In my dream I was on an airplane. Cramped and confining, it was a typical airline experience. I'm not sure if our flight featured screaming babies, but it must have, right? We were preparing to land, and it seemed like a normal day. A startling sound shook me from my typical airplane reverie as the landing gear broke and the plane's body hit the ground, sliding along the tarmac. The communion of passengers began to realize that we were going to hit the neighboring plane, which was stationary and unable to move out of our path.
We hit its underbelly, and slid under the plane in a Christmas-Vacation-log-truck sort of move that happened in surprisingly slow motion. The other passengers and I turned to look as the plane, its landing gear destroyed by our ship, fell to the ground. There must have been passengers on that plane too, because when it burst into flames, everybody on our plane freaked out. Then I forced myself to wake up. I was somewhere over the Pacific on a Philippine Air flight heading from Manila to LA. The lights in the cabin were out, the other passengers were very quiet, we were experience turbulence, and I was listening to Can't Wake Up for the third or fourth time through.
I first heard your music in the form of Dearly Departed as part of an NPR free music sampler in 2014. I liked it. In early 2018, as I was in the midst of preparations for my second full-nerd musical and social pilgrimage to Bali, I found out you were coming out with a new album. I thought, shit, why not, and I pre-ordered it. This prompted me to go back and buy When the War Came, so I could dig into your older stuff before the new war came. When Can't Wake Up was released, I probably listened to the whole thing on the first day, and I thought, cool. It was like being smacked in the face by a wall of sound (not like Phil Spector's wall - a purer, less commercialized version of the same metaphor). I heard it, generally liked it, but didn't know what was going on. Then, on my first set of flights to Bali (this was a month after the album came out) I decided to listen to the whole thing again. I still liked it without being able to mentally break it down, but this time I was able to get a feeling from the music. It was a feeling of calm terror. The feeling fit the scenario - whenever I'm on a plane I remain cognizant of the fact that something could go wrong at any second, but also stay perfectly relaxed because I know I'm committed and its out of my hands... especially somewhere over the Pacific. I did the same deal, listening to the full album on the way back (that's when I had the dream). By that time I had started becoming attached to the music - it had become "my Philippines album". The music and sound were so distinct that any time I listened, I could easily imagine being back on Air Philippines, and the feeling of going to a wild-ass place like Bali. At this time, I still did not know the name of the album.
I returned to Dallas with a subdued feeling of dread. Bali, for me, is one of those places that has a culture and a lifestyle and a look and feel that, in only a short time, feels more like real life than my actual real life. I was afraid that I would lose the positivity and to be utterly and tastelessly cliche, the good vibes I had picked up in Bali. Fortunately I made it ok. Then, within about a week of my return, Tin Man came on in my car. Having heard all the songs three or four times, I was finally able to hear details in the music. Listening in the car, I began to pick out the lyrics, and I was again smacked in the face, this time by the relevance of the lyrics to my own situation. "You live to fight another day as the hero of the carpool lane" perfectly described what it was like to survive Bali, where I was a musician, and artist, a performer, and a senseless risk-taker, and return to Dallas, where I didn't even get to use a carpool lane on my commute to what, with Bali so fresh in my mind, kind of felt like a typical bland desk job. I listened to Tin Man about 6 times over. Maybe actually 7. I felt that one good.
That listening session prompted me to go back and listen with a more active ear than I generally give to "pop music" (I developed an unfortunate superiority complex over years of studying classical music and being generally closed-minded). My brain kept getting blown over and over again. Every song is incredible in isolation, and when I listen to the full album, it really does take me on a journey from waking to sleeping, or real life to my dreams, and back again. Now that's a neat party trick, but it's not the best part. When I return to real life at the end of the album, I'm always more ready to be the hero of the car pool lane. I'm more pumped to be somebody's wet dream prom king or to go out to a restaurant alone. The irony of your album, to me at least, is that you ironically celebrate the banality of everyday life, and by doing so, actually celebrate everyday life.
The film Mr. Nobody (I'm sure you've seen it) discusses string theory and (without mentioning it) determinism (the philosophy stating that everything that happens is directly caused by things that happened before and thus we can logically conclude that everything that will ever happen was "determined" by things that have already happened before - the future is as set in stone as the past). Looking at time as the fourth dimension, put into perspective by determinism, you could say that the past, present, and future are all happening at the same time, or that every moment that has and ever will occur is happening at once. Imagine the different versions of yourself in each moment of your life all at the same time. Now imagine just you, but in every moment. Relate this to dreams versus reality and imagine living in your dreams and n reality at the same time. Existing in real life, but keeping your dreams alive in your head. Places you hope to go, people you hope to see, good times past and future, plans that you will execute eventually - how awesome they'll be, the person who will love you as much as you love them. That's what your album does for me. It reminds me that my dreams are real, too. There are infinite possibilities, but only one will happen. Perhaps that "one" will come from my imagination. Or maybe it will be a big frickin surprise that happens to suck. All I know is that I can control my dreams more than I can control the rest of the world, and more than the rest of the world can control my dreams. My dreams are subjectively better than reality, and the fact that they're not reality does not mean that I should ignore them - it means I should embrace them. Yin Yang, scales of justice, balance in all things (that's why I do yoga - speaking of which I grew a connection to House of Winston as the theme song to a yoga channel on YouTube before I even knew it was one of yours). Don't overdo it with the dreaming, but you better dream. That's what I get from your album. Now I'm going to go study it some more so I can dream about making something better one day.
Dallas, Texas - 11 August 2018