he could have been a poet or he could have been a fool

by jordaan mason

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about

a collection of songs that i did not write but that are very personal to me and that i've made personal to me. the recordings themselves are pretty scattered and span a period of several years, though the bulk of them were finally realized or re-recorded in 2014. i did this project to make me feel productive while taking time away from music to finish school and to fight against a depression that reared its head when i least expected it, which uprooted most of the stable things in my life and my sense of self. it's a little on the long side (okay, a lot on the long side) so it's been cut into two halves which work as two albums: "he could have been a poet" being tracks 1-10 and "he could have been a fool" being tracks 11-20. i'm keeping them here on one bandcamp page because they are meant to be companions, even if the intention of this project isn't cohesion, really. i just needed to make something.

this collection is PWYC and you can download it for free if you want to because i didn't write these songs (though i did occasionally change the lyrics / arrangements), but any & all donations will go towards funding the creation of my next record, "the decline of stupid fucking western civilization," which i'm going to begin recording in the summer and release next year, and at this point anything you can give would be really helpful in getting this project off the ground - i can't keep sitting on these songs but i really want to do them justice. i still have a lot of my own things to say, even if i'm still a little bit terrified of what they are.

regardless: hi, i'm still here, i'm still singing.

credits

released 19 May 2014

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he could have been a poet : tracks 1-10
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"good city" was recorded throughout the fall of 2010 in jason "sticks" mccrimmon's basement apartment in toronto during the first attempt to record "the decline of stupid fucking western civilization." jason plays guitar, bowed dulcimer, drums, and electric bass, and he wrote the song and mixed everything, so he basically rules this one. i sing and play accordion. this is a song about the city we live in.

"apistat commander" was recorded in my bedroom in april 2014. i sang this a lot to myself in my bedroom during my depression. i sent the file to cory latkovich and he added some serious cello.

"dancing on my own" was recorded and produced throughout the spring of 2014 by lowell sostomi. he did all the synths + drum machine stuff and helped make it sound like a pop song still (my version on the guitar alone was a lot more weepy). i just sing here. this one goes out to all the bi-curious guys out there who flirt with me and then go home with their girlfriends, because fuck that.

"take ecstasy with me" was recorded in february 2007 in a stairwell of winters residence at york university in toronto with a crappy pin-microphone on a crappy laptop. it originally appeared on an EP that is long out-of-print, which included four other recordings from this same day, of which this was the last. i got in trouble later for making these recordings in a public space and "bothering everyone." i sing and play guitar and someone walks up and down the stairs at one point.

"yr million sweetnesses" was recorded live at a house show in new jersey in september 2008 by matt goold. dee addario plays banjo and i play the guitar and we both sing.

"holocaust" was recorded late at night on the chord organ in my living room in april 2014. i added some singing saw afterwards. it came somewhat suddenly; i was a mess; i let it be.

"barbara allen" was recorded in my bedroom in february 2014 for someone i was missing a lot who was far away. though the song is a traditional, my cover is modeled heavily after the version shirley collins did on her 1959 record, "sweet england." i sing and play the guitar.

"stone and sticks" was recorded and produced by jason mccrimmon in his third-floor apartment throughout the spring of 2014. he plays guitar, bass, harmonium, and various percussion; i sing and play clarinet and singing saw. this song was written by our friend simon and comes from his album "a kali yuga opera," which is an album that is very important to both of us so it felt very fitting to collaborate on this particular recording together.

"unravel" was recorded in july 2011 in ben morey's house in rochester on a reel-to-reel recorder. i started to play this song after many long years spent mostly traveling and missing folks back home. i play piano and sing. some people do dishes in the background.

"running scared" was recorded in march 2014 during a rainstorm, which seemed appropriate. this is an unfortunate song about choices and i don't really think they're the kinds of choices we should have to make, though i think it's really beautifully put in this song how these choices weigh on us. it was weighing on me a lot so i kind of ruined the sentiment of the song's ending; oh well. i play guitar and sing.

