Thursday, 31 December 2020

Coronadrops. All of them.

Here are five full weeks of the deluge of unreleased songs I released daily at the outset of lockdown. Most were old and unfinished, performance and/or production-wise, but there hopefully are a couple of bangers in there.

They are free to download as individual tracks, but when you download them as paid ”albums“ I get to buy Bakugan and Beyblades for my ten year old.

Thursday, 16 April 2020

The Drops Keep On Comin’

Here is a master page of #coronadrops: a whimsically-chosen series of previously unreleased songs—released daily(!)—until the quarantine is over, or until i run out of decent previously unreleased tracks, or quite possibly even die of this thing.

I explain why I’m doing this in a little more detail here.

Or you could read this lengthier article that touches on the project.

All of these tracks have explanatory notes in the individual song pages, as most are straight out of the archives warts and all and may require a little justification, although I have tarted up a few things when possible. There are even a couple of fairly recent things amongst the detritus.

Looks like we made it… to our fifth week. And things are starting to sound a little too ratty to air publicly (to my ears at least). But like the kids say, the songs are still mad decent.*

Week Five: (and a couple of post-facto stragglers)

you are welcome to play and download week five as individual tracks for free over here


Week Four: (“covers week” apparently)

you are welcome to play and download week four as individual tracks for free over here


Continue Reading

Tuesday, 14 April 2020

Well, this is neat!

Lovely article in this week’s IndyWeek by long-time Db enthusiast Brian Howe. Who’d have thought #coronadrops would lead to my first actual press coverage in a decade? Man, this awful year just keeps getting stranger.

Monday, 6 April 2020

Lordy, there are tapes

As some of you probably know, I have Brontë lungs already weakened by a double-smoking-parent childhood followed a half-life of evenings spent in smoky clubs. Little known fact: I am also the wiktionary definition of the word sedentary. So I must confess I have sorta kinda been keeping an eye on this whole Coronavirus business. 

For the past two decades I have oscillated between writing some pretty good pop songs, recording them in various contexts, generally hating said recordings and/or my performances, and then not releasing, or occasionally banishing said songs from my thoughts. Self-deprecation and insecurity are hardly unique amongst songwriters (or artists, in general) but I had somehow managed to turn it into a ridiculous, crippling trail of unfinished business.

But then I lost a songwriter friend to the Trump Virus. On Tuesday I heard he was on a ventilator. Wednesday, he was gone. And I couldn’t help but feel that there was still this constellation of ideas, melodies, hooks, words there in his mind and suddenly they were GONE just like that, in an instant.

And also kind of like that, I realized that I need to stop taking this stuff quite so seriously. I need to stop needing things to be perfect or great (or as close as I ever get to that, though that’s another conversation) and just get on with the work with whatever time I have left on this planet.

So I’m going to empty my drawers and post one unreleased song a day, for the duration of the quarantine, or until they start to suck.

Free to a good home, starting with this one.

the elements of style, by dan bryk

the elements of style by dan bryk, released 05 April 2020

Monday, 29 January 2018

Twenty Years of the Royal We

It’s hard to believe.

From our humble, be-tilde’d beginnings at www.passport.ca/~sinatra we embraced the world wide webs whilst they gently, lovingly ensnared us like baffled houseflies savoring their first tantalizing whiff of vapona.

We partied with a sliver of that first big Mercury Records cheque and invested the rest in gear and rent, so grateful we could do this full time! No more day job for us.

We gasped as the best-intentions-cum-best-laid plans of Starjob Records collapsed into a PolyVersal morass of UniGram.

We paid some attorneys fees.

We adored those Laura Nyro bootlegs and obscure Dodgers sides and Coke Commercials and all the other amazing stuff that showed up unexpectedly on Napster and Soulseek and Gnutella et al. Everything is free now! We did not know we were sealing our own fate.

We grimaced as the economics of music-for-a-living quickly crashed and burned around us like the twin towers of arrogance and naivete they probably were.

We giggled as indie music became the domain of the family-free, mom-and-dad’s-COBRA-insured undergrad living above the garage. Look at us, we formed a band! Any teenager with a Macbook can make music, really there’s nothing to it! We can do this part-time! 

