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My friend played this song for me a long time ago and I recently rediscovered it- and since then I have not been able to stop thinking about it. The other day I realized it's been distracting me every time I sit down to work on my own music... There was something baffling about it that I just could not let go of- something I completely didn't understand that felt like a magic trick.


I'm a huge fan of interesting structures in songwriting. Sometimes I think about a song's outline like a vehicle. Many, many, journeys are made in some version of a standard 4 door sedan/suv. It's a format that works decently well, and gets the job done. For many journeys, we probably care more about where we are going than how we get there. But... if you wanted your vehicle to go really fast, or launch into space, or dig a hole through a mountain, or submerge underwater and roll across the seafloor... a 4 door sedan is not going to cut it. There are some places you simply cannot go (some goals you cannot achieve) unless you build something new for it. I get really excited when I find a song that requires a new type of vehicle to get where I want it to go- that's when I know something really special and cool is happening.


Liquor Store is a 3 wheeled sports car of a song.


When I listened to again the other day I realized that the sections were organized like nothing I've ever seen in a pop song. There is a super early chorus- but it's not?* (it never actually comes back in that form) and there's gutpunching secret special long verse-bridge thing?* right where the second chorus might be? and there's this rude, moody, sneaky lead guitar riff that fills in all the cracks and glues everything together... It's cool as hell.


I don't usually care much for covers, or spending lots of time learning other people's songs- but desperately needed to take it apart and see what makes it tick, lol. So I opened it up in my daw and started making notes, dropping pins and cutting it up to try to give a name to everything that's happening. There is A LOT to love about this track.


Naming sections in this song feels wrong- or, it requires somewhat loose, flexible definitions of these things (at least within my own musical vocabulary) It's really a song full of motifs, that follow their own logic and achieve musical goals in their own ways. I think this song is an excellent example of how to break out of the conventional verse/chorus structure, while still achieving similar musical goals.


The intro is a rude, bossy guitar lead played over the main beat/ pulse of the song. It introduces something we can call "home" and indeed it does act like a "home"- returning 4 separate times throughout the song.


Then suddenly right after the opening, *WHAM* the song hits you with this big Chorus*. We know it's a chorus because it sounds huge, it has tons of elements, it's bold, layered, and rich. It wraps you up in this world of sound and texture... and then suddenly before the lyric finishes- it gets cut off by the first verse.


The first verse builds like you'd expect, until it reaches a climax- and breaks away into this quite, smaller section- it almost sounds like the song got distracted by the line "Liquor Store" and meandered into this funny little bridge bit... Which is then relieved by a bridge featuring the second instance of the intro guitar lead.


Then we enter verse 2... still without ever returning to the landscape promised by that first chorus in the first propper section of the song... At this point, we've been shown all the elements of that chorus separately in the first verse, post-verse?, bridge etc... but still no return of the big vocals and gut wrenching lines from that first chorus. Verse 2 brings more wordplay, and morphs into a big call/response cheering? section. (It's a vibe, you gotta trust me, it's awesome.)


This time, the verse give way straight into... another section dominated by that intro guitar riff, as another bridge :) lol. That makes 3... I think this section works only because of where we are going next (BIG bridge energy). It just wouldn't flow right to have the previous weird cheering/self actualizing moment come right on the heels of the next big reveal, lyrically. This bridge serves as a musical buffer of sorts.


Then... FINALLY. We arrive back at the opening line. The chorus has finally returned... but this time all the instruments we've known so far drop out, and suddenly there's this big, booming piano chord rumbling underneath. It's dramatic as hell. What I love about this section is how much it both follows and breaks my expectations. Like- I know that at this point in the song I'm ready for a change in texture, and a more conventional "bridge" moment... but I also know I've been waiting for that big huge chorus to come back since the beginning... and now they're both here at once!!! Ah! It builds like a conventional "bridge" adding texture and harmony and tension as it goes, and when we get to the end of the line (the moment when the first chorus got cut off by that verse)...


Everything breaks down- there's a double chorus, with a second half that's completely different from the first. All the elements get thrown back into the mix, but this time they follow the big booming idea introduced by the piano, instead of the bouncier things they did before. Even the electric guitar that has been playing it's lead throughout has a moment of freedom to play something new over this line. It's awesome. Everything is huge and awesome.


And it resolves back down into the 4th instance of that familiar guitar lead from the very beginning which plays us out, while the vocals carry through.

I have barely touched so many parts of this song. I could go on and on about what each sound is doing where, and how unforgettable, evocative, and unique Remi Wolfs lyrics are... but I highly encourage you to go give it a listen. That song is truly unique and resoundingly brilliant. I learned a lot from spending a day studying it. I feel like I got to examine a rare exotic flower and try to identify all it's parts.



When I'm working on my own music, I often spend some time transcribing it into a midi editor. I usually do this when I'm in the early stages of writing and still trying to get my head around what ideas I have, and how I want to fit them together. I ended up spending some time doing a midi mix of Liquor Store while I was analyzing it- which you can check out here if you'd like!

(This isn't about music)





Since recovering from my infection/injury in March, I've been struggling to find my footing and get back in the groove creatively. The brain is collection of habits- neurons stimulating neurons in patterns that you you. I'm beginning to realize that the forced-restful state that I was in while I was sick (and recovering) has lead to some bad habits, and undesirable patterns in my head. Some, simply time-wasting- too many games, too much sitting and being comfortably bored. Others, a bit more worrisome...


