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Forever Only Idaho

by Harrison Lemke

supported by
Wino Mercantilism
Wino Mercantilism thumbnail
Wino Mercantilism Captures the dissonance between how you expected life to be at 18 and how it is at 30. Favorite track: Exonerated.
all_untied thumbnail
all_untied this record has such a rocking sound and lyrics that sear you. i find it somewhere between the very best of the mountain goats, the hold steady, and heartfelt country like colter wall but with its own distinct personality

i'm also a sucker for music about Places, especially when that place is the greater northwest (though i'm from the other side of the cascades)

highly highly highly recommend Favorite track: Burn Down the Title Loan.
Jamison Barsotti
Jamison Barsotti thumbnail
Jamison Barsotti Very good. Need to do a deeper dive into the lyrics. But finding myself back in my rural-ish hometown, unemployed, and on the cusp of 34, it's hitting pretty hard. Favorite track: Forever Only Idaho.
Ernie Shmitz
Ernie Shmitz thumbnail
Ernie Shmitz Unique, well produced and really solid. Love the concept. It truly is a bizarre feeling, reaching the age of thirty-ish and reflecting on odd old memories, branching paths and cynical futures. Though I'm a So Cal city dude myself, I emphasize and emanate that feeling. Favorite track: Only Idaho, Forever.
Charles Franz
Charles Franz thumbnail
Charles Franz Devastating sketches of modern life in a small town. One of the most emotionally resonant albums you'll hear. Favorite track: Wonderful Life.
Mike Fasano
Mike Fasano thumbnail
Mike Fasano Great lofi, folky vibes. Favorite track: Burn Down the Title Loan.
  • Digital Album
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  • Cassette + Digital Album

    This is a sky-blue, music-grade cassette made of recycled plastic inside of a clear case, with artwork specially redesigned for the odd strictures of the J-card format. An impractical, perishable object which could be nice to have around in your limited time on Earth.

    Includes unlimited streaming of Forever Only Idaho via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more.
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  • Compact Disc
    Compact Disc (CD) + Digital Album

    A shiny screen-printed CD in a 6-panel card case with exclusive artwork and a prose poem sort of thing in the way of liner notes. Look at it and think of the cool waters and monolithic pines of scenic North Idaho.

    Includes unlimited streaming of Forever Only Idaho via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more.