Then, we cried

Like a wind that’s always blowing
Life is flowing
Move on

 

No! Discs 1/8" page ad
Shot down in flames.

 

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

House Concert

I opened a house concert for my old friend and tourmate Michael Holt. This is the warts and all document, sneetched from Facebook Live. Super rough around the edges and straight from the heart. All new songs except for the opener and closer, this is “what I’ve been up to”, sort of.

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

songwriter questions file icon

Songwriting Questions… from a decade ago.

So I found this 2008 Word .doc on an external dump drive while hunting for a scan of an old, never-finished song. The file is dated May 17, 2008. I have no memory of which writer or publication even asked these questions–no hint in the file either–but never mind. I have a feeling this probably never even made it off my desktop.

In hindsight, I certainly take back my natterings about Lou Reed, though. The callousness of youth and all that. (R.I.P. Lou, may you find the rest you were denied here.) And I’ve certainly made my peace with I-IV-II-V, so long as there’s a solid supporting argument for it.

SONGWRITER QUESTIONS FOR DAN BRYK

What comes first; lyrics or melodies?

It depends. Melodies, if I’m sitting at the piano “trying to write a song.”  Words generally come any time a pen and notepad aren’t handy: falling asleep… driving in the car… in a meeting at work… post-coitus or worse, during. Awkward!

Are there any times in particular more fertile to the process? A couple of artists have told me that long solo drives tend to be particularly fertile….

I used to write a lot while driving, but I burned out the compact flash card in my old-school Olympus portacorder and I’ve been too lazy to hunt down a 16MB CF card. I’m really not good at writing while driving. I guess I could just buy a new note recorder (which might even have Mac OS X-friendly USB), but it was one of the first things I bought after moving to the Triangle (yaay Capital Pawn) and besides it’s the principle of the thing. We accept enough planned obsolescence as it is.

Influences – crib from them, or try to ignore them?

Wherever possible. Pop songwriting is a magpie’s art. I remember Nick Lowe saying something to the effect of “good artists borrow, great artists steal.” Or maybe it was “I steal, but I steal from the best.”  Hopefully the overall effect is more like Rauschenberg than say, Puff Daddy looping 8 bars of “Every Breath You Take” over and over and calling it your own.

First song you ever wrote – title? Theme?

“Please Please Please Lord.”  I believe it had something to do with asking God for a girlfriend. This was even before I got sent to the principal’s office for playing the White Album on the art room cassette player. It’s hard to believe that even in 1982 Pentacostals still had a problem with that “bigger than Jesus” bit. It was someone’s birthday.

Influential songwriters (3-5) – what about them in particular?

Randy Newman – American Genius. No one skates between pop song and art with such finesse.

Aimee Mann – huge influence on my album “Lovers Leap”. She hasn’t done shit for me lately, but “I’m With Stupid” is still my Nevermind.

Leslie “Sam” Phillips – one of the smartest, deepest thinkers ever to wield a sharp pop hook. I’ve been a fan for 20 years, even when she was still considered a “Contemporary Christian” artist, and her last three albums are her best. She is so underrated, especially in indie music circles, it’s just stupid.

R.D. Burman – the late Bollywood composer. I have been devouring everything I can find of his since I bought a box set on a trip to India three years ago. An incredibly versatile composer, syncretic in the extreme, he mixes up Indian classical music and ragas and bollywood pop with all kinds of western sounds in brilliantly idiosyncratic arrangements—I hear everything from Bacharach to John Barry to ABBA in his music, but it’s still unmistakably his, and he wrote for all the great playback singers. Young Indian composers refer to him as L.O.R.D. for a reason.

Elliptical narratives, opaque imagery, or specificity?

Whatever works.  I’m not very good with descriptive detail, but I’ve been working on that. Some people find my lyrics hyper-specific, but those people probably hate Douglas Coupland too. I’ve tried to cut back on name-dropping consumer products when it’s clear they’re not going to underwrite my work. No-one told me about that Taco Bell “Feed the Band” contest, and that hurt.

Do you write for an album, or is each song an island?