I've been having night terrors? or anxiety attacks? or something else? Each day when the sun starts to set, I start to feel this terrible feeling creep back into my mind and take over. I worry about lots of spiraling and awful ideas. I feel like I cannot trust my own body to heal anymore (but maybe that's just part of getting older) I worry that I haven't accomplished enough or made enough out of my life so far. I get terrified of the unrelenting nothingness I expect in death, and I remember being sick in a bed for a month, spending every day worrying (or distracting myself from worrying) while doing everything I can to get better. Perhaps that's the worst of it. I start to realize that more than likely I will die like that someday- sick, in a bed, doing everything I can to get better- but instead of getting better, I will not. This will happen, sooner or later- it's a fact as certain as life itself- there can be no life without end. (It is probably one of the earliest, most consistent, and inevitably binary distinctions that a creature can comprehend.)


Each thing in the universe that humans can name must be distinct from something else. We name things in relation to other things- with the intention to call them together, or push them apart.


In music and art, we call this dynamic range. It's the relative distance between the two most extreme points- How dis-similar is brightest color from the darkest, ect...- How loud is the loudest moment compared to the quietest, etc... Some pieces are subtle and lovely, keeping their biggest moments no more than a whisper more intense than their quietest. Hushed secrets, and vague impressions- suggesting ideas without fully committing. Some pieces are loud and busy, constantly ramping between two extremes, forcing together/apart moments of silence and noise and figure and ground. Declarative statements that shout at you across the room and force your attention.


It's easy to say the loudest thing is the better thing because it's simply easier to see. But, in truth, the loudest thing in the universe cannot be defined without referencing the quietest thing. So which thing is more impressive?- The loudest thing certainly requires more energy, but if the world is full of other very loud things, then it doesn't stand out as much as the quiet thing? But just by the nature of perception, how likely are any of us to see the quietest thing? (however lovely it may be...)


How can we measure the qualities of a life? If art is like life, perhaps the dynamic range of life can be found by comparing a moment when you are "most alive" with the moment when you return to the earth.


If all endings are the same grave return to silence, then the loudest, busiest, most chaotic life certainly has the biggest dynamic range. I has many chapters- it is able to enunciate the widest variety of experiences. (The brain is great at categorizing and separating distinct experiences.) You can remember each unusual moment from a chapter of your life much more vividly than a span of time in which mostly similar things happened.


But that distinction, too, relies on personal context. In fact is, the human brain will store chapters and distinctions in a seemingly monochromatic span of time, too. Though the apparent dynamic contrast is less- the brain creates/identifies moments as being distinctive from one another. A quiet thing still has a rich, exquisite pallet of subtle variations.



So which piece is better- One with more dynamic range, or one with less?... It depends entirely on what it means to you. One cannot exist without the other (even in the context of this hypothetical question). The evaluation of a lifetime's work is done by the people who interacted with it, not by the work itself. In art, we generally talk about a piece being more successful if it connects deeply with a sizable portion of its intended audience... Perhaps it's true that a life is ultimately measured in both depth and breadth of relationships with the people in your world.


Maybe the painting dies each time we look away. Our direct experience of it has ceased, yet our feelings about it (whatever ideas it gave you) remain. The piece is given context by you, and your observation of it. It's not up to the piece to decide what it means, it's up to all of us who look at it.


What I think I am doing, and what I am actually doing, and what I think I wish I were doing is irrelevant, to some extent.


When a human life ends, the the capacity for that human to generate new experiences for/ with other people ends. But the experiences they already had are as real as they were when they were alive- and the collective memory of those experiences and actions, are as real as any life can be.




I got really sick in March, and it derailed my life for about a month. I'm happy to report that recovery is going well and I'm starting to feel like myself again. I'm still processing what happened and how scary it really was. My doctor said this was something that might have killed you 150 years ago, but modern antibiotics really are a life saver. Honestly I'm just so glad that I made it out of this without any serious lasting consequences or lifestyle changes. I have a lot to be thankful for, and I'm so grateful I was able to take the time I needed to ensure I got better.


I'm so grateful for all my friends and family who helped me through the worst of it. <3 This experience has been both a scary a wake up call, and a lovely reminder of all the people in my life who would go out of their way to take care of me.


I'm continually humbled by all the love and resources that my family and friends have poured into me all my life. It takes a lot to make a person who they are, and I continue to feel the weight of that love and energy in everything I work on.


There's a lot to do to keep up with my timeline, and losing a month certainly didn't help. I've got plenty of stuff to record and edit for the album... and the endless churning and bubbling germination of undeveloped ideas and structures continues to simmer at the piano as often as I sit down on the bench.


I was away from the piano (and mostly the guitar too) while I was recovering at my parents house, and I'm so glad to be back at an instrument to help me process all of this. New songs, and newly realized songs are starting to take shape. Sometimes the unfinished song is a monster that threatens to consume crush you under its weight. Sometimes it's a towering tree covered in vines rising higher than the clouds and begging you to climb up and explore. Other times it's a limp, tired animal that you try to drag reluctantly across the finish line. And sometimes it's a confused little fish swimming through the substrate of your imagination, trying to find the water it can most easily breath in. I'm relieved to have these creatures back in my life.

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