Conjured lights

Time: 04:08

“Conjured Lights” is an introspective song packed with pop hooks. Musically the track showcases producer J. Robbins, drummer Darren Zentek, singer Shawna Potter, cellist Gordon Withers and me working together at our best. The open bridge (at “Make my, make my”), with tense cello, effected keys and outsized drum hits (made by specially tuning a different kit) is one of my favorite moments on the record.

We use an indie disco rhythm section and Motown-style backing vocals to illustrate a massive celebration. I was reflecting on the 2009 Obama Presidential Inauguration in Washington, DC, which seemed to embrace impossible expectations. “Conjured Lights” refers to people making something greater or more brilliant than it is — particularly many people imagining together.

J. and I were playing around with this Marvin Gaye-like rhythm track you can hear in the song, and we thought it sounded a like a typewriter. In my office that week I noticed a typewriter, turned it on and found that it vibrated at 117 bpm, just one beat off from the song’s tempo. Pretty cool. So we dropped it into the song, which is the sound you hear at the beginning. A typewriter in the digital age seems a nice metaphor for feeling out of step.

Lyrics:

Quito, Ecuador
January 24, 2009

In cold lines
They celebrate the rites.
And souls try
To conjure a light.

And I stand outside
With unbelieving mind
But I’d like to stand in line
If the conjure were right.

And now it’s hard
To have you in my city
As I question the conjured lights.

Set apart
Here in my city
Do you come to remind?

Old eyes
A face with familiar lines.
So right
But distant as time
And political ties.

I can’t just go along
Much as I might want.
I know I’m different
But I don’t think I’m wrong.

And now it’s hard
To have you in my city
As I question the conjured lights.

Set apart
Here in the city
Do you come to remind?
Do you come to remind?
Do you come to remind?

If could make my peace with you
I could make my peace with all.
If I could make my peace with you
I could make my peace with all.

To each their only call.
To each their lonely call.
To each their only call.
To each their lonely call.

And now it’s hard
To have you in my city
As I question the conjured lights.

Set apart
But with you in my city
Could we conjure something right…