Having written the songs anywhere between two to five years prior to the album’s release, there’s bound to be a disconnect between who I was then and who I am now, even though now is when they (the songs) are made public, which gives the impression the person who wrote these songs is who I am now; while that may be technically true — I am the person who wrote, sang and played on these songs — so much internal and external change has occurred since the songs’ conception that this album may as well have been written by somebody else. Gosh, that sentence borders on Bill Simmons-level of sophistry devoid of substance, but not wanting to delete it forever, perhaps I can pare it down to its more concise, to-the-point, non-meandering essentials: I wrote the songs so long ago that they don’t seem like mine. (There, that should be better.)
While The Disconnect may have a common theme of alienation, isolation, disillusion, disenfranchisement running throughout (at least until the last song), the album may as well be viewed a conceptual narrative about a highly sensitive/introspective 20-something college student dealing with the struggles of the digital age; who knows, maybe it could someday be made into a Broadway musical, with Chris Hemsworth obviously playing the main character … either him, or one of the Jonas brothers — Jumpy, I think is his name. (Note: I haven’t heard more than 20 seconds of the Jonas Bros.) Is Hugh Jackman too old? He’d be good.
Broadway delusions aside, the setting and frame of mind may accurately reflect who I was in January-May 2011, but certainly isn’t the case for May 2014; far too much has changed in terms of musical taste and life outlook to say that I can relate to these songs any more. Had we released The Disconnect as intended in August 2011, I’d say it would be an accurate snapshot of the time — but now, it isn’t. In that sense, the album’s title reflects my separation from the work, as if I’m listening to somebody else’s music. And because of its intensely personal and revelatory subject matter, I doubt I’ll be able to listen to this album in the company of others (I can almost envision the TMI-induced cringes of close friends and family members). What’s more, that which occupies my mind is so completely different than that of three years ago that I couldn’t write songs like this even if I tried — in fact, I’m hard-pressed to write songs in general, but that’s a different post — and some songs I’ve considered leaving out all together. The long, painfully drawn out process from inception to completion just needed to end in order for me to move on, personally and musically. Thank God it’s done.
So, you may be asking, “Why release the songs?” The simple answer would be that because it took so long, because of the undue stress at the album’s expense, it must be released; to have it reside in the Ark-Hive Netherworld would be an utter waste. But the other answer is it, The Disconnect represents a time and place for me, Anthony and Carl, that deserves to be preserved. What started out as a mutually understood temporary project with a definite ceiling became an important step in our respective musical progressions: For Carl, it was a chance to further improve his drum chops before rejoining Flashback Manatees; for Anthony, it was a chance to play out before joining the incredibly successful and beloved the Trees; for me, it was a chance to try out front manning, something I always deferred to others. Working on the album also provided a bridge between Newsfeed and my two current groups: While toiling in band-less, singer-songwriter no man’s land, the album kept me fresh for the recording of Andrea Desmond’s Open Spaces EP and Mariko Ruhle’s The Wonder Years. (Oh, and I suppose I also play in another band, this one called P:e-o/p;l,e, but I’m only the second keyboardist. More on them later.) Without The Disconnect, it’s doubtful I would’ve been able to contribute as much as I did to either project — even if the it drove me insane at times. In that sense, it (and all that encompasses that tiny world in this context) was worth it. Plus, I wouldn’t want our only surviving album to be the mechanically maligned The Compromise. As short lived as Newsfeed was, we were better than what’s presented on that album. And this is (hopefully) proof of that.
A brief note on proper chronology: Given the various factors of recording this album, I’d say it most properly falls between the Metal Face remix — er, um, r3m1x — album and Andrea’s EP, now renamed to Open Spaces, featuring two more songs and is soon to be released on Spectra Records. The Disconnect was mostly done by the time I joined Andrea and gang in August 2012, but the confusion regarding mastering (which we didn’t do) kept the album in Ark-Hive limbo until now. But had we released the album in 2012, we wouldn’t have made a few simple, yet crucial, changes, like swaping cheesy “Nowhere Man” harmonies in “Friday Night Friends” for a neat, melodic synth line; or cutting back on reverb for the main vocals on “Hey, Mae”; or adding the epic outro to “4-D Skiffle Skaff.” For those reasons alone, it was good we held off so long.
So here it finally is, finally. For real. The completion of The Disconnect marks the end of era that began in the mountains of East Rosebud and concluded in an apartment flat in Seattle. There may be more Newsfeed someday, but not until the three of us are all together again, and that may be a while, if ever. I’m just glad to be relieved of this burden, this seemingly endless project, and for the songs to finally be heard. And, as a treat to the readers and myself, I’ll spare us all from the track-by-track breakdown this time, and instead allow the songs to speak for themselves.
And to commemorate the occasion, I played an all-Disconnect half-hour acoustic set (with some surprise special guests) at the Hopvine on March 2. Time didn’t permit I play the entire album, but I performed the ones I liked the most. I might mention this in another post, but that March 2 acoustic show may’ve very well served as the retirement of Newsfeed Anxiety — both The Compromise and The Disconnect. Those songs and their ethos represent a bygone time and place, and to continue to perform them would be to continue to live in the past, unearthing the same old feelings that moved me to write these tunes. I have other things I want to say now, and plan to focus on the future and the songs yet to be written. But you never know when one of these songs will resurface, as was the case with “Locked, Pending,” which has experienced a rebirth in the Mariko Ruhle original “Silenced.” The full-band version is a splendor to behold, but here’s a nice toned-down version recorded during an acoustic gig a couple months back.
And who knows — maybe Andrea Desmond and the White Lights will revisit “Friday Night Friends,” or P:e-o/p;l,e might attempt a 10-minute, noise-jazz version of “Slipping Away.” It’s 2014: anything can happen.
Without further ado: The Disconnect, released on the three-year anniversary of our “ABC” party, which, I’ve been told, has become the stuff of legend. Too bad we couldn’t have released this collection a little closer to that date — you know, when we had actual fans and were a real band — but, well, life happens, as I’m sure the readers know very well by now.
Thanks for reading and listening. More goodness to come, and perhaps sooner than you think.
Afterthought: You may notice “4-D Skiffle Skaff” is, in terms of sound, tone and content, doesn’t fit with its counterparts. This is because its presence further enhances the idea of the disconnect — by not belonging at all — and, due to the somewhat dreary songs before it, one must remember to laugh at the end of it all. Even if the world may be a brutal place at times, a little absurdity is needed to act as a release valve. Plus, who wouldn’t like to travel through time?!?!
With that, I am done. Good night, and God bless.