17. Sit down, stand up

This one was a challenge and a half trying to rhyme all the days of the week, as well as the 2-syllable end rhymes. English is hard. And then there’s the matter of spitting out a bajillion syllables per line. Lin Manuel Miranda and Eminem, how do you do it.
I have no clue about how to make electronic music. This is with a GarageBand “drummer” and a synth via midi. It started off on acoustic guitar but it’s late at night so I wanted something quiet to play. Lots of repetition and not a lot of variation to support the dreary nose-to-grindstone feel of the song.

Sit down, stand up

Sit down, stand up x3
Good boy, roll over, baby
Sit down, stand up x3
Do not boil over, baby
Collapse at the weekend
Wake and do it, and do it, and do it again

You drag your ass to work and dream of
One day
You’ll take the leap to wild freedom
Some day
You’ll tell your boss you wanna beat him
One day, but not today

He babbles on though he has nothing
To say
Pretend to work although you’re bluffing
Due date
To end this joke, this pain and suffering
One day, but not today


You’re wasted there, you could do more
Your friends say
You should make art, bust through the door
Then they
Get back to mopping filthy floors
One day, we’ll get away

Migraines heavy, eyes about to
Burst, they
Better wheel you out in a
Hearse, they
Know you’re down for the count
Only way you’ll get away


Friday, Saturday, Sunday
Your heart is lighter, time to play
But over you looms
The gloom of Monday


16. Brother

The bones of this story are true – my grandfather died in the Vietnam War, my mum’s family fled and one of her brothers was lost at sea. It’s not something we talk about much, so the details are imagined. But it struck me that this story could easily apply also to many of the Syrians and countless other asylum seekers who’ve lost family while fleeing for their lives. My song Promised land is also sort of on the same topic, but ends more happily.

This was an…interesting writing process. I usually write at home on the computer but it’s making me too sedentary so I took my mobile studio (iPad, mic, baritone uke) out to the beach. Initially sunny, then the weather turned and I got rained out and froze my fingers off. There’s a version recorded at the beach but belatedly realised I’d almost completely plagiarised the melody of one of Paul Otteson’s songs because I’ve been listening to him so often. So I rewrote it on mandolin, didn’t like that, then fell back on my fave, the good old uke. This is a low-C tenor.


I washed your feet and I washed your hair
Your little hands that smudged your face
Out of the bath you ran around the room
Til I caught you in my warm embrace

Knock at the door and our mother fell
Through the thin walls we could hear her cry
Daddy is in a better place
Held back my tears, said “we’ll be alright”

Oh brother, where did you go
Oh brother, we’ll never know
Where do you rest and where do you sleep
When will you ever, ever come home

You grew up kind and you grew up brave
Shared with your brothers what little you had
“When I get tall and strong,” you said
“I’ll go and fight, just like my dad”

In dusty streets the sirens howled
Til one black day our flag was torn down
Hard men in boots marched to our door
“Sons of traitors, time to come out”


Fled in the dark, fled to the river
Me in one boat and you in another
I took your hand, said “don’t be afraid,”
“Meet you on the other side, brother”

But only I survived the night
Across the terror of oceans and waves
You were lost to storm and sea
The sunken depths became your grave


15. C’est trop facile

Writing a song in French has been one of my goals for 50/90 but I’ve never written anything vaguely song-shaped en frongsay before so this was a bit of a leap. It’s meant to be old-fashioned chanson, melodramatic “feeeeeels” kind of thing. Found that it’s much easier to rhyme, and it’s a meaning-dense language in terms of being able to say more in fewer syllables (like the reflexive “se cacher” or “se déshabiller” which are clumsily “hide oneself” or “undress oneself” in English). But of course many many pitfalls when you’re a pseudo-Francophone like meself. Massive props to my mate Myrthe Duppen who cast an astute editing eye over this. She saved me from some embarrassing booboos and also contributed some clever ideas. Mercy buckets!

In theory I could’ve done real cello and clarinet parts. In practice, well, I haven’t practiced for yonks.

