10 Songs, 30 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

Michael Benjamin Lerner's fifth album as Telekinesis is the best kind of familiar: pure power-pop concocted in a lab—or in this case, a West Seattle basement—using tried-and-true formulas to achieve optimal serotonin levels. He recorded the 10 tracks at home—often with the same built-in MacBook mic he used on his 2009 debut—playing all the instruments himself, inspired by a 2017 stint as a touring member of Teenage Fanclub, a band he has long idolized. “That changed everything for me—not just for this record but for the rest of my musical life,” he tells Apple Music. “Playing their songs every night and then listening to the stuff that they were listening to—all this great music I'd never heard before. They're not reinventing any wheel, they're just doing it really, really well. And being with them, it was like, 'I don't have to feel ashamed about that.'” Here Lerner goes through each track of his homemade labor of love.

“Effluxion”
“I was trying to write the last song for the record, which is a fun thing to try to do—like, write an epic song. Because every record I've ever done, the last song has always just been an acoustic track, and I was really bored with that. So I was like, let's just write something that jams out for a long time and then the end is these big huge chords on this crazy fuzz pedal, which is like an emulation of what The Beatles' 'Revolution' would have been recorded through. Then I sent it to Ben Gibbard, and his response was 'Yeah, it's cool, but it should definitely be the first song on your record.'”

“Cut the Quick”
“This is maybe my favorite song I've ever written. It's probably also the longest song I've ever done—it's only like four minutes. My songs are so short because I am always just like, 'The riff is catchy, chorus is catchy, don't try to add something else.' There's a whole outro that is completely different than the rest of the song, and I've just never been able to do that. It shows progression. I don't think I could have written it in 2009 when I first started doing this.”

“Like Nothing”
“It's the first song that I wrote when I started this record. And the whole song was done with that really old MacBook mic—it's very lo-fi. I think I wrote it in a day and then let it sit on the computer for probably almost a year. And then revisited it and wrote every lyric within an afternoon.”

“Running Like a River”
“I took a writing trip to this place in Winthrop, Washington—this crazy little cabin built by this famous architect. Your phone doesn't work out there, you're in the middle of nowhere, there's really nothing to do. You have to bring a sleeping bag, they don't have a bed. And you can kind of hear a little of a river, there's one really close by. I probably wrote three or four songs, but this was the only one that made it.”

“Set a Course”
“I think I wrote this in 2011. I've never gone back and listened to a recording from that long ago and felt like it was usable. That was the first time I've done that—it sounded amazing to me. And that rarely happens when you pull up a demo; usually you're just like, 'Oh yeah, that's why I didn't put that on the record.'”

“How Do I Get Rid of Sunlight?”
“A songwriting trick I was taught by friends: Write a happy song and then sing bummer lyrics over it. This one is about seeing a city that I live in change really severely—going from something that was a sleepy little town to now being a real big city that you gotta try to figure out how you fit into. And I know it was summer when I wrote it, because it was really, really hot here, and it's just been getting hotter and hotter here every summer. We never needed air conditioning here, but now we're starting to, which is scary.”

“Suburban Streetlight Drunk”
“I was in Berlin writing this record called 12 Desperate Straight Lines. I just remember being really, really wasted one night after partying with Spoon, which is a recipe for disaster already. It was probably like 4 or 5 in the morning, just empty streets and a bunch of streetlights that all look the same to me, and I have no idea how I got home. I just loved that string of words—'suburban streetlight drunk.' We were in this weird suburb, and there was no one around, and it just felt kinda It's a Wonderful Life. I'm pretty sure I pissed on a power transformer. I probably could've electrocuted myself.”

“Feel It in Your Bones”
“I recorded this all to a four-track cassette recorder because I wanted it to sound like a Guided by Voices song. I've never had the balls to try to record a whole song like this. You have one track for the drums and two tracks for guitars, and then you balance all that down to one thing, and then you record over it—it sounds really fucked up. And in the breakdown, you can hear the click track really loud, which is a super no-no in the world of recording. But it's my favorite part of the song.”

“A Place in the Sun”
“This was also written during that crazy heat wave we were having, same as 'How Do I Get Rid of Sunlight?', and right after I had been writing a bunch of songs with Matthew Caws from Nada Surf; this was sort of my attempt at wring a Nada Surf song. I was also having bad heart palpitations during this time—I just woke up one day and my heart was gonna come out of my chest, so there's a line, 'My heart's a ping-pong ball skipping in a sea of goo.' It's like trying to sit and write and you feel like you're gonna die.”

“Out for Blood”
“I wrote this one probably a week before this record was scheduled to be mastered, in classic fashion. It didn't work anywhere else, so it just ended up as the last song. It's definitely an outlier, it has a very different feel than the rest of the record. I struggle a lot with social media and how I interact with people on the internet, how I come across to other people. One friend of mine was like, 'Dude, is this about the music industry?' I was like, 'No, not at all.' But it could be, a little bit.”

