At Home At Sea

by E.G. Phillips

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about

When E.G. Phillips talks about his musical influences, it sounds like some cosmic cocktail party: Bob Dylan, Miles Davis, Blossom Dearie, Tom Lehrer. And don’t forget the time-travelling gate-crasher: Talking about his lyrics, Phillips says, “One of the parlor games that I’m sure people could play is ‘Spot the obscure Doctor Who reference.’”

What it all adds up to is some of the most compellingly originally, slyly humorous, and sneakily affecting singer-songwriter music you’re bound to hear in this homogenous age. And Phillips brings all of that to the table on his bold new album, At Home At Sea. The new disc builds on his 2017 debut Fish From The Sky with material written since he started playing out on the ever-inventive San Francisco scene.

This is not to say it was a straightforward journey — a few songs on the new record are resurrected from the distant past with new lyrics while others had been temporarily mothballed but then given new life. Of two of the songs Phillips says “I had a different vision of them belonging to a sequence of songs about a particular relationship that didn’t work out. I ended up pulling them into this album.” Of the amalgamation that resulted “It wasn’t until after the recording was completed and I was reflecting on it that I started to realize the common threads that were in there — notions about attachment and its complexity. A lot of the songs are about relationships that have gone awry or perhaps should have been avoided in the first place."

Although the album’s title (which felt like a gimme once the opening track had been written) might suggest a collection sea shanties, Phillips was sure from the beginning that he wanted to emphasize his love of jazz music this time around when he went into the studio with producer Ben Osheroff, who contributes his jazz piano chops to many of the tracks. ”In general, this album focuses more on that influence on my songwriting. For a time, I lived near Positively 4th Street records in Minneapolis. I decided to start poking around their jazz section out of curiosity, and I came across Miles Davis’ Kind Of Blue. Then I started to going to jazz concerts. It wasn’t an immediate, ‘Yeah I get this.’ But I wanted to. So I started exploring Miles, Coltrane, Mingus, and Ellington — and that’s music I came to really bond with.”

Phillips assembled an impressive team of local musicians with whom he'd previously shared bills and developed personal relationships (some of whom “accepted payment in the form of bottles of wine,” he jokes) for the album. And he gave them a lot of creative leeway in the collaboration that brought his alchemic creations to life. “With writing, there needs to be an aspect of play to it,” Phillips says of his approach. “You’re sort of a mad scientist. You know, ‘What happens if I do this? How does this work?’ You’re a kid in a sandbox. You’re creating things just to see what they do. Pure, unadulterated experimentation. Wanting to create Dylanesque or Beatlesque sort of songs and carry in the jazz tonalities and constructs was appealing to me.”

You can hear the way that Phillips mixes up the medicine in the various songs on At Home On The Sea. “The Albatross Song” and “A Finnish Midsummer Midnight” surge forward with nimble lyricism and an almost deranged momentum, as if Colin Meloy were fronting They Might Be Giants. Phillips also seems right at home crooning the piano-driven torch song “An Alternate Route (To Your Heart)” and navigating the complex Latin-tinged rhythms of “All I Can Share Is Photos.”

Other stylistic detours include the countryish longing of “Lighthouse At The Edge Of The World” and the Zeppelin-style drama of “The Comet And The Wandering Moon.” But Phillips saves his greatest tricks for last on the album, keeping the arrangements spare and letting the beauty of his songwriting shine through on “You Will Sail With Me” and “Your Inexorable Pull.”

Another quality that characterizes Phillips’ songwriting is his agile vocabulary; you won’t likely hear too many tunesmiths that can work in words like “funicular” and “concentric” so deftly. “Words are wonderful toys,” he says. “There’s a lot of meaning imbued in particular words. There’s what you can do with sound as you string things together. There are concepts that you can relate to each other that may not seem immediately related, but you can create a picture using images. There's an old saw that you hear with creative writing — ‘show, don’t tell,’ — which is something that I’ve brought to bear with my songwriting.”

credits

released July 12, 2019

produced, recorded and mixed by Ben Osheroff
tracks 1 & 2 mixed at Laughing Tiger Recording Studios
mastered by Matt Boudreau, Working Class Audio
songs and artwork by E.G. Phillips (ASCAP)

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E.G. Phillips San Francisco, California

E.G. Phillips is a San Francisco based songwriter who creates lyric driven songs with his own special blend of whimsy and cinematic imagery which he uses to give a wry take on dealing with the longings of the heart and the madness of existence.

