I LOVE MUSIC but I rarely make it anymore, except in service of assorted videos. At various times in my past, spurred on by different creative concepts, I'd write and record original songs and sometimes whole albums.
These are their stories...
I formed Adult Orchestra in high school to write pleasant-sounding songs with extremely offensive subject matter. Only two tracks survive: "I Grew Up," our smash hit about cancer, and "You Don't Understand,"a song about periods sung by my neighbor Aimée.
SoundCloud isn't letting me post them for some reason, so click here instead.
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For Valentine's Day 2010 I produced a six-song EP called Mike Critelli Presents... The Greatest Love Songs of All Time, recorded on a portable electronic eight-track recorder. I even did my own cover art: a sloppy mash-up of Windows Clip Art, Bruce Springsteen's Working on a Dream, and my face.
Essential: She's the One, When Women Say Things (Valentine's Day), How I Spend My Evenings
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Lead Pipe Fox - a combination of "stone cold fox" and "Stone Cold Lead Pipe Locks" from the radio show Mike and Mike in the Morning - was an experiment combining:
- Various musical riffs I'd been playing around with for years
- Advertising copy from junk mail or receipts, generally just the disclaimers, for lyrics
Each song is named after its parent company. Much of it is weird and menacing and Orwellian and occasionally brisk and silly, like when I rap a mailer from Ashley Furniture Homestore.
Essential: Time Warner Cable, City of Santa Monica, PennySaverUSA, Ashley Furniture, Little Caesars, T-Mobile
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Using the "found lyrics" concept from Lead Pipe Fox, in June 2013 I took various verses from the Hindu Text The Upanishads - which for some reason was sitting unopened on my bookshelf - and combined them with body percussion, live guitar and bass, and vocals that were digitally quadrupled. My goal was to record an hour's worth of material - 20-30 songs - and combine them into one epic, shifting piece.
After completing the 3 tracks below, I showed them to a friend and explained my concept. He laughed and said I was insane, which squelched my enthusiasm for the entire venture (even if my basic premise - every song using identical sounds and lyrics - is the basis for DJ Mustard's millions).
Essential: Taittriya II - 6, Aitareya III - 1, Shvetashvatara II -12
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If Unplugged sounds worse than my previous recordings, it's partly by design. The concept here was:
a) Record ten minutes of aimless electric guitar playing, live, with no amplifier. Whatever sounds end up on the tape, including background noise, may be used in the final product.
b) Make beats out of segments of recorded guitar and unaltered samples of live drums. Use dual guitar tracks and mix or alternate them, similar to the piano from Lead Pipe Fox's "Little Caesars."
c) Arrange the segments into songs and record vocals, also unfiltered. Lyrics are taken from poetry written before electricity came into common usage - furthering the "unplugged" theme.
I did each song in 3-4 days, according to this recipe, completely from scratch.
Essential: Sweetest Love, I Do Not Go; Rose-Cheeked Laura, The Tyger, Tichborne's Elegy
Unfortunately my hard drive crashed and the recording sessions for these files were damaged. Most of them therefore are mixed very badly, and are listenable only as demos.
Demos for what, exactly? Covers. Anyone who wants to cover one of these songs, have at it. "Rose-Cheeked Laura" would make a perfect Stephen Malkmus song. Take it, Stephen; it's all yours.
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