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he could have been a fool : tracks 11-20
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"i found a reason / then he kissed me" was recorded in january and february of 2014 in my living room. i was thinking a lot about the idea of simultaneity - particularly the conflation of long-term desire and short-term desire - living versus "living," i guess. maybe that's really abstract but i'm not sure how else to speak about this yet. anyway this is a bunch of layers of my voice and it was kind of an experiment that maybe didn't fully work, but i'm including it here because the situation the song comes from was also a mess and maybe it's okay then if this is also a mess and maybe i'm over-analyzing, i don't know. here it is. it makes more sense in headphones, if you're able.

"shatter" was recorded in my bathroom at five thirty in the morning on easter sunday of 2014. the golden girls theme song was running on a loop in the other room and by the time i was finished adding the second guitar line, the sun had come up and the birds were chirping.

"yr woman" was recorded by jason mccrimmon in his third-floor apartment throughout the spring of 2014. i sing and play synths and autoharp, the latter of which jason spent a very long time putting back in tune just to make this recording, which was very sweet of him. i played this song live a lot in the process of what would become "divorce lawyers i shaved my head." it was very important to me when i was young and sexually confused and continues to be important to me now that i'm older and still sexually confused.

"a higher power" was recorded in april 2014 in my living room while i was having a very bad day. i looped an old sample of a piece of music that jason mccrimmon wrote for the score of "i'm really scared when i kill in my dreams" that we didn't end up using and put it on top of an a cappella recording of me singing the song while suffocating myself with a plastic bag. i was very dizzy afterwards. i added some more plastic bag noises as percussion. i'm still not sure if it's really the kind of thing that should be made public because it comes from a very bad place inside of me and it makes me feel very vulnerable to reveal things like this, but i'm trying not to be ashamed of this sort of thing.

"i was a stranger" was recorded at my parent's house in april 2014. it seemed fitting to record this song while visiting my hometown where these lyrics always seem to be running through my mind. i play piano and sing. you can hear the piano stool creaking.

"silk beetle, this is mine" was recorded by jason mccrimmon in the fall of 2010 and he makes every single sound that you hear except for the singing, which i did way after the fact. i thought this arrangement of the song was really beautiful and i wanted to include it here in honour of the time that sarah, dee, sticks, and myself all shared in the horse museum - a time when we were all really engaging creatively, together and separately.

"asking for it" was recorded in may 2014 in my one-month sublet while i purposefully exiled myself to confront my depression. i wrestled a long time with how to approach this song, if at all, because i am well aware that its sexual politics are geared towards a female-specific experience of rape culture, but this song was important to me while dealing with my own experiences of sexual violence and abuse, and i really needed to sing it. i replaced the "she" of the song with an "i" not as an act of erasure of the song's original intent, but rather, by inserting the "i," i am hoping to address the personal - specifically my complete and total lack of a gender identity and my own confusion around this especially as it pertains to my experiences with sexual violence. i hope you can understand why this felt necessary for me to sing in the way that i have and if the politics of such an act upsets you, you should talk to me about it. i play guitar and sing.

"still ill" was recorded throughout the spring of 2014 with paul weadick on his four-track recorder. every take got a little bit sludgier. i sing and play electric guitar and accordion. paul added some drums afterwards with the help of simon borer. the title of this collection of songs comes from a different song by the smiths called "this night has opened my eyes," but "still ill" still felt like the appropriate moz song to sing here.

"losing a whole year" was recorded in simon borer's loft one afternoon in january 2014. simon did some really nice mixing-down of several DAT recorders placed around the room, which is where all that reverb comes from. i sing and play the guitar.

"in grief" was recorded in august 2008 at the oxford hotel in toronto as part of the "divorce lawyers i shaved my head" sessions, and was originally intended to be used as one side of a split 7" that never came to be. this is a live off-the-floor take of jason mccrimmon playing wicked drums and me singing and playing the guitar; i overdubbed myself playing the singing saw afterwards. this is still one of the most upsetting songs that i have ever heard and it's all the more upsetting to me because someone i love a lot and have been through a lot of shit with wrote it and she stopped performing it after a while so i started singing it because i felt like it was important that this song continue to exist. for this and for other reasons, i sing it loud.

a collection of songs this long shouldn't have a bonus track, but i tend to take things too far so there is one. it was recorded in april 2014. you can hear paul weadick say "sound choice!" near the end.

