Discrete Packets of Song: A Compilation

by Aaron J. Shay

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  • Compact Disc (CD)

    A compilation of 20 songs recorded between 2011 and 2015, screen-printed by Ink Knife Press and designed in collaboration between Aaron J. Shay and Ink Knife Press.

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03:07
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20.

about

Dear reader,

Writing out these liner notes has been a trip back. This album represents three (and a half) EPs I’ve created over the last five years, from my first foray into DIY recording, to the latest. It’s been interesting, looking through all of these histories and remembering each song’s evolution. Many choices I would not have made, if I worked on these projects now. I’m not who I was then, but who I am couldn’t exist any other time but now.

Discrete Packets of Song is presented in reverse order by EP; that is to say, the first song is the newest, followed by the previous EP in its original order, then the one before that, then the one before that. I wanted to maintain the musical dynamic of each little album, but at the same time, I didn’t want to start with my earliest recordings. I wanted to start at the present, and then work my way back. Retrace my steps, and show you how I arrived at my present style of songwriting and production.

Special thanks are due to my parents, Bob and Marilyn, for being eternally supportive; to my sisters Esti and Sarah; to my friends Jesse and Elise, for their wonderful gift; to Strangely, for believing in me and pushing me towards ever more ambitious and exciting projects; to the many artistic peers who have inspired me to keep creating; and to my humble cadre of fans, who funded this little project, and who support the continuation of my work.

Make art every damn day,
Aaron

credits

released December 12, 2016

Steve Baz: Drums (track 1)
Zoe Boekbinder: Vocals (track 20)
Sean Bulkley: Drums (tracks 11, 12, 14, 15)
Kaia Chessen: Cello (track 15)
Strangely T. Doesburg: Accordion and vocals (tracks 1, 2, 3, 4)
Oliver Franklin: Guitar (tracks 5, 9, 14), vocals (track 9)
Faith Grossnicklaus: Violin (track 3)
Stephen Hebert: Trumpet (track 20)
Annie Hughes: Harmonica (track 6)
Nathaniel Johnstone: Bass (track 1)
Luke Koval: Trombone (track 20)
Andy Lowe: Bass (tracks 8 and 14)
Jeremy Morton: Cello (track 18)
Mai Li Pittard: Violin (track 17)
Colin Pulkrabek: Digital production (track 7)
Rachel Erin Robinson: Violin (track 8)
Sean Michael Robinson: Drums (track 20)
Sarah Shay: Washboard and vocals (tracks 1, 3, 4, 6)

Crowd vocals/percussion: Ben Bauman, Sean Bulkley, Brandon Bunche, Lou Daprile, Strangely T. Doesburg, Caylean Nichelle Fox, Mali Gosney, Brandi Hair, Tanayle Haga, Annie Hughes, Lisha Joy, Karen Kunkel, Kate McKnight, Sarah Shay, McLean Sloughter, Danielle Soffer, Bethany Stackhouse, James Sutter, Tekla Waterfield, and Jason Webley.

All other parts performed by Aaron J. Shay (probably, unless I missed someone, in which case I am sorry). All songs written by Aaron J. Shay, except for Track 7 (written by Meredith Scheff & Aaron J. Shay) and Track 16 (traditional).

All songs mastered by Myles Boisen. Track 1 mixed by Nathan Johnstone. Tracks 2, 3 and 4 recorded at Stormy Muffin Studios by Ben Trimpe and Joe Wasson. CD photo by Lou Daprile. Album artwork by Aaron J. Shay and Michael Dellinger of Ink Knife Press.

Track 20 is dedicated to my late grandfather, Shay Suckerman. Rest in peace, Pops.

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Aaron J. Shay Seattle, Washington

Sci-fi inspired banjo rock and literary ukulele. You're probably gonna like it.

