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"The Sadness I Admire" from Even Sleepers
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Even Sleepers
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Even Sleepers Lyrics and Song Notes by Leah Callahan

Track One: Valentine (vocals—leah; guitar—shaun; accordion—suzi lee)

when i love you what do i love, is it what i want to see? when i kiss you where does it go, does it reach into your soul? if i could find my valentine, how funny would it be.

when i look now into your eyes, i would want to look all day, but the days are short and pass me by, so i just look away.

for the first time i can be sure---that i really have no clue. what it feels to love and be loved, is it something i should do? if i could find my valentine how funny would it be.

This song is about not really knowing what love is, and being skeptical of whatever manifests itself as love. It has a Klezmer/Berlin 1930’s cabaret feel to it. In the song, I take on the voice of the “Girl from Ipanema”—her response as to why she “looks straight ahead not at he.” My idea to do the song perhaps came about when I saw Matt Damon’s character perform Rodgers and Hart’s “My Funny Valentine” in the film The Talented Mr. Ripley. I wanted to cover the song after hearing his sad and twisted version but I wrote one instead. When I was a child, my singing teacher was a woman in her 70’s who taught me music from her heyday, ’20’s and ’30’s Tin Pan Alley songs. Even before I met her I was drawn to the glamour of old black and white movies with stars like Marlene Deitrich. This was my way of escaping the dilapidated, dreary, dead-end neighborhood I lived in, lower Belvidere in Lowell, Massachusetts. Another escape was my involvement in the religious and cultural activities at the “Polish Church” Holy Trinity and Saint Stanislaus school in my neighborhood. Perhaps the songs and dances I did there as a small child in Polish costume have influenced the “old-world” style of some of my songwriting too.

Track Two: The Sadness I Admire (vocals—leah; guitar—shaun; percussion—joel simches; organ—brother cleve)

there is something magical about the night, when you least expect to feel alright, the world looks good in candlelight.

I remember you and me we were boys and girls we were young and old we were sad, we were free, to be what we thought we couldn’t be.

“Sadness is dominant. By singing I send sadness away...”—Caetano Veloso, “Desde Que o Samba É Samba,” 1993. No one who has been exposed to college radio has missed the opportunity to hear Astrud Gilberto. She has been embraced by the indie world for her imperfect singing and coolness. Hearing her led me to seek out artists like Joao Gilberto and Antonio Carlos Jobim. Besides the great rhythms of bossa nova, I love the way the lyrics for this music openly embrace sadness as a natural part of life—not in the extremes like current American pop where either you’re sublimely happy or hatefully miserable. I wrote the first part of this song; then Shaun came up with a Brasilica guitar part. I added the second part and it came together very naturally. I hadn’t intended on any specific style—I think he heard the lyrics and felt the Bossa Nova style would fit! The “sadness” I admire is the sadness of Bossa Nova and the sadness of my first love.

Track 3: The Red Eye (vocals—leah; guitar—shaun; percussion—joel simches)

Look what the cat dragged in, look what the cat dragged in, she gave birth to a child then she lost it for a while, look what the cat dragged in.

What did they mean to do, when they put flesh and blood into, a red eyed little child that would sooner hide than smile, what did they mean to do.

Whose little girl are you, whose little girl are you—they left you on your own then your mind became your own, whose little girl are you?

Three generations dead, with the bottle that they took to bed, it doesn’t matter now and it didn’t matter then, three generations dead.

When will the show begin, when will this long ride end, I’ve waited and I’ve hoped and I’ve lost the hanging rope, when will the show begin.

Musically I think there is an element of backwoodsy Appalachian folk song being evoked—a lot of those songs seem to focus on the macabre, murder, death—killing your cheating wife and she haunts you—all that fun stuff. Maybe a bit of the traditional Irish folk sensibility too. We put in some chaotic percussion using all manner of found objects, which adds to the effect of being very homemade music.

Track 4: Better than You (vocals—leah; upright jazz bass—andrew mazzone)

she said i’m better than you i said just who are you referring to? is it the girl you once probably knew, or a version of somebody who—under it all you’re so very small.

i saw such beauty in your eyes, especially when you smiled, are there two people inside, one who is quiet and one who is wild, and when no one is listening, no one can hear that tree falling down there is no sound and this world is too busy to take the opportunity to say see you around.

it’s all probably true and i don’t even know you, but this story has nothing to do with love or forgiveness or beauty or truth we’re just two different girls, two different worlds and there’s no in between no happy dream.

i probably knew, the girl you are referring to, she said she took it much better than you of course she had so many things to do. so many places to go people to see...there’s no turning back no turning round.

This song is about my shock when a woman acquaintance/fellow musician came out and basically said “I’m better than you.” I mean what do you say to that? Shaun wrote a tango style accompaniment for the upright bass.

Track 5: Vampire (vocals—leah; guitar—shaun; accordion—suzi lee; electric violin—jonathan lamaster)

Vampire, I never tire, take me away from today--ugly heart where do we start? beautiful cancer I’ll be your dancer

and i couldn’t decide what dress to wear, and i couldn’t decide what city(village) to spare.

vampire i’ll be your bride, beautiful cancer I’ll be your dancer. ugly heart where do we start, beautiful cancer i’ll be your dancer.

and i wash my hands and brush my teeth put on my makeup and go to sleep.

night comes down, where do we go? into the night and into the fold. better yet, where we forget, until the day gives us away.

