Breathe Like Never Before

So for the first time in the life of this blog I find myself (relatively) at a loss for words. “Breathe Like Never Before” is a pretty simple venture into the world of Donovan-style 60s pop. Just the kind of genre experiment that I would tend to write off as worthless, save for the fact that my perverse bandmates often like these the best.

I guess the quintessential example of that phenomenon in Baby Teeth stemmed from a plane trip I took back in early 2005. I spent almost the entire ride agonizing over a very emotionally fraught song called “Lie Detection”. Man I thought that song was deep…. layers within layers. As the plane landed, I wrote a song really quickly to pass the time called “Taste the Wine”…. a little goof involving the lifting of a “line” from Fleetwood Mac’s “Monday Morning”. Well, the rest of the band listened to them both, and while “Lie Detection” was never mentioned again, “Taste the Wine” ended up making the album. Life is funny.

Anyway, we’re in the process of working this song into a more uptempo bubblegum fantasy… Tommy James, the Go-Gos, Alvin & the Chipmunks, all your friends will be there. Is this a planet worth visiting?

The gang and I went to see Fiona Apple perform with Nickel Creek over the weekend, and I’ve gotta say it’s quite a pleasure hearing her tackle old show tunes. Her versions of “I Walk a Little Faster”, “Tonight, You Belong to Me”, and “When I Get Low, I Get High” were all knockouts, and they’re all on YouTube (different performances, but you’ll get the idea). Couldn’t help but make me think of Kelly Hogan and Scott Ligon’s spellbinding duo shows at the Hideout.

14 Responses to “Breathe Like Never Before”
  1. Chris says:

    That was fun, but now I really want to hear the Lie Detection song…

  2. Lara says:

    I like the lyrics of this one – very Buddhist. I also really like “oh-oh”s at the end. A nice picker-upper!!

  3. Ron says:

    When you say you wrote a song on a plane, what do you mean? Like, you sat there with pen and staff paper… or you have a cigarette-pack-sized multitracker to cut on a demo on, or what?

  4. Abraham says:

    chris: well, maybe I’ll post it if there’s enough interest…. {coy grin}

    lara: thank you. I guess it IS buddhist… I didn’t set out to write about anything in particular with this one, which makes it even more buddhist, maybe.

    ron: good question! if I have to write with no tape recorder or anything, I’ll write lyrics, and divide em up with measure bars to try to remember the rhythm, and then on the left margin, I’ll write out chords, but they really just function as roman-numeral notation, since I sometimes change the key later. I don’t have perfect pitch, so I just pick a key that’s convenient and then figure it out “when the plane lands”, metaphorically.

  5. detholz says:

    Wasn’t “Lie Detection” the one we used for that PSA on Channel 54?

    Had to change the title to “Smoke Detection.”


    When you’re rooming with Abraham on tour, the dictaphone goes missing, and there are soft singing noises emanating from the loo in the dead of night… well, let’s just say: “ain’t nobody worryin’.”


    Get ready, folks. This song has all of the earmarks of a great sitcom theme! Perhaps for a spinoff about an incontinent preteen called “Malcom in the Piddle.”

    Great work, as always, A! This one’s been fun to work on at practice.

  6. Judah says:

    I’m actually responding to the Fiona Apple remarks above, which make me kick myself again for not having gone to see her in Baltimore a few weeks ago. I must confess my general ignorance of Nickel Creek, and the publicity was ambiguous as to how much she would actually play (“special guest” Fiona Apple can mean many things…) She’s right up there in my book, especially with the last record. I never heard the original Jon Brion arrangements of all the songs, and would have been interested, as a fan of his work (the “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” soundtrack, among other things). Elvis Costello has a nice little blurb about her on his “celebrity playlist” on iTunes — something to the effect of “she’s 50 years ahead of her time” — which also directed me to a pretty fierce live cover of “I Want You.” Worth checking out.

  7. Abraham says:

    jim aka detholz: cheers…. thanks for the ups and the cleverness. this is an agile mind at work…. even in recreation, it rubiks-cubes the world around it.

    judah: well, if it’s any consolation, nickel creek did indeed go on a bit long for my tastes. more fiona would have been a good thing. I have also become a much bigger fan recently, owing largely to lara’s influence. fiona’s definitely the real deal, as is jon brion of course. it’s interesting to watch her reinvent herself as a jazz chanteuse… I can’t figure out whether she’s 50 years ahead of her time or 50 years behind…. what if blossom dearie were also a world-class songwriter? maybe she’s a robot or something.