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Track Name: Riding Home As The Ghosts Look On
Please don't leave me
please don't leave me
Please don't leave me behind

Pushing ninety on the freeway
My horse is covered in soot
Its iron hooves churn the concrete
It turns to gravel underfoot
We maneuver between abandoned cars
Completely eaten with rust,
Their ghosts call me to hear their stories
But I don't have time for their trust

I am riding home
I am riding home
With my heart tight like a fist
I am riding home
I am riding home
Praying that you still exist

No, I am not a soldier
I could never choose a side
And I am not a cowboy
Though on a steel horse I ride
And you, you are not a damsel
You not waiting to be won
You are not waiting for me to save you
And this journey is far from done

I am riding home
I am riding home
To lay in our empty bed
I am riding home
I am riding home
And my phone is nearly dead

No good will come when I reach the city
When I pass through that gate
Only bad news and a troubled mind
Await.
But even so, the never-knowing
Would weigh me down like a stone
If your arms weren't waiting for me,
I could never make it alone.

I am riding home
I am riding home
To bad news and to you
I am riding home
I am riding home
My only home is you.

Please don't leave me
please don't leave me
Please don't leave me behind
Track Name: Burial At Sea
The water is calling,
The waves are all crashing, just like drums of war!
The naiads are dancing,
To the beat of what lies in store for us!
Oh, what lies in store for us?
And when the time comes,
These walls will fall with the tide!

Call the Kraken, call Leviathan
To the ritual, to the funeral
Call the Kraken, call Leviathan
We'll give this city a burial at sea!
We'll give this city a burial at sea!

The water is rising
It offers no treaty and makes no demands!
The fog is creeping in
To swallow us in silver and cover the land we love!
Oh, what land do we love?
And when the time comes,
These towers will fall with a splash!

Call the Kraken, call Leviathan
To the ritual, to the funeral
Call the Kraken, call Leviathan
We'll give this city a burial at sea!
We'll give this city a burial at sea!

Call the Kraken, call Leviathan
To the ritual, to the funeral
Call the Kraken, call Leviathan
We'll give New Orleans a burial at sea!
We'll give Los Angeles a burial at sea!
We'll give New York City a burial at sea!
We'll give your home a burial at sea!
Track Name: Your Hometown
When we were young, our world was no bigger
Than the foot prints that we made
The years have gone by and now we call them "history,"
But still here you have stayed.
And I'm sure you've got your reasons
For watching the passing seasons
As they all fall down,
But you've got to leave your hometown.

There was a time I thought I knew nearly everything
That I could expect to know,
But the further from home my poor feet have carried me
The smaller I seem to grow.
There's so much that I have seen,
Some of it sacred and some obscene.
Don't you let yourself down;
You've gotta leave your hometown.

Leave your hometown
Leave your hometown
Leave your hometown
Leave your hometown
You don't have to leave it for long
Just leave it by far-
Catch a ride on a passing ship,
Follow someone else's star.
Just a thousand miles away…
Pack a bag, let's leave today,
Leave your hometown!
You gotta leave your hometown.

If you come with me, we'll find ourselves a place where
Nobody knows our names
You and I will learn a few new ways to choose family
And kindle a couple of flames
We'll attend many grand occasions,
And meet strangers of all persuasions
Wearing suits and gowns,
Who all left their hometowns.

Leave your hometown
Leave your hometown
Leave your hometown
Leave your hometown
You don't have to leave it for long
Just leave it by far-
Catch a ride on a passing ship,
Follow someone else's star.
Just a thousand miles away…
Pack a bag, let's leave today,
Leave your hometown!
You gotta leave your hometown.

And then someday, when you've had your fill
You will finally return
To the streets you wore so thin with walking, to the
Good things that you've earned.
Maybe nothing will look the same…
And maybe this ain't the place you came
From, but nothing's torn down:
You left your hometown.
Track Name: The Things We'll Never Do (A Duet)
You and I will never eat at that one restaurant
You and I will never visit that one place
You and I will never get drunk watching Doctor Who again
You and I will never explore outer space
The morning sky and I are blue
'Cause I'm thinking about the things we'll never do.