This song is about what the title says—a vampire. I had seen the film Bram Stroker’s Dracula with Winona Ryder (Mina) and Gary Oldman (Prince Vlad) and was impressed with the complexity of the love Ryder’s character had for a very evil man. The scene that inspired the song was a surreal fantasy ballroom scene in Dracula’s castle which appeared to happen in some other dimension. I have also been fascinated with human cruelty, whether as en masse—waging war and murdering innocent people for economic or political reasons—or individual—a character like Erzebet  Bathory who was a 16th century Countess who bathed in human blood. (supposedly the novel Dracula was modeled after her). This song is about being disturbed, attracted, frustrated and complacent in a world of violence. It is about trying to come to terms with seeing violence as not something “someone else” is doing, but taking stock of my own part in it, or at least my humanity and what it may entail. The music has an Eastern European feel to it, Romanian/Hungarian with a gypsy sound.

Track 6: Where You Are (star) (vocals—leah; guitar—shaun; percussion and melotron—joel simches)

You are a star...underground where you are. You seem so big, but you’re so my ears you are all.

I never thought, that I would see so pretty so lovely. This is the place, I imagined it to be so far out what a story.

Some of us are blue, some of us are grey--some shine brighter than the day. You are so cold, far from the sun. Starry eyes—won’t you have some fun.

The only other song besides “The Sadness I Admire” that was cowritten by Shaun. It took him many moons to figure out what key it was in—he almost went to a musicologist for help. I write my songs a capella so they don’t necessarily come out in any specific genre or mode. It starts out almost dissonant, but then turns into a lovely very 1960’s or 1970’s sounding folk rock song. It is about my adventures in being an underground performer—and seeing other people perform in smoky bars, art galleries and college coffeehouses since I was a teenager. It reminds me of some songs I’ve heard by the band “Love,” but Shaun doesn’t think so.  

Track 7: Love Some Thing (vocals—leah; guitar—shaun; violin—jonathan lamaster)

he said: “you think too much, what are you thinking of when you think of me?”

I said: “i want too much i wanna be in love, but when you love something you set it free”

you set it free, nothings for free

i wish my head was clear my heart us full of fear can you see through me?

i know i’ve said too much, but when a girl’s in love--there is nothing else she wants to be

in love I’m chained, In chains I’m free, it’s all not real, not what you see.

you think too much, think of me. i want too much, set me free.

This song and Vampire where the first songs Shaun heard that I had written. They were a capella, recorded on a cassette tape, and convinced him to work with me as my producer and guitarist. He had known me from my art-punk bands, Turkish Delight and Betwixt. I think he was pleasantly surprised to hear me do something that was not only different from what I had done—but also different from what he had heard anyone else do musically. He had studied ethnomusicology in college; as I sung my songs, he listened to them and watched me tap my feet along with the music. He was fascinated with the elements he heard in my songs—things like Klezmer, Tango, Brasilica—and went ahead to try and complement my songs with what he thought were appropriate guitar parts that would not change the pure structure of the songs in any way. This song is slow and not the catchiest—but it has a lot of beauty and is his favorite.

Track 8: Shocking Pink (vocals—leah; broken down piano—joel simches)

I wish I could be drunk all the time, I don’t know for sure what those chemicals do to my brain but i’m sure feeling fine...things don’t look ugly and things don’t look bad, and I keep forgetting I ever was sad. Won’t you come drinking tomorrow with me, we’ll dance on the tables we’ll say shocking things. The girls look so pretty the boys look so cute, and sometimes I wonder if I’m being duped.

When recording this, Shaun told us to sound like we were playing in a cafe/bar somewhere, some year in Germany after closing time. I even have kind of an accent in the song and played the part of a busty, lusty singer. Joel sounds particularly drunk—for the first few takes Shaun told Joel he was playing too well. I think it’s supposed to sound like we made it up on the spot to indulge ourselves for fun after a long night of performing—which we pretty much did.

Track 9: Strip Mall (vocals—leah)

The lights of the strip mall outside my window, they are my starry night twinkle twinkle...they wink at me saying that “we know what you’re thinking”

The flag on the flagpole, it seems to be saying “hello and goodbye” but here I’m staying...I see people walking, in cars they’re driving outside my window.

Oh take me back to the starry night when the --terrible ridiculous--- sets in. The silent stillness, where I know bliss is, outside my window.

Poem set to music. Van Gogh reference. Making beauty where there is none. Streetlights become replacements for stars in the smog filled city sky. Elements of childhood fantasy and surrealism overcome the mundane. “Do do do” at end is the sound of a calliope that would play in the merry -go-rounds of long ago. The TV is not on.

Additional Info
Two Weeks of Wine, Cigarettes, Coffee, and Old Vinyl Avant ...
Even Sleepers Lyrics and Song Notes by Leah Callahan
Media Acclaim for Leah Callahan

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