Empty Frames

Well, even though this is song #37 (I think) in this project, it’s week two as far as I’m concerned… my second week of trying to keep my songwriting straight down the middle. So far, it’s been a blast, even if it’s surprisingly hard work. Not that surprising, I guess — maybe it’s always easier to be an oddball.

This week’s track, “Empty Frames,” might be even more radio-oriented than “Media Memory” was. It’s a good old power-pop tune about lost love. The Cars, Guided by Voices, Cheap Trick, Weezer…. all your not-so-funky friends are here to share in this dance party. The rhythm section is fully quantized, in order to ensure maximum dancing enjoyment. Let’s party, fellow computers.

I really do feel like I’m learning how to write songs again for the first time. My first instinct, after setting out to write with more attention to “the rules” of songwriting, is to strip away all personality from the writing process. I think it’s only after one writes in that mode for a while that the personality — the style — starts to come back. Then again, maybe this song has some style to it… I’m too close to it to tell.

The song’s title comes from Lara’s artistic (and thrifty) instinct with the decor of our apartment — she hung empty frames all over the place. It occurred to me a couple weeks ago that “Empty Frames” would make a good title for a country song. This isn’t a country song. But, when I rediscovered an old tape that I kept next to my bed for the purpose of catching melodies that were in my head when I was drifting off to sleep, that title was still on my mind. And the melody that became the chorus was on that tape. So I slammed the melody and the title together in the old chemistry lab. That melody is probably about a year old… who knows, I was half-conscious. Much as I am now.

Thanks again everyone for all the great feedback on “Media Memory.” Hope you like this one too… the U.S.S. Mainstream sails again.

15 Responses to “Empty Frames”
  1. James Smythe says:

    {I figure I’ll be first again. For fun.}

    I find it crazy that you sound almost ashamed when you talk about writing pop songs. You’re obviously brilliant at it, and it seems a mad thing to hear you justify yourself. This is another brilliant pop song. I don’t think you could call this mainstream, not in the way that word has meaning nowadays, but this is like a great lost alt-pop song. You’re right on the mark with the Weezer/Cars thing – I’d actually say this was closer to The Rentals (second album) than those two as well – that solo rings of them, in the best way possible. I also get a load of Redd Kross in here in the end-of-chorus melody.

    Love the harmonies (but I’m a sucker for double-tracked vocals), and love the way you let the air hang on the “I used to close my eyes and see” bit.

    As far as this being the second week of your whatever, I am so excited it’s silly. If this is any indication of where the new Baby Teeth stuff will head then… I was going to say that it would be really anticipated by myself, but then, it would be anticipated whatever. Alright. If this is any indication of where the new Baby Teeth stuff will head then I can only assume that this time next year there will be many, many more fans clamoring to this site hoping you’ll post up new demos.

    This is really, really great stuff.

  2. Emilie says:

    ABRAHAM. I LOVE it. L-O-V-E.

  3. RØB says:

    “I still read your favorite books at night.” That is so good. Of the bands you suggested a link with, I hear GBV most in this. Which of course is AWESOME! James is right, though, just because it’s pop-rockin’ goodness, it is not mainstream. To extend the reference, I once heard Robert Pollard was still teaching High School social studies well after the release of BEE THOUSAND, arguably their “biggest” album. If he wasn’t, I would actually rather not know that. Does High School social studies sound mainstream to you? In any case, if “mainstream” had anything to do with whether a song was good or not, hoooh boy.

    There is no shame in pop songwriting. ESPECIALLY when it is as solid as this, and aware of what it is. Let it all hang out, man. LET IT ALL HANG OUT.

  4. KatiaSilver says:

    Dude, I have to say that right away, I knew where the title came from. Love the thrift store frames.
    But enough about me. You’re really good at this song stuff! And the storytelling.
    I won’t speak to you in all capitals as some of the others have here. I don’t like to yell. But you’ve done good. It’s catchy- already in my head. In a good way.

  5. The Bubble King says:

    Not much to say right now, I’m uninspired lately. I did listen to the song, though, this morning, and I’d say it’s one of the best tracks. I mean, it sounds like something that a band has been playing a while, and already worked the kinks out of, so I can only imagine what it’ll sound like when that’s actually the case.

    So I’m sittin’ in bed, drinkin’ wine, hoping for an early tiredness tonight, and I’m thinking that these last two weeks have been stellar. Nothing to be ashamed of, matey. I mean, you acted ashamed of Snake Eyes at one point, and that song is literally one of the best things ever!