EDITORS’ NOTES

Michael Benjamin Lerner's fifth album as Telekinesis is the best kind of familiar: pure power-pop concocted in a lab—or in this case, a West Seattle basement—using tried-and-true formulas to achieve optimal serotonin levels. He recorded the 10 tracks at home—often with the same built-in MacBook mic he used on his 2009 debut—playing all the instruments himself, inspired by a 2017 stint as a touring member of Teenage Fanclub, a band he has long idolized. “That changed everything for me—not just for this record but for the rest of my musical life,” he tells Apple Music. “Playing their songs every night and then listening to the stuff that they were listening to—all this great music I'd never heard before. They're not reinventing any wheel, they're just doing it really, really well. And being with them, it was like, 'I don't have to feel ashamed about that.'” Here Lerner goes through each track of his homemade labor of love.

“Effluxion”
“I was trying to write the last song for the record, which is a fun thing to try to do—like, write an epic song. Because every record I've ever done, the last song has always just been an acoustic track, and I was really bored with that. So I was like, let's just write something that jams out for a long time and then the end is these big huge chords on this crazy fuzz pedal, which is like an emulation of what The Beatles' 'Revolution' would have been recorded through. Then I sent it to Ben Gibbard, and his response was 'Yeah, it's cool, but it should definitely be the first song on your record.'”

“Cut the Quick”
“This is maybe my favorite song I've ever written. It's probably also the longest song I've ever done—it's only like four minutes. My songs are so short because I am always just like, 'The riff is catchy, chorus is catchy, don't try to add something else.' There's a whole outro that is completely different than the rest of the song, and I've just never been able to do that. It shows progression. I don't think I could have written it in 2009 when I first started doing this.”

“Like Nothing”
“It's the first song that I wrote when I started this record. And the whole song was done with that really old MacBook mic—it's very lo-fi. I think I wrote it in a day and then let it sit on the computer for probably almost a year. And then revisited it and wrote every lyric within an afternoon.”

“Running Like a River”
“I took a writing trip to this place in Winthrop, Washington—this crazy little cabin built by this famous architect. Your phone doesn't work out there, you're in the middle of nowhere, there's really nothing to do. You have to bring a sleeping bag, they don't have a bed. And you can kind of hear a little of a river, there's one really close by. I probably wrote three or four songs, but this was the only one that made it.”

“Set a Course”
“I think I wrote this in 2011. I've never gone back and listened to a recording from that long ago and felt like it was usable. That was the first time I've done that—it sounded amazing to me. And that rarely happens when you pull up a demo; usually you're just like, 'Oh yeah, that's why I didn't put that on the record.'”

“How Do I Get Rid of Sunlight?”
“A songwriting trick I was taught by friends: Write a happy song and then sing bummer lyrics over it. This one is about seeing a city that I live in change really severely—going from something that was a sleepy little town to now being a real big city that you gotta try to figure out how you fit into. And I know it was summer when I wrote it, because it was really, really hot here, and it's just been getting hotter and hotter here every summer. We never needed air conditioning here, but now we're starting to, which is scary.”

“Suburban Streetlight Drunk”
“I was in Berlin writing this record called 12 Desperate Straight Lines. I just remember being really, really wasted one night after partying with Spoon, which is a recipe for disaster already. It was probably like 4 or 5 in the morning, just empty streets and a bunch of streetlights that all look the same to me, and I have no idea how I got home. I just loved that string of words—'suburban streetlight drunk.' We were in this weird suburb, and there was no one around, and it just felt kinda It's a Wonderful Life. I'm pretty sure I pissed on a power transformer. I probably could've electrocuted myself.”

“Feel It in Your Bones”
“I recorded this all to a four-track cassette recorder because I wanted it to sound like a Guided by Voices song. I've never had the balls to try to record a whole song like this. You have one track for the drums and two tracks for guitars, and then you balance all that down to one thing, and then you record over it—it sounds really fucked up. And in the breakdown, you can hear the click track really loud, which is a super no-no in the world of recording. But it's my favorite part of the song.”

“A Place in the Sun”
“This was also written during that crazy heat wave we were having, same as 'How Do I Get Rid of Sunlight?', and right after I had been writing a bunch of songs with Matthew Caws from Nada Surf; this was sort of my attempt at wring a Nada Surf song. I was also having bad heart palpitations during this time—I just woke up one day and my heart was gonna come out of my chest, so there's a line, 'My heart's a ping-pong ball skipping in a sea of goo.' It's like trying to sit and write and you feel like you're gonna die.”

“Out for Blood”
“I wrote this one probably a week before this record was scheduled to be mastered, in classic fashion. It didn't work anywhere else, so it just ended up as the last song. It's definitely an outlier, it has a very different feel than the rest of the record. I struggle a lot with social media and how I interact with people on the internet, how I come across to other people. One friend of mine was like, 'Dude, is this about the music industry?' I was like, 'No, not at all.' But it could be, a little bit.”

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