dan berube gave me the idea to extend the "covers" concept to the album cover, for which i was going to just use a still from the kenneth anger film "fireworks." instead, tara fillion helped me "cover" it. the photograph was taken in my one-month sublet and tara doctored it afterwards to include the "fireworks" that cover my face, as per the film.

the scattered nature of these recordings means that you may want to pay attention to the volume knob while you're listening. i tried to make things sort of even but i wanted to let the songs be what they are.

big thanks to all the folks who helped make these recordings special - it could easily have been just me and a guitar for all of these songs and i'm happy that it isn't - and to those who have been giving me love and support through yet another terrible winter. i owe you everything.

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Track Name: good city (jason mccrimmon)
our good city with a formless plan
to rip up all roads, eat all the bones
make an idol of a ball of yarn
you'll leave your house and walk straight home

calmly pace along all babelian veins
buy your books from the man you know at the strip mall
and penrose would be so so proud
to hear how yonge circles back on itself

cars crash, people hang, the carillonneur sounds out
but something has been wrapped in cotton
either the bells or the world

(j. mccrimmon)
Track Name: apistat commander (xiu xiu)
up
along the rocks
it's good
it's not so hard now

up
i bite my tongue
who cares
this chance to drop off

all that you left you left for someone
all of this hurt that's wilted off
all this relief, it's the oddest thing
oh my god oh my god oh my god

help, it'll never come
and that's when i lost my thought
well, she could talk me down
still, still
this chance to drop off

(j. stewart)
Track Name: dancing on my own (robyn)
somebody said you got a new friend
does she love you better than i can
there's a big black sky over my town
i know where you're at, i bet she's around

yeah i know it's stupid
i just gotta see it for myself

i'm in the corner watching you kiss her
i'm right over here
why can't you see me
i'm giving it all
but i'm not the guy you're taking home
i keep dancing on my own

i'm just gonna dance all night
i'm all messed up, i'm so out of line

stilettos on broken bottles
i'm spinning around in circles

so far away but still so near
the lights go on
the music dies
but you don't see me standing here
i just came to say goodbye

(robyn/p. berger)
Track Name: take ecstasy with me (the magnetic fields)
you used to slide down carpeted stairs
or down the banister
you stuttered like a kaleidoscope
because you knew too many words
we used to make gingerbread houses
we used to have taffy pulls

you had a black snowmobile
we drove out under the northern lights
a vodka bottle gave you those raccoon eyes
we got beat up just for holding hands

so take ecstasy with me, baby

(s. merritt)
Track Name: yr million sweetnesses (diane cluck)
yr million sweetnesses
are sometimes not enough
to keep me lapping at the flood tides
of desire

this is how i walk
when i have given up

do you see how free the body moves
the bones inside the skin are loose
and i know if i could see you
that you'd be walking like this, too

marry a virgin
marry not a virgin
marry someone who sold their sex to god or men
marry completely and give yourself whole-heartedly
to everything that wants you
and everything you are

i have spent time with unspoiled birds
and generous sunshine
that taught me doing nothing

and i do recall that my very best friends
are the ones who left me empty
and ready to be filled again

(d. cluck)
Track Name: holocaust (big star)
your eyes are almost dead
can't get out of bed
and you can't sleep

you're sitting down to dress
and you're a mess
you look in the mirror

you look in your eyes
say you realize

everybody knows
leaving those who fall behind
everybody goes
as far as they can
they don't just care

they stood on the stairs
laughing at your errs

your mother's dead
she said don't be afraid
your mother's dead
you're on your own
she's in her bed

you're a wasted face
you're a sad-eyed lie
you're a holocaust

(a. chilton)
Track Name: barbara allen (traditional)
it was round & about last martinmas tide
when the green leaves were swelling
that young jimmy grove of the west country
fell in love with barbara allen

he sent his men into the town
to the place where she was dwelling
they said, "will you come to my master, dear,
if your name be barbara allen?"

and slowly, slowly, got she up
and slowly, came she nigh him
and all she said when there she came:
"young man, i think you're dying."