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Last night everything froze over; it's back to work today. The cars warming up out in the weekday street: the sound of someone else's money being made. And the highways curve, and the trucks barrel down them like pain down a nerve, but there's only one place they ever go: forever only Idaho. Billboards proclaiming salvation all the way to work, but if it's Christ or the Powerball or quitting cigarettes, well — it's hard to tell for sure. And a song comes on, one that made you feel better in days that are gone, but there's only one place the echoes go: forever only Idaho. Fools with dollar signs for eyes have been selling you your life one weekend at a time, saying you'll go far, but you're still nowhere, so far. And the ponderosa pines leave their branches behind like they're trying to leave the ground, and sometimes they drop a load of snow into the snow and it disappears without a sign or a sound, and they stand so tall, like they're made for more than power lines and dirty strip malls, but there's only one place they'll ever grow: forever only Idaho. Forever, only Idaho.
Silverlake 02:33
"Attention please; your attention, please: the mall will soon be closing." You shift your weight off the jewelry case smudged with the fingerprints of the long day. You stare down through your spread hands at the things you can't afford glittering, glittering like a dragon's hoard. The cookware displays and sale signs give way to a small town made up for the holiday. And the headlights off of 95 twist your stomach in the dark and you couldn't say why, but you run for the car. And the evening stands there empty, like it can hardly bear to be, like a taxi throbbing waiting waiting waiting.
Tourists amble on the boardwalk though it's forty-some degrees. What on earth could they be looking for that they think they'll find it here, in evil times like these? Long day at concierge/reception fiddling with the nameplate on your breast. The lobby's velvet denizens won't look you in the eye like you've failed some hidden test. Friends that you could visit, back here for a week or maybe two. Lives full of untold wonders, or they must be, you suppose; can't bring yourself to find out if it's true. Big band playing by the water, wailing like the kingdom's gonna come. The mansions gleam like topaz in the mountain's inky heights, black sky humming and humming and humming like a big big drum. One look back at the resort hotel lighting up the night: the windows shine like icons, full of hope and truth and life, but the labyrinth hallways smell like bleach and the shower heads don't work right. Tourists amble on the boardwalk though it's thirty-some degrees, like sheep without a shepherd, and the way is growing dark. God bless all such as these.
The old truck lurches from gear to gear, but it's alright. There's a hairline crack in the mirror, but it's alright. You got off work an hour late again, and Amber won't answer the phone, and one of these nights, when the mood is right, someone'll burn down the title loan. Linda Ronstadt on the radio. It's alright. Sometimes she sings too rock 'n' roll, but it's alright, 'cause there's an old backroad nobody else knows and you can park out in the clear, and smoke a few, and drink a few, and try to forget whatever led you here and see the red sun the red sun bleed out on the mountain. They're all big guys with little necks, but it's alright. They're always talking like the president, but it's alright. They've got a camera hooked up to a computer in there just as good as to say that they know that one of these nights, maybe tonight, someone'll burn down the title loan. They place a lien on your soul, but it's alright. Give back your body like a ticket stub, but it's alright. It's a real dead-end, but it's as good as a friend: scrub grass, yellow and cold; and the engine may whine, but the radio's fine and the choruses sing with the sad old world and if this were your car, and if it could make it that far, you'd drive up from the mountain clear into the red sun the red sun that's dying on the mountain.
Hayden Hello 02:13
Cracked glass laundromats in strip malls. Maples fading in the late fall. "Guess who just got back today?" They don't remember you anyway. Forms devoid of any function, lonely lingering conjunction between black redacted lines inside the minutes of your mind. Hello, Hayden. Hayden, hello. Wake up somewhere that you used to live buzzing with thousands of false positives. The years that intervened were just a long and boring dream. Stop for lunch down at the Super 1. Pray you don't run into anyone who'd know you from before; you're just a ghost now, nothing more. Hello, Hayden. Hayden, hello.
Exonerated 02:23
Let off on a technicality! Praise God for technicalities! Even the DA's got to fold 'em now and then. Weep to see the winter sun, the Wednesday morning just begun; Post Falls never looked so beautiful, and it never will again. Zip's Drive-In, old red S-15; the banks and strip malls in between; drab walls raised in the seventies, way back when. Hot coffee and an ice cream cone and a vision meant for you alone. Post Falls never looked so beautiful, and it never will again. Even the modular homes — the low grey cell blocks of the high school — you might learn something from it, if you weren't such a fool. Scrub your uniform by hand, bury all the contraband. Better a Christmas behind the counter than in the pen. Vow to quit your lowdown ways in a year or two, if not today. Post Falls never looked so beautiful, and it never will again.
In town for the weekend, wedding of a former friend, and everything has changed again. The stores and bars on Sherman look just like Portland or Brooklyn; it's all been rearranged again. It's a dirty tourist trap. It'll never love you back. Front page of the local press sings hymns to local business: sell whatever isn't nailed down. And the guy at the hotel bar still talks about the time he met a movie star right here, in our own town. They'll bruise you blue and black, but they're never gonna love you back. Granddad worked in a factory (or was it a fishery?) and saved up every penny that he earned, but to want a captive audience and to be someone of consequence is the only trade you ever learned. And they'll tear your ticket in half, but they're never gonna love you back. And no one seems to know what to make of the thing they exist for the sake of and spin around like dim and dying worlds: the resort at the center, like a holy place no one dares to enter but the priests with their attendants and their pearls. It's a dirty trick at that: a god who'll never love you back. It breaks your heart to see them lean in at the door to catch some dying strain of what they're living for. Dusk falling on the empty pier. Hotel lit up like a chandelier. Bitter lake-sand smell, a jagged line of evergreen, as out of reach as the memory of the place when you were seventeen and still in love with everyone and everything. The water is beautiful and black, but it'll never love you back.
Late getting home again from the nursing home. Mom got scared again. Honeymoon postcard of some steps in Rome from someone you thought of as a friend. But oh, it's a rare kind of friend who's gonna be there until the credits end. It's a rare kind of friend. Dream of blood flowing from Christ's own side; wake up to the TV drone in your childhood living room alone, with the insurance still not paying out, with the secrets you keep from everyone; the way other people's lives seem to shine with God's own light: a place near the coast, op-eds in the Seattle Times. But oh, what kind of son would just take off, no thought for anyone? What kind of son would you be?
Another night at the office park, putting in time. Another night at the office park, putting in time, saving up the money to buy someone else's life. You're a buzzing light at the office park, putting in time. Wonder who's living now in the house you grew up. Wonder who's living now in the house you grew up. It was a beautiful house, but it's never enough. Wonder who's living now in the house you grew up. All your friends speak in movies and live in hotels. All your friends speak in movies and live in hotels, and you don't really mind, but it's a living hell. All your friends speak in movies and live in hotels. A heartache saved is a heartache earned. A heartache saved is a heartache earned. Feels like lonely is the only trick you ever learned. A heartache saved is a heartache earned.
The Old Band 03:17
Robbie moved to Arizona. Josiah tried out L.A. Courtney got married to a Mormon guy. Micah landed in A.A. But it's still stuck in your head. Levels in the red. So long forever. The old band is never getting back together. The Long Ear is never moving back. Pavement is never coming back. It's too late to never compromise. No three chords are ever gonna save your life. But you still have the cassettes, the stale cigarettes. So long forever. The old band is never getting back together.
This one's for all our friends who never made it free. This one's for all our friends who never made it free. Never bought a Thunderbird; never went to Italy; never made it free. This one's for everyone who fell off the map. This one's for everyone who fell off the map. Maybe moved to Texas; maybe had an early heart attack; fell off the map. This one's for everyone you never knew that well. This one's for everyone you never knew that well. Maybe you loved them a lot; maybe it was hard to tell; but you'll never know them well.
Memory comes out and meets you like an enemy in the smell of burning fields, in desire that never yields. You're getting tired; it's getting down to the wire. Another year or two, who knows what you might do. December comes on like a heart attack. You call and no one calls you back. They all get depressed, or so they say. Hole up in their rooms like stowaways. They've paved over the vacant lots where you and your brothers got lost. Is love just standing by watching a million useless things die? Birds headed south and you've half a mind to follow them out, leave the dead for dead, follow the magnet in your head, but something in the treeline glow says you've got nowhere to go. You might make it to Sandpoint or Kellogg or Moscow, or Spokane, but if you ran, well, the hemisphere's too small, the world's too hard to break such a late fall.
Another Wednesday morning, another bout of the same old blues, the hotel awning still bathed in the same old hues. Look over the water from one of the upper floors: more condos going up. The old band playing, all in four. The rising cost of living, the rising cost of land: everything according to someone else's plan. You never meant to give it your life. Dreams of the city in the TV at night. Houses all in rows, uniform and brown: it's your hometown, your hometown. Watch the sunset going to pieces in the lake. Wonder which one was the fatal mistake. You've been on the waitlists at some of the finest schools. You had big plans; you were gonna break all the rules. But mom got sick and dad flew off the handle and you moved home to a small-town scandal. You swore you wouldn't ever give up the fight. Pretty New York City and your name up in lights. Graves in staggered rows, Mullan eastbound: it's your hometown, your hometown. Flashes in your mind of every face that left this place behind. Higgins Point, watching the Perseids, warm asphalt on your backs, dreaming like good American kids. — Come to yourself, the hour grown late, very late. House sunk in darkness. Cold ashes lying in the grate. The streets are covered in a mantle of virgin snow. Someone like you lived here a long time ago. Face tangled in the window with branches and moon, marked by all the time nothing can undo. You never meant to give it your life. "Don't sit so close to the TV, alright?" Your worn out eyes overlaid on the worn out town, and the choked up sky, and the snow coming down: everything desperate and spent for the day joins in the darkness, and you can hear something in you say: "You want to be a city and I want to be a star, but when you get down to it, that isn't what we are. "We're children sledding in Cherry Hill Park, lights on the mountain way up in the gathering dark; we're cars warming up out in the Sunday street, bells of St. Thomas ringing out clear and sweet; "We're blue and gold, St. Vincent de Paul, the world and all its promise in the dusky fall; we're trucks without wheels in the vacant lots on the near edge of nowhere, still waiting to be bought. "I forgive you, you dirty old town. It's not your fault I stuck around." Mansions in the heights: how they shine, like jewels in the crown of your hometown, your hometown.
Shooting cans off the fence on New Year's Day with your father's .22. No birds to scare. They all went away. Just your father and you. A report rings out, and the countryside answers for a while. Now Amy's on the steps, watchful-eyed, seven months with child. Any fool can tell you where the shot lands, but no one knows where the echoes go: forever only Idaho. Nothing said. Nothing to say. Snow dripping from the trees. It's back to work after today; tonight, it's going to freeze. Any fool's gonna tell you this is no kind of life, but they don't know where the echoes go: forever only Idaho. Forever, only Idaho.