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Track Name: The Albatross Song
The bowerbird is quite creative when it comes to decoration
Starlings follow simple rules that dictate their murmurations
But wanton salt marsh sparrows and curious little chickadees
I know there’s only one companion for me — for...

When you’re with an albatross
Don’t you know you can’t get lost
‘Cause you’re never truly lost
When you are at home at
Sea...

Does your restless spirit wander yet get hopelessly attached?
You’re barely bound to this world, yet you dread it’s bound to collapse?
If Noah sent you from his ark to fetch some branches from a tree
Might you not return? Just drift perpetually? Well...

When you’re with an albatross
Don’t you know you can’t get lost
‘Cause you’re never truly lost
When you are at home at
Sea...

High above the antarctic circle on a wing and a prayer
Down below it’s all icy flows but don’t you ever despair
No... No...No...

When you’re with an albatross
Don’t you know you can’t get lost
‘Cause you’re never truly lost
When you are at home at
Sea...

Because...
In the straits of Magellan or rounding the Cape of Good Hope
Death and disillusionment will gamble on a ghost ship for your soul
No!

When you’re with an albatross
Don’t you know you can’t get lost
‘Cause you’re never truly lost
When you are at home at
Sea...


Who would tie their savior to a chain around their neck?
What good are relentless reminders of your failings and regrets?
Don’t pile your sins on livestock that you banish despite their pleas
That’s just not right and that’s no way to be free

When you’re with an albatross
Don’t you know you can’t get lost
‘Cause you’re never truly lost
When you are at home at
Sea...
Track Name: The Lighthouse at the Edge of the World
I’ll apply to be the keeper
Of the lighthouse at the edge of world
Where the ocean tumbles into the stars
And a foghorn warns ships off the shoals of the void

I can talk with the sea lions
When I’m not busy maintaining the lantern
Or tossing out life preservers
To catch sailors drifting towards Saturn

If all I can do
Is push you away
Then at least I can ensure
You will be safe

If all I can do
Is push you away
Then at least I can ensure
You will be safe

I’ll watch for you on the horizon
While I’m standing out on the gallery
With only the celestial sea spray crash
And the ticking clockworks to keep me company

If all I can do
Is push you away
Then at least I can ensure
You will be safe

If all I can do
Is push you away
Then at least I can ensure
You will be safe

Because you
Can’t come back, no you can’t come back
You can’t come back
From over the edge

You can’t come back, you can never come back
Just… trust me
Trust me on that

I’ll apply to be the keeper
Of the lighthouse at the edge of world
Where the ocean tumbles into the stars
And a foghorn warns ships off the shoals of the void

If all I can do
Is push you away
Then at least I can ensure
You will be safe

If all I can do
Is push you away
Then at least I can ensure
You will be safe
Track Name: Lifetimes Without You
I’ve been living Lifetimes Without You
Ever since I saw you last
Each moment feels like a lifetime without you
I’m burn’n through lives so fast

I watched them build the pyramids
I saw them sack Rome
I had to do it without you

Wanted to take you to the new jazz center
Find my name on the wall
Explore the bazaars of Istanbul together
Propose at Iguaçu Falls

I have crossed the Bosporus
I have crossed the Rubicon
I had to do it without you

I watch the water drip in my kitchen sink
Watch each drop dangle from its stem
Watch a drop fall, watch a world shatter
Watch it bead up again

I’m Napoleon in exile
I’m Prometheus in chains
I’ve had to do without you

I’ve been living Lifetimes Without You
Lives in the future and the past
Each moment feels like a lifetime without you
Each one I hope will be the last
Track Name: Ephemera
​She handed me one of her flyers
Asked me to come see her show
She was kinda cute so I smiled and said yes
Dropped it after a few blocks
Watched it blow away like a leaf

They say it doesn’t hurt to ask
But what the hell do they know?
The fact is they say a lot of stupid things
Someone ought to call them out
For all their crazy beliefs

I liked you as soon as I met you
But I met you as you were about to go
The only thing I was able to do for you
Was get you a glass of water
When no one else saw you were thirsty