"oh yes, i'm sick, i'm very sick -
indeed, i think i'm dying.
but a word from you would revive me again
oh, lovely barbara allen."

"do you recall, young man," she said
"when the red wine you were spilling?
how you made the lady's health go round
and you slighted barbara allen."

and death is printed on his face
and all his heart is stealing
and again he cried as she left his side:
"hard-hearted barbara allen."

as she was a-going over the fields
she heard the death bell tolling
and every sound that death bell gave:
"hard-hearted barbara allen."

"oh mother, mother, make my bed
oh make it soft and narrow.
since jimmy died for me today
i'll die for him tomorrow."

(traditional/s. collins)
Track Name: stone and sticks (holy haunted head)
when the lady she saw you there
she came from a home made of wood and bricks
her eyes fixed on you, she looked inside
she said you were made of stone and sticks

when i was younger, i was not like this
my body made of sunlight drips
when i grew older, through fits and fits
my body made of moonlight drips

but now, i am just like you
i creak and i crack through and through
our bodies made of stone and sticks
broken bones and heavy heads and aching wrists

(s. thrasher)
Track Name: unravel (bjork)
while you are away
my heart comes undone
slowly unravels
in a ball of yarn
the devil collects it
with a grin
our love
in a ball of yarn

he'll never turn it

so when you come back
we'll have to make new love

(bjork/g. sigsworth)
Track Name: running scared (roy orbison)
just running scared each place we go
so afraid that he might show
running scared, what would i do
if he came back and wanted you

just running scared, feeling low
running scared, you love him so
just running around, afraid to lose
if he came back which one would you choose

then all at once he was standing there
so sure of himself, his head in the air
my heart was breaking, which one would it be
you turned around and walked away from me

(r. orbison)
Track Name: i found a reason / then he kissed me (the velvet underground / the crystals)
[you better come to me]

well he walked up to me
and he asked me if i wanted to dance
he looked kinda nice
so i said i might take a chance
when he danced he held me tight
and when he walked me home that night
all the stars were shining bright
and then he kissed me

i found a reason to keep living
oh and the reason, dear, is you
i found a reason to be keep singing
oh and the reason, dear, is you

each time i saw him
i couldn't wait to see him again
i wanted to let him know
that he was more than a friend
i didn't know just what to do
so i whispered i love you
and he said that he loved me, too
and then he kissed me

oh i do believe you are what you perceive
what comes is better than what came before

he kissed me in a way
that i've never been kissed before
he kissed me in a way
that i wanna be kissed forevermore

i've walked down life's lonely highways
hand in hand with myself
and i realize
how many paths
have crossed between us

(l. reed / p. spector & e. greenwich & j. barry)
Track Name: shatter (liz phair)
i know that i don't always realize
how sleazy it is, messing with these guys
but something about just being with you
slapped me right in the face, nearly broke me in two

it's a mark i've taken heart
and i know i will carry with me
for a long, long time

i don't know if i could drive a car
fast enough to get to where you are
i don't know if i could fly a plane
well enough to tail-spin out your name

i'm thinking maybe

(l. phair)
Track Name: yr woman (white town)
just tell me what you've got to say to me
i've been waiting for so long to hear the truth
it comes as no surprise at all, you see
so cut the crap and tell me that we're through
now i know your heart, i know your mind
you don't even know you're being unkind
so much for all your highbrow-marxist ways
just use me up and then you walk away
boy, you can't play me that way

well, i saw my best friend yesterday
she said she never liked you from the start
me, i wish i could claim the same
but you always knew you held my heart
and you're such a charming, handsome man
now i think i finally understand
is it in your genes? i don't know
but i'll soon find out, that's for sure
why did you play me this way

i guess what you say is true
i could never be the right kind of girl for you
i could never be your woman

i guess what they say is true
i could never spend my life with a man like you
i could never be your woman

(j. mishra)
Track Name: a higher power (jens lekman)
he said let's put a plastic bag over our heads
and then kiss and stuff til we get dizzy and fall on the bed
we were in heaven for five or six minutes
and then we passed out
and i was so in love
i thought i knew what love was all about

in church on sunday making out in front of the preacher
you had a black shirt on with a big picture of nietzsche
when we had done our faithful christian hour
i had made up my mind that there must a higher power

at the christmas party, i hold your hair while you vomit
i held you up to brush your teeth and then i kissed your stomach
we lie still on your bed, the room lit only by the city
and it's a perfect night for feeling melancholy