This is an album about the Coeur d’Alene High School graduating class of 2006 in 2018, wherever they ended up — just turned thirty or about to, in and out of hospitals, in and out of jail, in or out of debt, trying to make it in New York or L.A. or still living at home, but above all wondering what happened to each other and wondering what might’ve been if things had been different (different how? no one knows). It’s about the self-absorbed, self-hating small American town, and the way its anxieties and failures follow its children wherever they go. It’s about reconciling with dead dreams, about carving out a place amid a commodified American existence and learning to call it home.


released March 19, 2021

All songs produced, recorded, and mixed by Harrison Lemke using a 4-track cassette deck and a computer (except for contributions by Jared Evans and Zack Wiggs who recorded themselves). Full-band tracks and selected overdubs were recorded at the Sycamore Center in Steubenville, OH in 2019 and 2020. The rest of it was recorded in a small apartment a little too close to Hwy 290 in Austin, TX, 2019-2021.

Harrison Lemke — guitars & similar, keyboards, harmonica, percussion, programming, vocals.
Marc Barnes — drums.
Caleb Knorr — piano.
Daniel Merritt — bass guitar, tenor saxophone.

Cody Cooke — drums (2).
Jared Evans — lead guitar (12).
Michael Gossett — tenor saxophone (3, 7).
Magdalene Hobbs — vocals (8).
Albert Macre — trumpet (2, 3, 7).
Brodie Stutzman — bass guitar (2).
Zack Wiggs — pedal steel (6).

All songs by Harrison Lemke
©2021 Cloak of Stars (ASCAP)


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Harrison Lemke Austin, Texas

tape-hiss symphonies to God

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