I try and write good songs and hopefully I write enough of them to fill an album every year or two. I consider myself lazy if I can’t write 10 good songs a year, but then again inspiration’s for the lazy. Pretty soon I’m going to have to give up using immigration as an excuse for not finishing up my records. I’m fortunate in that Pop Psychology sort of has a grand theme, but it’s failure. People will only put up with one or two albums about failure in a row. Ask Mark Eitzel.

When do you know if you’re in a rut?

Dust on the piano.

Is it easier to take a personal event and tweak it to make more universal, or to take something completely fabricated and personalize it?

Dude, that’s a ten-point essay question! Unfortunately I, uh, tend to write from actual life experiences. I always sucked at creative writing in school, I was more into The New Journalism. Also I find unhappy or tense situations to provide more compelling narrative than when things are going smoothly. And I never tweak to make shit more universal. Put them all together = I still have a day job.

Artists from other writing mediums impress/affect? Poets, novelists, Raymond Carver?

Love me some Copywriters: Mary Wells, Bill Bernbach, Edward Graham, Ron Rosenfeld, Phyllis Robinson, Shirley Polykoff, David Ogilvy, (mmmm) George Lois. They made art out of the art of suggestion. Probably explains a lot.

What’s the longest you’ve ever tinkered with a song?

17 years. It’s called “Lowering The Standards” and it’s been almost done for maybe 5 years now. I just need to get the lyrics right in the bridge… it’ll be worth it, I swear.

What’s one thing that will turn you off instantly to a song on the radio (or the computer-ish equivalent)?

A I-IV-II-V chorus.  It’s like the “hit” algorithm. Every lame-ass pop punk song, every formulaic song the Matrix shits out… my ex-girlfriend referred to that chord progression as the “money chords.”

Also, auto-tuned lead vocals. Well, maybe I’ll make an exception for movie soundtracks when the actor is supposed to be singing. I’d rather hear Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman sing “Come What May” with a little help from Melodyne than some ringers with perfect pitch.

Dylan or Lennon?

Costello. It’s like the best of both worlds, without all that irritating myth and hagiography.

Lennon or McCartney?

There’s no point in choosing, no choice really. Their genius… it’s so ubiquitous you just have to accept it and try to work around it. It’s like picking between air and water.  It’s like… Falkner or Brion?

Lou Reed or Tom Waits?

I am so fucking sick of Lou Reed coasting on his laurels.  New York was his last good album (not counting ‘Drella, but that was half Cale anyhow) and I was in Grade 11 when that came out. GRADE 11.  Tom Waits still writes great songs, cuts great albums, plays great shows. Plus, Tom never shilled for Honda.

Stipe or Malkmus?

Pollard.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

All Wikidding aside

How, exactly, does one solicit Wikipedians to update one’s Wikipedia entry? Is there a dark web where one leaves offerings of Chocodiles and Samwell Tarly fanfic in exchange for accuracy, if not flattery?

I hesitate to edit myself lest my neutrality or hell, notability be called into question. However, friends and complete strangers think I still live in Dar Es Salaam.

Let’s see… I’ve been back in the states since 2014, living in Durham NC for almost a year now. I’m doing very well under the circumstances. I will have some new music out there sooner than you’d expect and later than you think.

You’re welcome!

Monday, 28 March 2016

Monday, 14 March 2016

An open letter to Bernie Sanders.

Dear Bernie Sanders:
 
I love you, man. I love what you represent. I admire your directness and dissatisfaction with the status quo. I respect you for financing your campaign without superpac/soft/dark money.
 
However, six or seven straight days of begging fundraising emails is enough. If you have something new and interesting to say, let me know. But please don’t fill my inbox with one-paragraph, content-free, bullshit “updates” — likely composed by some mid-level apparatchik but signed with your name — followed by three fundraising paragraphs.
 
That, dear friend I’ve never met, is called American politics as usual.
 
It pains me to remind you that we, the people — your supporters — are NOT an ATM to be withdrawn from at will. I imagine the demands of campaigning can make even the best-intentioned candidate forget this. But I will assure you a weekly fundraising email will deplete my political spending budget quite nicely, thank you.
 
Now go on and win it all you crazy diamond!
 
Love,
Dan Bryk