You and I will never become passive aggressive
Or any more aggressively passive than we already are
You and I will never get there late 'cause someone forgot the tickets
Nor argue about where you parked the goddamn car
No, I don't have a single clue
Why I'm thinking about the things we'll never do.

We will never compromise each other's opportunities
You and I will never have to bear that load
And you will never have to feel resentful
Of the people I'll be meeting on the road.

Oh, take me to that open road!
Put me in front of a thousand strangers but I'm
Not the man they'll see!
They'll only see some lonely hipster
Playing ukulele!
Oh, give me clowns
And paper towns
And the contra bass
And the thrilling chase
And the inner spark
And the streets gone dark
And the dancers leaping through the park
Make my life a zoo!
So I won't have time to remember the things we'll never do.

You and I will never raise a bunch of chickens
You and I will never argue all night long
You and I will never have make-up sex
(Or at least, not for a very long time)
You and I may never know what we did wrong.
In spite of what we will go through,
We will always have the things we'll never do.
Track Name: Nightmare Blues
I'm on my fourth stage of the night
And I ain't nearly done yet
My mind is writing all of the songs,
While my body plays the set
My eyes are moving back and forth,
Measuring the space
Searching the shadow of the crowd
For an unmistakeable face

Nobody can follow me
Way down that darkened street
I'm headed to the crossroads in my mind
Where heaven and the devil meet
If you want to save me, darling,
If you want to save my soul
Just keep me warm in bed and put
A bit of sugar in my bowl

I'M ON FIRE
I AM STONE
WIND AND WATER
SHAKE AND MOAN
Track Name: Fountain Pen In Istanbul
I lost my pen in Istanbul
It's writing without me
Pictures, sketches, poetry
That I will never see

Beneath Galata tower, someone's
Wrapped it in their hands
Their fingers make it dance around
While I'm in distant lands

Sometimes, I wonder,
traveling by bicycle and train
Does my fountain pen ever miss
These hands it used to stain?
And can these hands miss
the lines they'll never know?
The alps are flying by my window, but
My fountain pen will never know

Black lines
Drawn upon a page that once was white
White lines
Lightning paints upon the darkest night
Track Name: The View Of Deception Pass
There's cities made of iron,
Cities made of clay
And I left a city made of fire
This time yesterday
And I broke some bones
Skipping stones
In a city made of glass
But there ain't no city
Nearly as pretty
As the view of Deception Pass
No, there ain't no city
Nearly as pretty
As the view of Deception Pass

I've traveled with the Sirens,
Learned their lonesome song
And the longest train I ever did see
Was a million boxcars long
And I had my way
And spent my pay
With many a beautiful lass
But there ain't no beauty
From Mazama to Missouri
Like the view of Deception Pass
No, there ain't no beauty
From Mazama to Missouri
Like the view of Deception Pass

If you're feeling tired,
If you're feeling weak,
The rumbling of the water
Is the company you seek.
Oh, the sun and the rain
Will dull the pain
As you lay down in the grass…
'Cause there ain't no city
Nearly as pretty
And there ain't no beauty
From Mazama to Missouri
And there ain't no place
'Tween the earth and space
Like the view of Deception Pass
No, there ain't no place
Between the earth and space
Like the view of Deception Pass
Track Name: Goodnight, Stranger
Goodnight, stranger,
The night is creaking beneath our feet
Goodnight, stranger,
The last dance has skipped a beat
You're lovely fire to dance beside
But now it's time to run and hide
Call your taxi,
Pay me no mind.

Goodnight, stranger,
The childish things have all been done
Goodnight, stranger,
Another year has fallen around the sun
The lovely things have all been spent
Now it's time to pay my rent
But I'm not ready,
And you're not willing.

If you really wanted me
You could really take me
You could really take me to the end
To the end of the world
Where there is a light.
And if you really wanted me
You could really take me.
Instead, good night.

