What Ails Us

by Harrison Lemke

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about

Harrison's first full-length album is a reflection on death anxiety, late nights, failed self-exorcisms, and grace, committed to tape in the only way he knows how - on rickety, haunted electronics over the course of a couple of years.

credits

released September 10, 2013

These songs were written between summer 2011 and fall 2012, and recorded a little here, a little there, between summer 2011 and summer 2013, "here" and "there" being a bedroom in Waco and a couple of bedrooms in Austin, respectively.

"Aliveness" contains elements of a song you might know. Everything else was written or unwittingly stolen by Harrison Lemke.

Thanks be to God, in whom all things consist; my parents, for their many years of patience & support; my brothers; and all the friends who inspired these songs, encouraged me in making them, or just played Nintendo with me. Special thanks to Shawn Johnson for help with digitization.

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license

Some rights reserved. Please refer to individual track pages for license info.

about

Harrison Lemke Austin, Texas

tape hiss symphonies to God

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Track Name: Getting Somewhere
The falling moon snagged on the power lines,
and our wasted words all tasted stale at the tail-end of the night,
and the coffee turned our teeth and our stomachs sour,
and the last few frayed ends came undone in that mess of early hours.
Track Name: Born to Lose You
The sun came down and crushed me under its weight,
and the stars came out from the noise floor of the sky.
I held your hand in that hour of impending goodbye
as if by holding on I might make you mine,

but you don't belong to anyone,
not even yourself.

At best I might let some crude idol of you
inflect upon my oscillating mind;
at best I might leave my dead desert and
enter through some side-gate your vibrant garden

and dwell in its branches,
and catch scent of its sweetness.

I've loved these hours safe within your sphere,
but it's not love that won't let go of your hand -
no sickly lust for stasis could you sate,
no want wired for some shining distant life;
you're going away and I'll never make you mine.
You're going away and I'll never make you mine.

I was born to lose you.
Just to love and to lose you.
Track Name: Depression
On nights when I feel particularly depressed,
and lie down without the will to do anything,
I begin to feel that if someone were to tell me the punch-line,
I would laugh and I'd laugh and I'd laugh.

But on nights when I feel even more depressed,
and lack even the will to lie down,
I begin to feel that if there were a punch-line,
I would've laughed, already laughed, already laughed.

But I thought I heard it once in the sighing of the sea.
Yes, I thought I heard it once in the sighing of the sea.
It's in the color of the sea;
holy are its misty o-o-o-o-overtones.
Track Name: Aliveness
When you danced around to those old songs
in your mother's nursing home,
and you tried to move your mouth along
to the words you didn't know,
I could believe that I felt
more alive there than in all
the gardens of the world.

Ooh, don't worry baby,
everything will turn out right.
Track Name: Safety
I'll never know what brought me to your door,
and I'll never know all the friends who came before
to where this stillness seems to grow.

I'll never know who we'll be by tomorrow,
and I'll never know why the seconds seem so slow
when I am lying on your floor.

(You)
Track Name: Why Does Magic Die?
Because I was lazy,
too bored and too tired;
too much TV, too much romance.
Because people got older
and got eaten by the world;
too many fights and drunken nights.
Because the only good things
seemed just out of my reach.
Low voices in the next room;
couldn't hear what they said.
Track Name: Oh God
Shooting stars and clouds and blankets,
cups of tea, a book, a soft kiss -
this and more, my life's detritus
will starve and fade to brittle ashes.

Silly existential terror,
quickly lost religious fervor,
a hope to have some holy horror
dangling down my yearning nerves.
Track Name: Pins + Needles
All of our boredoms were once shining novelty;
at first so compelling, apparent anomalies,
now shimmering tinsel, distracting but meaningless,
bent puzzle pieces like everything else.

But there on the airplane we jolt wide awake;
in sense of our smallness we shiver and shake
in a fast-fleeting moment where all things seem vital,
and two hundred elbows turn to pins and needles.

I try to sit still at the church, at the funeral.
Feel weirdly like laughing - why are they so serious?
Their founts have unfrozen, they've tasted its realness,
and five hundred feet turn into pins and needles.

Yet so many nights, it's the same thing all over;
in preoccupation I stumble and wander,
feel apprehensive, bow down to my idols -
no cold pain of terror, pinched nerves, pins, or needles.

But it's evenings like these that I feel the most,
when every car coming could murder us both
in a fast-fleeting moment where all things seem vital,
no dull anaesthesia or killing indifference,
no sitting on sofas all sleepy and sated.
Track Name: A Gloom
The night that I couldn't stand the pain of my indifference,
I stumbled into the frozen street in the hope it'd make some kind of difference.
And the sky was a great black window filled with a monstrous distance,
and the weight of the thing that drove me there was suddenly insistent.

For though I'd found no real happiness in the deception
that the resplendent universe was somehow moved by my passing,
neither was there any joy in this wash of pointless events,
useless to contemplate, veiled in their own transience.

There's a gloom in every corner;
please don't let it in.
It's on the steps to every apartment,
but don't let it in.
Don't go along with its plan.
Don't go along; it'll get me if it can.

After some time I tried posing my question to the howling wind,
but whether too poorly phrased or unanswerable, the wind just kept on howling.
But you spoke to me then in a tower of the blackest silence.
And I knew it was all I'd ever hear you say,
and that was okay.
Track Name: We Wait
Our sentences lost all their sense somehow
in the lateness of the hour.
So we ended our conversation;
the scanlines from the window hit your face.

So we wait for some
tornado touch-down,
some spirit stirring sadness in its wake
to come glorify
our sleepy bodies -
now warm and safe, now shivering awake.

The bats hovered and clicked above us
on the porch, watching distant lights.
The air all thick with ions and vapor,
brief sputtering images passing over my eyes

on their way to some other world.

So we wait for some
tornado touch-down,
some spirit stirring sadness in its wake
to come glorify
our sleepy bodies -
now warm and safe, now shivering awake.