  8. Jessica says:

    I want to play this song to my yoga students, i think it would inspire them greatly. I dig the clapping sound throughout, and like the fade out. Would it be insulting to say this song is cute? I mean it with the best of intentions.

  9. Abraham says:

    not at all…. cute can be very affecting! I’ve certainly found that at least. so, thanks!

  10. very cool abraham! it’s a funny thing; the expectations we have for certain songs and the ones we just whip out. i think the ‘ease’ of the latter often translates really well. this one feels easy, in the best way. it’s a good listen. i like it this raw too. i’m sure the teeths will fill it out beautifully as always though. keep ’em com’n!

  11. Judah says:

    I was thinking the same thing about Fiona being anachronistic in both directions. Like a robot (an extraordinary machine) from the 40s?

    I like this latest tune, a good B-side to some of the harder-driving pieces so far. The TV-theme song observation above is apt, and certainly a compliment, at least if the point of comparison is 70s and 80s programming. I can already see the double-take, smile-at-the-camera moments in the opening credits. I think the show should star Greg Evigan, the not-Paul-Reiser dad from “My Two Dads.” Bea Arthur would surely have a cameo as the world-weary, no-nonsense, retirement-community grandmother (“Shady Pines, Ma, Shady Pines!”) who teaches the kids doing community service some unexpected life lessons.

    Now that the issues of posting unreleased material and singing into dictaphones have both been broached, I think it may be time for everyone to hear a (pre-?)teen Abe singing selections from ‘Thriller’ into a tape recorder, only to have his family’s housekeeper unexpectedly walk in on him. Can I get an Amen?

  12. Jon Y. says:

    Judah: A-men!

    Abe: great little tune — congrats! I do have trouble imagining it as a “more uptempo bubblegum fantasy,” mainly because the idea of breathing like never before is far more profound than anything ever sung by the likes of Leslie Gore. Words and lines like “Strange images,” “frisky,” “there’s one of you in every town” take us far from the land of sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows. (I should say that I love the song’s lyrics and melody and that these comments are not meant negatively at all!)

    Also, the production–vocal harmonies in parallel fourths, analog synth countermelodies and solos, Fender Rhodes comping–brings the song well into the 1970s, with a touch of irony, I think. So while Planet Bubblegum is always worth visiting, we’re barely in the Wrigley’s Wintergreen or Spearmint solar system here, let alone the Hubba Bubba or Big League Chew quadrant.

    Still, you always surprise me, and other Baby Teeth songs have been much more drastically and succesfully revised in concept and product production than what you suggest here!

  13. Abraham says:

    judah: congratulations on issuing the first bea arthur reference of the blog! I hope it shall not be the last. hmmm… let me see if I can dig around for that thriller tape. it’s actually waaay before pre-teen years…. I was about six. I’m reminded when listening to it that I was terminally congested at that age. an “indoor child”, as they say.

    jon: thanks!!! I’m glad you like the lyrics. as often happens, they start out as placeholders and then have a way of sticking around. my bubblegum planet of choice would probably be Tidal Wave…. the gum with the gushy center. yes… do stick around; we have been gumming it up in rehearsal. we are also working faithfully on a return show in lovely bloomington.

    cheers fellows,

  14. Ron says:

    Abraham, my music theory is sparse and rusty!

    But mighty hey, that sounds like an interesting way to write songs in a pinch. I’m not sure I could do that. I am assuming here you are speaking of the roman numerals to represent the chords in a key and/or mode, like in a major key, it goes…

    I – ii – iii – IV – V – vi – vii(diminished)

    At least, I think it does?

    I’m not sure I could imagine in my head “hey that’s where the IV chord goes” that’s pretty slick.

    As poor as my training is, I tend to really have to beat it out to translate my melodies and rhythms into conventional forms. What seems to work most precisely for me is to have a recording of me singing a melody, and then to bring it into Pro Tools, and pencil in some midi to replicate the melodies, and then build percussion, accompaniment and other melodies around it (eventually deleting the original melody singing part). As a teenager, when I played a lot of guitar, all my songs were based on what guitar chords I came up with on any given day. I feel my midi method is less constraining style-wise, but it is a bit tedious at times.

    At any rate, the bottom line is that unfortunately, I’m lost without a recorder. I usually just have to keep singing something to myself until I can record it. These days, that’s not too much of a problem though. When worse comes to worst, I just call my own voicemail and sing. Now that I have Comcast Digital Voice™, I can download those voicemails straight to my computer!

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