Goodnight, city,
Take my stranger back to safety's den
Goodnight, city,
And where I sleep, don't dare to speak her name
When the flood decides to finally come,
Like when she spoke and stopped my tongue,
Don't try to wake me;
There's nothing to wake.

And if you really wanted me,
You could really take me
You could really take me to the end
To the end of the world
Where there is a light.

And if you really wanted me,
You could really take me,
You could really take me to the end
To the end of the void
To the end of the night

And if you really wanted me,
You could really take me.
You could really take me to the end,
To the end of the line,
And take my sight.

But instead,
You never said good night.
Track Name: The Ballad Of The Black Hole Sailor
Past the point of no escape,
The point of no return,
I'm idling in space
Near where a star once used to burn,
And nobody will come for me,
They'll never hear my cry!
No sound nor light escapes this place,
There's nowhere left to fly.

I'm the first, I'm the first, I'm the first
Sailor to cross the horizon line!
But I'm cursed, But I'm cursed, I'm cursed
That no one will know
That so lonesome an honor is mine.

My father was a tailor,
My mother was a queen.
And I'm a star-born sailor,
This whole galaxy, I've seen.
And I don't regret a lightyear
That I've traveled since my birth,
Though my feet will cross the threshold
Having never known the Earth.

I'm the first, I'm the first, I'm the first
Sailor to cross the horizon line!
But I'm cursed, But I'm cursed, I'm cursed
That no one will know
That so lonesome an honor is mine.

Cradled in the tendrils
Of a singularity-
Eternal is its hunger,
Which is my delivery!
For even time can not escape
The darkness' embrace,
So eternity have I to dream
Of my true lover's face.

I'm the first, I'm the first, I'm the first
Sailor to cross the horizon line!
But I'm cursed, But I'm cursed, I'm cursed
That no one will know
That so lonesome an honor is mine.
No one will know that
So lonesome an honor is mine.
Track Name: The Things We'll Never Do
You and I will never eat at that one restaurant
You and I will never visit that one place
You and I will never get drunk watching Doctor Who again
You and I will never explore outer space
The morning sky and I are blue
'Cause I'm thinking about the things we'll never do.

You and I will never become passive aggressive
Or any more aggressively passive than we already are
You and I will never get there late 'cause someone forgot the tickets
Nor argue about where you parked the goddamn car
No, I don't have a single clue
Why I'm thinking about the things we'll never do.

We will never compromise each other's opportunities
You and I will never have to bear that load
And you will never have to feel resentful
Of the people I'll be meeting on the road.

Oh, take me to that open road!
Put me in front of a thousand strangers but I'm
Not the man they'll see!
They'll only see some lonely hipster
Playing ukulele!
Oh, give me clowns
And paper towns
And the contra bass
And the thrilling chase
And the inner spark
And the streets gone dark
And the dancers leaping through the park
Make my life a zoo!
So I won't have time to remember the things we'll never do.

You and I will never raise a bunch of chickens
You and I will never argue all night long
You and I will never have make-up sex
(Or at least, not for a very long time)
You and I may never know what we did wrong.
In spite of what we will go through,
We will always have the things we'll never do.
Track Name: Uncanny Hands
Delicate fingers and uncanny hands
They can't lift the burden from your shoulders
Oh, the distance is getting further
While your tendons are growing colder

And the sky yawns black every night
All toothy and full of wonder
But your night terrors, your aches and your pains
They're gonna pull you under.

You, just you, your delicate fingers, your uncanny hands
They're not even strong enough to pluck out your eyes
And no one's gonna pity you 'til you're blind
But they've never heard the way you cry
Out in your sleep, when there's no place to hide

You're so low,
There's nowhere to go
But up.
Track Name: Your Savior Isn't Coming
Your savior isn't coming!
He isn't riding a white horse.
He cannot stop this ship from sinking,
Your savior cannot change the course.
If it's darkness that you're looking for,
It's darkness that you're always gonna find.
Whether you hide yourself in shadows or you stare into the sun
You will go blind.