    Oh, and, I must point out that, like Katie, I knew right away what the title was about… when I saw it on my RSS feed, before I even read the entry. Empty frames are great! I actually had an idea back in ol’ art school to do some pieces for my show where I would just hang empty frames on the wall, perhaps screen printing something directly on the wall behind it.

    But then, think man, Empty Frames are a great metaphor that could mean so many things… think of the yet-unfilled frames of a game of bowling (or the boxscore of virtually any sport) where they represent unresolved battles, or future potential. Or eyeglasses… fake eyeglasses… disguises, incognito! Windows in countries with good enough weather that they don’t bother putting in glass… just a hole in the wall to let in the breeze… open… unprotected… guard down.

    I have thought from time to time about going back at the end of these 52 tracks, and trying to rate some of my top picks… it will probably be a daunting task, since this thing’s gonna be a triple-disc for sure. I’m sure, though, this will be one of ’em.

    So much for “Not much to say right now.”

  6. Abraham says:

    At the risk of using all caps, allow me to say, WOW! THANKS EVERYBODY! What a great day. I must say that, all of my personal angst aside, I’ve been really energized by writing pop music, and that energy is worth following on its own merits. All this encouragement certainly helps though.

    James: You are the man. Thanks for showing up with such great thoughts. My older cousin Ross, one of my two or three musical mentors, claims Redd Kross as his all-time favorite band, so that makes me feel really great. I’ve never been hip to the Rentals… read about em, but never heard em. Anyway, thanks again.

    Emilie: T-h-a-n-k y-o-u!!!

    RØB: Thank you my man. Of course GBV are in a very hallowed place in my canon — I was at one of those farewell shows at the Metro back in the ’06 or whenever it was. Pollard was actually an elementary-school teacher — fourth grade. Thanks so much for your support.

    Kat Sil: I’m glad you picked up on that titular inspiration. And glad you enjoyed the tune as well, although I can’t think of a particularly clever way to express that.

    B B King: I was wondering when you were gonna show up. Glad you dropped in. Yeah, Lara actually asked me whether the song was gonna be about eyeglasses when she first heard the title. I think she was teasing me. But maybe not? As for being ashamed of stuff…. I dunno. I’m sure it’s just a defense mechanism. Jim and I were talking about it a little bit last week at lunch, how much easier it is to walk through life thinking, “Ah, my band sucks, I’m keeping my art at arm’s length”, than it is to think, “This really might have some potential.” The former mentality is of course a COP-OUT.

    Cheers everyone…. I feel like this blog has really been lit up with a blue flame over the past two weeks… it feels great.

  7. I wonder why I was called “RØB” above. I think maybe cuz I was at home yesterday, not work? WEIRD!

  8. Bridgid says:

    This song moved me, body and soul. YOU SHOULD PLAY IT ON THE 29th! DANCE PARTY!!!

  9. The Bubble King says:

    Yeah I hear ya about cop-outs and arm’s length. I’m in a bit of a batted-down period right now, and it leads to some ridiculous self-deprecation. But once a few things click, or go your way, that kinda stuff tends to smooth over. Hopefully these resounding approvals of your new tracks will give you that nudge. I find if you mix the things you like with your own personality, and turn out something as a result, then chances are that something will be good. So just remember that.

  10. detholz says:

    “Friends take me out to see bands
    Then we eat at taco stands”

    Who hasn’t been there?

    You are speaking the universal tongue better and better with each attempt, amigo!

  11. The Bubble King says:

    Oh and NOT SO FAST! I see you’re trying to sneakily change this project to “48 Teeth” but by my count, this is media-dissemination #33!

  12. Abraham says:

    Bridgid: OK!!! We worked on it today, primarily because of your comment. We will do our best to have it ready. Lots of new stuff on the 29th. I’m glad you liked it!

    B B King: I think that’s good advice. And yes, I’m definitely glad to have this blog and all the support I get on it… I am a lucky man. As for you, good sir, remember that all that self-deprecation comes from YOU, and you can turn it off whenever you want. Not like I can follow that advice, just saying.

    Detholz: Thanks, brother. The universal tongue is not my native tongue, but sometimes it’s foreigners who can stumble into interesting turns of phrase. That’s what I’m hoping for.

    B B King: Wait… how many states are there again?

  13. Katie says:

    I can’t. Stop. Listening. To this song. So, so good.

  14. Abraham says:

    Woo hoo! Making pop music is about giving you those three-and-a-half minutes of bliss. When it happens, I am very grateful.

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