(j. lekman)
Track Name: i was a stranger (smog)
i was a stranger
when i came to town
yesterday

i was a stranger
they don't come
much stranger

why did you believe
every word i said
why did you believe
a stranger

why do you let me look
at you so bold

you should have seen
what i was
in the last town

if i was a stranger
well, i was worse
than a stranger

i was well known

(b. callahan)
Track Name: silk beetle, this is mine (sarah d.)
i will wear this heinous beast
until the end of the earth
for five years slung across my back
slip over my head and around that neck
oh, silk beetle, it's coming down
mighty monster, take over me

so darling, shield your eyes
because i will be shining in the glare of the sun
oh, bundle up, baby, it's cold outside
and i will shine until i die

this wool is mine and i will spin it into copper wire
these wires are mine and i will twist them into crude branches
these trees are mine and i will build a home inside
this home is mine

(s. ayton/d. addario)
Track Name: asking for it (hole)
every time that i sell myself to you
i feel a little bit cheaper than i need to
i will tear the petals off of you
rose red, i will make you tell the truth

every time that i stare into the sun
angel dust and my pants just come undone
every time that i stare into the sun
be a faggot or just look like one

wild-eyed rot-gut, do me in
do you think you can make me do it again?

was i asking for it
was i asking nice
if i was asking for it
did i ask you twice

if you live through this with me
i swear that i will die for you

(c. love)
Track Name: still ill (the smiths)
i decree today that life is simply taking and not giving
i thought i was fine, i thought i was living
but ask me why and i'll spit in your eye
we cannot cling to the old dreams anymore
no, we cannot cling to those dreams

does the body rule the mind or does the mind rule the body?
i don't know

under the iron bridge, we kissed
and although i ended up with sore lips
it just wasn't like the old days anymore
no, it wasn't like those days
am i still ill?

ask me why and i'll die
and if you must go to work tomorrow
well, if i were you, i wouldn't bother
there are brighter sides to life
and i should know because i've seen them
but not very often

(moz/marr)
Track Name: losing a whole year (third eye blind)
i remember you and me used to spend
the whole goddamned day in bed
hiding in your room, we'd lay like dogs,
and the phone would ring like a joke that's left unsaid
losing a whole year

rich daddy left you with a parachute
your voice sounds like money and your face is cute
but your daddy left you with no love
and you touch everything with a velvet glove
now you wanna live a life of sin
you wanna be down with the down and in
you're always coppin' my truths
i kind of get the feeling like i'm being used

and now i realize that you never heard
one goddamned word i ever said
losing a whole year

took all of your stuff and put it in the basement
when i found out what that smile on your face meant
i wish you'd break your neck
craning your neck at my car wreck
it always seemed the juice used to flow
in the car, in the kitchen, you were good to go
now we're stuck in with the tube
a sink full of dishes and some KY lube

and i remember you and me used to spend
the whole goddamned day in bed
losing a whole year

and if it's not the defence, then you're on the attack
when you start talking i only hear the prozac
convinced you've found your place
with the pierced queer teens in cyberspace
when you were yourself, it tasted sweet
but it sours with routine deceit
well, this drama is a bore
and i don't wanna play no more

(s. jenkins)
Track Name: in grief (shelby sifers)
in grief, my body will shut down
sleep twenty-four hours straight through
and your boyfriend will stay the night
and your parents will fight and embarrass you

the truth is so hard to share
because the truth is so hard to bear
we don't want to burden those who we care about
we just want our sorrow out

and you'll reach for the bedside light
in the middle of the night
and wake me up
and you'll say you've had a bad dream
and you wish you could come clean
of all the things you've done

but the truth is you're at the mercy of man
and god the indifferent, he doesn't give a damn
he's got his own life ahead of him
he's got his own shit to deal with

so please, keep your best dress on
and sing every good song that pops in your head
because life is an uphill climb
to a rapid decline
and then you're dead

(s. sifers)