The sum of its parts

In these days of digital downloads, people can buy individual songs, and often do (if they even buy). They don't necessarily buy and listen to an entire album. And yet musicians and producers continue to create albums, works that comprise individual songs but are designed as a whole. Listening to an album in sequence is an experience unlike listening to the individual songs. Songs are like snapshots from a journey; the album is the entire journey. And when an album is well conceived, every piece feels like it's exactly where it ought to be.

Being an alterkacher (old fart), I still listen to albums, and I appreciate when people create albums purposefully. The songs go together. They fit with one another. They might tell a story or convey a theme. The key of one song flows into the key of the next. Tempos vary in a way that feels right. At the very least, an album captures a particular time in the creative process--the time of writing the songs, developing the songs, and recording them in a studio. A lot can go into that process: joy, pain, difficulty, personal breakthroughs. Does a listener ever perceive that? Perhaps. Recording artists always hope so.

Hotter, the new EP from my band Lisa's Hotcakes, is not a song cycle. It does not tell a single story. The songs are individual stories. I wrote most of them separately over a span of time, and they were unrelated to each other. Or so I thought, until I realized that as usual there was a theme to the songs I wanted to include on the record. Love Hz, the previous EP, was a quick snapshot of a band that was still quite new. Hotter shows where we've gone in a year. The selection of songs and the order in which they are presented are purposeful, both lyrically and musically. Indeed, the last song, "If I Have Not Love," was written specifically to be the closer of the record and as a kind of bookend to the opener, "We Have Only Begun."

There's a lot about love in Hotter. I don't think I write "silly love songs" like Macca, but love is a major theme in my life, so of course I write about it. Love of humanity, love in friendship, romantic love, love overcoming pain and loss. Love that has to start with me, that has to transform me, before I can hope to make any positive change in the world.

Hope is kind of a new theme for me. I'm no Polyanna. I can see all the things that are going to shit. And maybe those are going to prevail. But I don't think so. We tend to see stories about when things go wrong. It's not often we see stories about things getting better, but they happen. Human beings have got this far. We've been stupid and shortsighted enough that maybe we've destroyed our only home, but maybe we are also smart enough to fix the damage we've done. And maybe we will continue to muddle through as we so often do.

Thank you for any listening and buying you do! But if you wouldn't mind, listen to the songs in order. I'm very happy with the individual songs and how they each came out, but we really did create a six-song whole. I hope you get to experience that and maybe, just maybe, feel some of what we put into it.

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