits.' I wrote and recorded lyrics before going back to sleep at 3am. This song is awesome.


Philosopher Girl
Written 27 August, 17-18 September 2005.

I had a sudden hankering for philosopher puns one day. Really don't know why it started, but I had to work my way to the line 'she's Lao Tze in bed.' The original version mentioned Chomsky, but being the only living philosopher, I swapped him out for Archimedes. Careful listeners will hear 'chew chew gum chew gum gum chew' performed by voice and wood block.


What's It Worth?
Written 4, 28 March 2002, 31 December 2009.

I love my Nomad Deluxe guitar. I've gotten it to make such interesting sounds, one of the best being the organ/steel drum thing you hear in this track. The drums are sampled from two Japanese artists (Shonen Knife and Cibo Matto). The bridge ('rollercoaster of life') was added many years later, and was a piece I had written intentionally to be stuck in the middle of some other song without worrying about context. It somehow works here.


Sybil
Written 6 July 2005.

Sybil is the name I've given to my Line 6 Variax Acoustic guitar. It is responsible for every noise on this track that is not my voice. I wrote and recorded this song within hours of bringing her home. For this release I redid the vocals and added bass and percussion. Otherwise it's still a record of our first evening together.


Can We Meet In Dallas?
Written 1 April 1998.

I originally recorded this as a country ballad (not unlike 'Far Too Long'). In April of 2010 I decided it should sound like Johnny Cash, so I revamped it, but didn't quite nail the 'uptempo song that actually sounds slow' thing he had going for him. Adam Rabin liked the Cash version but told me to slow it down. Somehow that directive became this recording. Featuring Bebot, who makes an appearance on each Flavour, by the way.


Paradise
Written 17, 24 September 2005.

I recall generating the music by playing another song backwards, but playing this song backwards doesn't sound like anything I recognize. Anywho, it's about the idea of having an eternity of a single moment. It's a concept I wanted to explore in an episode of Corridor C (and thus was this song prepared). This is about a real moment in my life. The girl may not remember it, but that's okay; it lives in me, where it does me the most good.

31 Flavours Flavours Volume 2 - Pistachio
2010-03-31

The idea behind this collection is that the songs have an odd taste, but they end up being good if you like that sort of thing. I picked mostly songs that were intended for an album that was to be an homage to early 80s alternative music (in particular Ralph Records acts like Tuxedomoon, Yello, and Chrome). Then I decided I wanted to do that album later and completely changed the tracklist. Then I circled back about halfway. At that point I noticed I had chosen a lot of songs with the themes of late night, early morning, and dreams. I thought perhaps I had another concept album on my hands, but forbade myself to pursue that idea. So what we have is a collection of songs, and if you find an overall story it's completely unintended.

Liner Notes

Corridor C
Written 18 April 2006.

Corridor C is the theme song from a radio serial-style science fiction musical podcast. Don't worry about having missed it - I never completed any episodes, thinking the story would be better conveyed as a novel (for which I also have no work to show). The show was conceived basically as an anthology series, but all of the stories would be part of a much larger universe (separated by geography or time). The titular corridor was to be the device by which the audience would progress to each story (not unlike the paintings from Night Gallery).


Every Night
Music: 14 January 2003. Lyrics: Unknown composition date, but added on 22 May 2007 with guitars.

The basic track (piano, bass, drums) is a live take using the auto accompaniment feature of my Yamaha keyboard. I'm playing the piano part and triggering the changes in the drums, but the actual drum pattern and the bass is automagic. That makes for a passable but ultimately boring song. That's where wild guitars and weird effects save the day. I dug the lyrics out of a stack of old writings and have no idea what they were originally intended to be about.


In Morning
Music: 24 May 2007. Lyrics: Unknown composition date.

After rediscovering the mono version of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, I wanted to forego stereo as a mixing exercise. This music was the result, and a great success. But like all great mono mixes, it didn't strike the listener as being in mono. So I added hard panned vocals and backwards guitar to make it obvious that everything else is dead center. While I flirted with the idea of redoing the mix for Pistachio, there was no attempt at consummation.


Madison vs Jefferson
Written 28 May 2005.

In Hoboken, on Washington Street, stands the Madison Bar and Grill. Directly across the street The Jefferson opened its doors. The situation simply had to become a song. Portions of the song are historically accurate to the actual US Presidents, but I don't suggest anybody use this song for a school report. This was originally mixed to sound like a scratchy 78rpm record, and had three voices throughout because I was attempting a Triplets of Bellville thing. Postscript: Madison won the battle, and Jefferson is now a sushi restaurant.


Manticore
Written 20, 21 August 2005.

My sister gave me an encyclopedia of mythical creatures. I thought the manticore was the most frightening thing imaginable and needed a song. I liked it so much that I entertained the idea of doing an album called Beastiary that would be based upon entries from this book. None of the other songs would have been as good as Manticore so the project was abandoned before it began. The idea of the victim's consciousness being trapped inside the beast is something I made up, but it sounds neat.