C’est trop facile 

C’est trop facile de faire semblant
C’est trop facile de se cacher
Souriant son sourire blanc
Une armure en acier

C’est trop facile de se masquer
Bien maquillée, en grands talons
C’est trop facile de camoufler
Son chagrin élegant

Mais devant toi, mon âme, mon coeur
Je peux me déshabiller
Je te montre toute ma laideur
Les cicatrices qui m’ont marquée
Mes angoisses sur ma peau
Purifie-moi sous l’eau

C’est plus facile d’être indifférent
Enfermée en velours
C’est plus facile d’avoir trop d’amants
Sans aucun goût d’amour

C’est plus facile d’être vide
Entourée de faux amis
Sous sédation opioïde
Ainsi gâcher sa vie


Montre-moi tes peurs d’enfant
Laisse-moi te caresser
Montre-moi tes sentiments
On ne se quittera jamais


And in English:

It’s too easy

It’s too easy to pretend
It’s too easy to hide
Smiling a white smile
An armour made of steel

It’s too easy to conceal
In makeup and high heels
It’s too easy to camouflage
One’s elegant grief

But before you, my soul, my heart
I can undress
I show you all my ugliness
The scars that marked me
Anxieties on my skin
Purify me under water

It’s easier to be indifferent
Enclosed in velvet
It’s easier to have too many lovers
Without any taste of love

It’s easier to be empty
Surrounded by false friends
Under opioid sedation
Thus spoil your life


Show me your childhood fears
Let me caress you
Show me your feelings
We’ll never leave each other


14. Futilitarian

This is a Song skirmish on the prompt “the most useful”, about a 1.5 hour job again. Erm. It is reggae. I am Vietnamese-Australian and it feels sliiiiightly cultural-appropriation-y. Just part of my style experiments, so I hope no one is offended. My mate suggested I do a reggae a while ago and I thought the genre would suit these chilled-out lyrics.

The bass is a GarageBand loop as is the shaker, the rest is me.


In this age of productivity
It’s sinful to be slothful
Hustle, bustle and churn out stuff
Or boss man will be wrathful
Work day and night at your job
Even though you hate it
Serve economic gods
But you know, useful is overrated

Be futilitarian
Do whatever you please
The Rastafarian way
Hand in your keys
Embrace time-wastin’
Reject make-hastin’
Dare to be idle, unbridled and free
Be futilitarian

Take some time to tilt at windmills
Gaze at your navel in a daze
Wander alone in daffodils
Get lost in a winding maze
Play make-believe with your children
Let them savour boredom
Learn crazy things just for fun
Not to test and score dem


13. Residue of dreams

I wanted to write something impressionistic because I feel like I stick to straight-up narrative story-telling a lot. I’m literal-minded and only have the tiniest sprinkling of poetry in my soul 😛 Trying to evoke that feeling of waking up prematurely from a dream that you were enjoying, and you can only grasp at the faint memory of it.

Residue of dreams

There’s a place too beautiful to see
Glimpsed behind closed eyes
A smudge of gold, the smell of green
A mountain, a cloud, unseen

There’s a song too beautiful to hear
A whisper you’ve always known
Beyond the trees ring echoes
They fade as you draw close

Residue of dreams
Remnants of shadows
Threads forgotten
Drifting in the stream

There’s a body too beautiful to touch
A face at the tip of your tongue
Hands you can’t feel, warm supple skin
Eyes that know you from within

There’s a book too beautiful to read
A storyline unfinished
A beating pulse, an almost-end
The page is blank and bent

Residue of dreams
Remnants of shadows
Threads forgotten
Drifting in the stream

12. Just like me

A little light political satire. Don’t have anyone particular in mind. 😛 Yeah I forgot my own chorus half way, never mind.

Just like me

I’m not saying that I’m perfect
Just the bestest in the land
I will make us great again
With my perfectly normal-sized hands

We’d get on more easily
We would live in harmony
Life would go more breezily
If everyone were just like me (bigly me!)

There would be no poverty
No sickness nor discontent
If everyone were a self-made man
From millions that daddy lent
No need to fake the news
No one would disagree
There would be no blacks or Jews
If everyone were orange just like me

Chorus (you too, Hillary!)

We would build a beautiful wall
Stop your whinin’ and fussin’
There’d be worldwide peace not war
Gotta play nice with the Russians
No wetbacks from Mexico
No hairy, scary Muslims
No gays or trannies vexing us so
Those creeps, I don’t trust em

Chorus (marvelous me!)

We’d spend our time in golf resorts
Shoot the breeze and elephants for sport
Grab some pussies in very short shorts
Just be quiet, don’t let them report

Please like me, just be like me x2
Or I’ll be displeased

11. Losing time

Another belated addition to the super skirmish that I missed by a mere 24 hours. Prompt was “lost time” and my take on it is someone gradually getting dementia. Another ~1.5 hour effort. My breakdown is 5min brainstorm, 20min write, 20min compose, 15min record/edit…the latter is a bit unrealistic.