Your savior isn't coming!
He cannot break your iron chains.
He cannot stop this plague from spreading,
He can't revive your cold remains.
All your wishing and your waiting, well,
I haven't seen it fix a goddamn thing.
Talking loud and doing nothing's left you poor
And kept your tormentor a king.

But it's not all lost,
No, it's not all lost.
'Cause you got eyes and you got toes
And you got hands and a heart that glows
And a mind sharp as a tack
And ideas, they never lack
But you gotta pull your body out
Out of terror, out of doubt
'Cause you got a power all your own
In the marrow of your bones
You got a power all your own
You got a power all your own

Your savior isn't coming!
I guess you'll have to save yourself.
Track Name: Love Comes Home
Arms! Encircle me, try to slow me down,
Try to keep momentum from taking me downtown
Towards the future, towards what nobody knows but everybody could
Eyes! Undress me, cut me down to size,
Try to keep me mortal, though you know that I will rise
And when I rise, I will get higher (way higher) than any mortal should
And that day will be the day
Love comes home for good.

Lips! Come taste of me, hang me out to dry,
Fill me to the brim with your sweet by and by,
Let me drink your stranger flavors every now and then.
Hands! Unfold me, unleash what I may hide
These monsters and martyrs, let 'em flow just like the tide
You won't find me in the gutter trying to teach 'em the ways of men
'Cause that day will be the day
Love comes home again.

Legs! Wrap around me, take me deep inside!
And cheeks, may you flush, may you shine where you once cried!
Conscience, don't go crying about all the krakens we loosed.
Hair, keep on growing, you'll find a new abode.
Feet, keep on walking, don't worry 'bout the road
Put some distance here between you and me to help keep this truce.
And the day that debt is paid,
Love comes home to roost.

Momentum, take me higher!
Momentum, take me higher and higher and higher!
Love comes home today.
Track Name: The Ice Age Song
The temperature is dropping
The temperature is dropping
And the ground is going to frost.
The sun is hiding
The sun, he is hiding
And the ground is slowly tempest-tossed.
The glacier is coming
The glacier is coming
And when she comes, she will change everything.
And when she comes,
And when she comes
You just might hear me sing

That everything's transforming all the time
From the waters we swim to the hills we climb
Everything's transforming all the time, time

The snow is falling
The snow is falling
Gonna wrap this city in its long white coat
The sea is receding
The sea is receding
And the ground is rushing up to meet my boat
The glacier is coming
The glacier is coming
Her hands will move the dirt beneath my skin
And when she comes
And when she comes
She will change every place I've ever been

And everything's transforming all the time
From the waters we swim to the hills we climb
Everything's transforming all the time, time

She's coming!
Track Name: O, Death!
O, Death!
O, Death!
Won't you spare me over 'til another year?

Well what is this that I can't see,
With ice cold hands taking hold of me?
Well I am death none can excel!
I'll open the door to heaven or hell.

O, Death! Somebody might pray-
Please come and take me another day.
The children sang the preacher preached-
Time and mercy is out of your reach.

I'll fix your feet 'til you can't walk,
I'll lock your jaw 'til you can't talk,
I'll close your eyes so you can't see,
This very hour come and go with me.

O, Death!
O, Death!
Won't you spare me over 'til another year?

My mother came to my bed,
She placed a cold towel upon my head.
My head is warm my feet are cold,
Death, you're moving upon my soul!

O, Death, how you're treating me!
You close my eyes so I can't see!
Well you're hurting my body you make me cold,
You run my life right out of my soul!

O, Death, please consider my age!
Please don't take me at this stage.
All my wealth is at your command
If you'll remove your burning hands!

O, the young the rich or poor,
You're all the same to me, you know!
All your wealth, your silver, your gold,
Nothing satisfies me but your soul.