Only A Monster
Written 6, 31 July 2005.

This song was primarily written to use two lines that had been stuck in my head (the victims and disappointment bits). The victims line was something I said to my boss one day, and while he seemed a little taken aback by the comment I was overjoyed at what was clearly a brilliant lyric. Just before releasing this collection I thought this might be a Uke Skywalker song (and thus inelegible for inclusion) but decided against it because I don't want to learn how to play this on a ukulele.


For Completists' Sake
Written 18 April 2006.

This is Corridor C's sister - the two were born the same day. They are essentially the same song: dance beat, repetitive bass and keyboard, and swirly guitar. Of the two, this was rejected as the theme song, and only kept for the sake of completeness. Some people like it better. Girls, you're both pretty.


Mama And Dada
Written 15 September 2005.

A simple song full of Dada art puns. To introduce a random element, I chose to spin a radio dial and record it for the final mix (not unlike what was done with I Am The Walrus). I did only very minor editing - what you hear on this track is within a few seconds of where it actually played out live during recording (I moved some pieces just to make sure they didn't overlap with my vocals). The spanking grandmother story is a superbly happy accident. I'd tell you the context of that radio show, but it's much less interesting than whatever your brain is trying to conjure.


Neon Maniacs
Written 30, 31 March 2002.

My family owned a video store and while cleaning one day we came across the empty box for the film Neon Maniacs. I mocked the taglines: 'Switch On The Terror!' and 'Just Add Water!' Without the tape, I turned to our home video review book to learn more about it. What I discovered were two conflicting synopses. The box said it took place in San Francisco, the book said New York. The box said there was one survivor of the initial attack, the book claimed three. This song was written about the synopses, not the movie itself.


Girl Versus Whale
Written 1 March 2006.

This song is inspired by a postcard I received from Cara, a good friend from college. She maintains a childlike fascination with the world and sees things very differently from the jaded eyes of most everybody else, myself included. In this recording, the text of the postcard is read by another friend, Tesse, who is just as jaded as I am, but has a quality to her voice that can make you think otherwise.


Zombi
Written 30-31 July 2005.

I wrote this music immediately after watching 24 Hour Party People, though it clearly has little resemblance to the music in that film. The lyrics come from my reading of The Serpent And The Rainbow, which I enjoyed immensely. Like Manticore, it offers a glimpse into the thoughts of someone who otherwise has no outlet for communication.


Doggone
Music: 17 June 2007. Lyrics: 4 October 2000, 29 March 2010.

The original lyric was titled '8 A.M.' and was about how I don't like dogs. I don't hate dogs and would never want to harm them, but I'd be happier without them (I like kitties). It wasn't a very interesting lyric apart from the very beginning which is the only part that survives in this version. In 2007 I put those opening words over some music I had been working on and was left with nearly 3 minutes of instrumental. For Pistachio I wrote two new sections to create the idea of a never-ending nightmare, one which includes several moments of 'waking up' that only lead to more awful visions. The 'oh boy' at the end is for Laurie Anderson fans.


Way To Go
Written 15, 30 September 2005.

After one of his performances, I spoke briefly with Neil Innes about the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band, which had just scheduled a reunion show. I asked if the show would include everybody who is available ('available' being an impromptu euphemism). Neil sliced it by saying 'everyone who is alive, yes.' I wrote these lyrics about Vivian Stanshall's death, which I remembered incorrectly. He died in a fire, and he lived on boat at one point. But he did not die in a boat fire (which to be honest is just the kind of bizarre death that would fit him perfectly). His real death doesn't make for a good song so I didn't rewrite it. It is no longer about Vivian Stanshall but a fictional character almost exactly like him, save for the circumstances of his death.

31 Flavours Flavours Volume 1 - Vanilla
2010-01-31

Vanilla is the first in a series of releases known collectively as 31 Flavours. The project is basically a way to release songs and demos that don't belong to any other project, and would otherwise never see the light of day. They will come out on the the 31st of every month that has 31 days. Vanilla was released on 31 January 2010.

Liner Notes

First Snow
Written 12 February 2006.

One of the most beautiful things in the world is newfallen snow in New York City. One of the ugliest things in the world is New York City snow after six hours. This song is completely inspired by that idea, despite the many arguments that I must have written this song about a specific and particularly bad relationship. It's definitely written to have that kind of double meaning, but it's not about anybody, really. Not even you. In January 2007 I made a video for this track and premiered it on Midnight Ukulele Disco.


That Night
Written 22 July 2006.

This song began life as a waltz, and was changed to its current form in January 2010. I first played this song live a month after I lost my home in a fire. I thought it was topical and funny, but the audience just thought it was sad. It's not about a fire at all. It's a warning that English majors should not become involved with non-English majors.