Losing time

I was always forgetful
An absent-minded fool
Never knew names
What did I come for?
What did I say?
Am I going insane?

Losing time
I seek but I cannot find
Losing time
The threads begin to unwind
Slip from the strands of my mind
Losing, losing time

Can’t find my way home
How did I get here alone
Everything’s strange
What is this place?
Where am I now?
Am I deranged?


Don’t know your face
Why are you crying?
Holding my hand
Have we met?
A flash from the past
Bare feet in the sand


All that remains
Are earliest days
Are you my mother?
I see her in your gaze
In your kindness
But everything fades


10. Let me be your harmony

Well I’m a numpty. I was all geared up to take part in the 24 hour super-skirmish where there are prompts every couple of hours, and you have to write a song in an hour. So yeah I log in, game face on. Look up the thread…and then find out I stuffed up the dates, it was yesterday. Anyway, decided to pick a few of the prompts to do on my lonesome – this one is “melody”. This was about a 1.5 hour effort. It was written in an hour but I kept stuffing up the takes. Not that the final one is perfect, I just got tired 😛

Let me be your harmony

Once I was a tune alone
A solitary line
In major, minor modes
I did really hope to find
A sympathetic soul
To call mine

Let me be your harmony
Counterpoint your melody
You and me
Are meant to be a family
Let me be your harmony
Counterpoint your melody
You and me, a family
A duo then a chord

I played with other guys
For a little while
But never really jibed
Our words could never rhyme
Even though we tried
We never chimed


Some day we might clash
A dissonant discord
But we’ll find our way out
And play in sweet accord


[whistle verse]


9. Out, out damned spot

In a speedwriting challenge like this, some songs are just to make up the numbers. So the second song for today was a skirmish on the prompt “foul play”. A one-hour-ish rush job that involved a lot of Googling Macbeth summaries and cheat notes. I studied The Scottish Play intensely at school and recently saw No Fear in New York so I thought I knew the play but nope, didn’t know it as well as I thought.
The mix is sparse because it echoes Lady Macbeth’s isolation and mental state. Yes, that’s it, not because I ran out of time. I thought the subject would suit the creepy Locrian mode plus some chromatic shiz thrown in. Which is way, way out of my comfort zone.

Out, out damned spot

I talked him into murdering them
For titles and rewards
But it turns out that it was all
For nothing in the end

Out, out damned spot
Will these hands ne’er be clean
Out, out damned spot
Fair is foul and obscene

I screwed his courage to the sticking place
I told him to man up
Turns out all that I screwed up
Was my place in the human race


He was more ruthless than I planned
His blood ran cold and hot
He slaughtered women and kids
He slipped out of my hands


I thought I could reign o’er my fate
I didn’t count on this
I sleepwalk through the day and night
I hear them at the gate


What’s done is done
What’s done can’t be undone
The guilt cannot be washed away
With my blood I wash these hands
Macbeth I hope you’ll understand
This sin I take to my grave

8. Mad Jim Black

Busting out my new banjolele along with penny whistle. Absolutely nothing groundbreaking here in the music or the lyrics, but it’s fun to do a shanty and kinda figure out the conventions of a genre.

Unrelatedly – I really need to jerry-rig/buy a pop filter. I sure spit a lot.

Mad Jim Black

He was sailor called Jim Black
He sailed across the sea
To earn his keep and win the hand
Of fair Miss Emily
Her father was a wealthy man
Looked down at poor Jim Black
“My girl, you’ll wed a man of worth
Or go and never come back”

Mad Jim Black, they cry
Don’t throw your life away
Mad Jim Black, you’ll die
By your own hand one day

Doggedly he toiled at sea
Saved every coin he earned
No wine or women tempted Jim
Every comfort spurned
As his body ached at night
He dreamt of flowing hair
Blushing cheeks and fluttering eye
He’d win her fair and square


At five years’ end he sailed home
He was no longer poor
In finest suit and gold in hand
He knocked on her father’s door
The old man came with startled look
“Emily’s not here
She could not wait forever, boy
She wed then disappeared”


He searched the country and the town
He searched in every lane
Then one day he met a girl
Who recognised her name
“Emily, she was so sweet
Her husband did her wrong
He knew her heart wasn’t his
He beat her all night long”


He ran his hand across her grave
And paced there day and night
He threw his gold into the sea
And in the end, his life
They say that if you walk at dark
You’ll hear his desperate plea
“Emily my life my love
Why didn’t you wait for me”

Mad Jim Black, he cried
He threw his life away
Mad Jim Black, he died
By his own hand one day