O, Death!
O, Death!
Won't you spare me over 'til another year?
Won't you spare me over 'til another year?
Won't you spare me over 'til another year?
Track Name: I Cannot Live With Your Ghost
I can not live with your ghost in this house,
So don't go dying on me!
Don't go skipping to the next world, my friend:
It won't come easily!
I can not live with your ghost in this town,
That empty place on our stage,
The harmony you used to sing in our song,
The paragraph you wrote on my page.
Don't go dying on me.
Don't go dying on me.

I can not live with your ghost in my kitchen,
Telling stories that I will never hear.
The goddess calling you has turned into my devil,
Sharpening her tongue into a spear.
She wears the costume of a lord and savior
But look what she holds in her teeth:
A dagger painted red just like a rose,
And what a heart she carries underneath!
Go ahead and look what's underneath.
Look what's underneath.

I can not live with your ghost in this house,
So don't go dying on me!
The next world won't unfold like a flower;
There will be years of misery.
You strike the match and you strike up a song,
Burning bridges that I build.
I can not live with your ghost in this house
'Cause it's me you have killed.
And I won't be the last one that you kill.
Track Name: Nothing Is Ruined
We've got no magic blueprint
But we've got our share of idle hands
With a bit of sweat we're gonna
Make some kind of monument that stands
And we'll have a better year
The wind has blown the bricks away
But they're not hard to find
We'll make them come to us
And keep us true to what we designed.

We're just shoring up the levy
We are building better walls
We are sharpening our eyes
We're gonna make a few more calls
Because nothing is ruined.
It just needs a little time.

We'll keep our knives in cupboards
And we'll paper the walls with our songs
We'll build ourselves into the framework
So the beams know right from wrong.
We'll have a better year.
Oh, my fingers in the windowpane
Your feet buried underground
We'll build a home from ou r bodies
Inch by inch, and pound by pound.

We're just shoring up the levy
We are building better walls
We are sharpening our eyes
We're gonna make a few more calls
Because nothing is ruined.
It just needs a little time.
Nothing is ruined.
So we're gonna take our time.
Track Name: Ragnarok Song
There are no love songs on the radio
But there's music in the street
And there's nothing left to know
And everything is now complete
The ice-cream never melts
Until you are satisfied
The internet is free to use
Until your brain is fried.
And on Friday night the library stays open until dawn
Serving drinks in silence 'til the whiskey has all gone
Is this the end or the beginning?
Nobody's really keeping track.
This is my kind of ouroboros
Where the tail fights back!

Betelgeuse's supernova
Has turned night into day
But nobody is freaking out
They've all come out to play
Because everybody understands
Basic astrophysics
And all the incongruities
In apocalypse logistics
And on Friday night the library stays open until dawn
Serving drinks in silence 'til the whiskey has all gone
Is this the end or the beginning?
Nobody's really keeping track.
This is my kind of Ragnorok
Where the tail fights back!

And very few of us have found
What we are looking for
But we're on the road to get there
So nobody's keeping score
So raise your glasses high
As we ring in this New Age
And maybe this time, all of us
Will earn a living wage!
Track Name: When You Wake Up
There'll be a choir of birds in the trees
There'll be an aching joy in your knees
When you wake up, when you wake up
There'll be a heart of gold on your sleeve
And not a single reason to grieve
When you wake up, when you wake up

Oh, the wind will blow
Your hair will grow
And the water knows
That you'll never say "no"
To me

Oh, your bed is soft but it's cold
And the promises that you've been told
Will not appear, will not appear.
No, your eyes will see what your heart wants to see
And your body won't know, no, your body won't know
That it's free, you've been set free.

And the street lights' glow
Is the only halo
That we will ever know
That we will ever know

And the clouds will rain on the hill
Where your body no longer feels
When you wake up, when you wake up
Oh, we look out over the skyline
And we leave our stones
Yeah we leave our stones behind
For when you wake up.

Wake up!