Horatia
Written 26 February 2006.

One day I decided I should write a song about an inanimate object. I looked around my living room and spied the Paxil clock. This was a bit of pharmaceutical swag my mother thought would be funny decor. The funniest thing about it was that it was improperly constructed. The true 12 was actually at 9 (meaning the hands would line up at 9:45, which does not happen on a regular clock). Furthermore, that means that for most of the day, the hour hand was a bit further than it should have been, so you could never quite tell what time it is. Very disconcerting. Horatia means 'timekeeper,' by the way.


Always Cursing
Written 25, 28 August 2005.

This is a song about why it sucks to be a nice person. Good fails, evil triumphs, all that jazz. I think it's one of my best lyrics, honestly. The instrumental break features Bebot, which is the coolest and cutest item in the iTunes App Store. I expect you'll hear him in a lot of recordings from now on.


Valentine's Day Mascara
Written 3, 5, 12 February 2002.

Ah, the fun one has when being a linguist. This is obviously a song written from the title, and not much more can be said about the content. I had originally written this for The St. Olaf Emergency Statue Fund, which is a band-like thing I was in with Mike Lebovitz. We never got much further than our demo EP, but never officially broke up, either. Believe it or not, I did not realize the verses were a waltz until I re-recorded it for this release.


Have A Good Day
Written 25 March 2005.

This is a birthday song written for Karen Fulmer. I used to write short birthday songs for everybody, and sometimes still consider releasing them as an album. This one, though, came many years later and is definitely not short. I recorded the music in the middle of the night (though I can't believe I recorded a trumpet at 2am without disturbing my neighbours) and when it came time to write lyrics the next day, I realized it was Karen's birthday, so this is my first publicly released birthday song.


Broken A Record
Written 16-17 July 2005.

Oh, for the love of puns. Guinness plus records equals a pun trifecta! And apart from that it's actually quite a touching love song. I like love songs that are a bit different or left of the dial (the best is Dogbowl's 'Hot Day In Waco').


You Need A Woman
Written 17, 20 August 2005.

Sometimes people ask me why I don't have a girlfriend, or why I'm not dating, or why I don't seem to care that I don't have a girlfriend and am not dating. If someone asks a woman these things, the implication is 'you're not complete without a man.' So I wanted to write a song that is the other side of that.

I got the chorus straightaway, but didn't know how to get the verses in there. I asked pop-hook king Adam Rabin if he could help, and along with 'they say you need a verse to be complete,' he suggested that I just release it as is, because more verses would probably get in the way of an otherwise simple message.


Likely Late Today
Written 28, 30 September 2005.

True story. On this particular morning I wrote an email to my boss with the subject 'likely late today' that read 'busses seem to have stopped picking up passengers. I've been standing here for 30 minutes watching them go by.' He responded that it sounded like a song lyric waiting to happen. So here it is.


Highway Chili
Written 18 September 2005.

Many years ago my sister bought a Jimi Hendrix best-of album. One of the titles is 'Highway Chile,' which I read as a roadway in South America, not as an abbreviation of 'child.' I don't want my song to be confused with Jimi's, so I've changed the spelling and made mine about food.

I have no idea why, but I originally recorded this with a Bee Gees-type falsetto in the verses. Even more surprising is that I still have that take saved in the multitrack recording, and could reinstate it at any time.


Normal Alarm
Written 31 July, 4 August 2005.

I was in Chicago in 2002 to see The Residents, and every single thing described in this song actually happened. There are lots of other wacky stories from that trip, but this one is the best. I used to love telling the story, but realized it would make a much better talking song with its built-in repeating chorus. There are a few more details from this particular story, so if you are with me and have some time to kill, ask for the full tale.


Wrap Yourself Up Inside A Dream
Written 5 January 2002 (words), 27 May 2006 (music).

My original notes for this song say that it came to me in a dream, and that a girl I haven't seen since elementary school sang it. I don't remember this dream and have no idea who the girl was. My notes indicate that I didn't quite remember the song from the dream, and what we have is an attempted reconstruction. I wrote the lyrics in 2002 and let them sit for a few years.

In remixing this recording for this collection, I discovered a vocal track for two other songs: 'Winter Petal' and 'Parcels Over Germany.' What I had done was record a new piece of music, and tested out several lyrics I had set aside. The lullaby won, but now I wonder what will become of the others.

2009
2009-12-31

2009 is a 7-song EP of songs I recorded in 2009 that didn't belong to other projects. It just seemed like the thing to do. Released on New Year's Eve of that year and planted the seed for what would become the 31 Flavours project.

Do you like 31 Flavours?
Chris is busking.  Drop a dollar or something in here.
Toss a buck in the case.
I'll spend it all on ice cream.