There’s nothing understand — there’s so much to overlook
I heard a few things secondhand — made some choices on the hoof
But doing something bad don’t mean you’re no good

I caught up with her flyer
As I was headed into the metro
Almost bent down to pick it back up
But the wind grabbed it again
And soon it was out of reach
Track Name: A Finnish Midsummer Midnight
I’m driving through the languid twilight
Of a Finnish mid-summer midnight
There’s absolutely no one in sight
And I intend to keep it that way

As I careen along the undulating country roads
Flecks of willow herb flicker in the headlights
And the lacy yellow bedstraw and meadowsweet glow
Transforming into a latticework of pure moonlight

I’m driving through the languid twilight
Of a Finnish mid-summer midnight
There’s absolutely no one in sight
And I intend to keep it that way

The cat-scratched birch bark interleaves
Through the naked amber trunks of the spindly pines
Their flying buttress limbs support the inkblot canopy
Their tapered tips define that jagged skyline

Now I’m so far from the festival and its crowds
All those people that make feel so lost and alone
The only time I don’t feel lonely
Is when I’m truly on my own

Pale buttercup farmhouses, brick red barns
Some fog nestles in the fields dappled yellow with rapeseed
I glimpse a pair of twin pursuers my rear view mirror
To elude them in the twists of the road, I increase my speed

I’m driving through the languid twilight
Of a Finnish mid-summer midnight
There’s absolutely no one in sight
And I intend to keep it that way
Track Name: An Alternate Route (To Your Heart)
All the signs I can read
Say the entrance ramp is closed
There’s no way onto the expressway
From here
It looks like I’ll have to take
The long way around
I’ll have to find An Alternate Route
To Your Heart

Now I’m parked on the shoulder
I’m all stalled out
Trying to fix a flat in the dark
As other cars speed past
Even if I get back on the road
I’m not sure I can switch gears
So I can take that Alternate Route
To Your Heart

Maybe I’ll get good and lost
And lose my way
Maybe it’s a destination
I’ll never quite reach
Maybe it’s as elusive as
Brigadoon or Shangri-La
Maybe it’s as guarded as
The gates of paradise

But I’m sure it’s a place that exists
In one form or another
And I believe to my bones
It’s where I’m meant to be
Oh, how do you reach into my being
So effortlessly?
And yet we’re so distant
No matter how near we are?

Once I finally get moving again
I’ll keep plugging away
I don’t care about the mileage
Or going off map
I’ll follow the stars in the heavens
Hoping they’ll guide me
Through the Odyssey of an Alternate Route
To Your Heart
Track Name: Til I Wash You Away
See you at a party, gee you’re looking fine
Hold you only briefly — oh it feels divine
You continue to cling to me throughout the night

‘Til I wash you away in the morning
‘Til I wash you away in the morning

Toss’n and turn’n, my sheets twist like taffy
Try to calm my nerves with a whiff of blue tansy
Still your scent will linger — the perfume and the brandy

‘Til I wash you away in the morning
‘Til I wash you away in the morning

A miasma of memory floating through the air
Lost possibilities resilient as a water bear
But only in my mind
It’s only in my mind

Debris on the beach is swept out with the tide
Garbage trucks are loading, the sea levels rise
The cosmic ash may whither but together here we lie

‘Til I wash you away in the morning
‘Til I wash you away in the morning

Scrubbing underneath the soothing shower head
Your last vestiges, the dirt, and my sweat
All swirling down the drain
All swirling down the drain

A preheated oven, a warmed up slice of pie
Essential oils burning, a freshly laundered sky
Every breath an elixir which elicits a sigh

‘Til I wash you away in the morning
‘Til I wash you away in the morning
‘Til I wash you away in the morning
‘Til I wash you away in the morning
Track Name: All I Can Share Is Photos
Under the custard-colored crescent of an Andean moon
A jazz quartet performs a Harold Arlen tune
In the sculpture garden
On the other side
Of the constant flow
Of the Rio Mapocho

I carry you wherever I go
In my salt encrusted shoes
But in the end the truth is
All I can share is photos

Visit Laguna Chaxa, don’t disturb the flamingos
Ride funiculars in Valpo, order a pastel de choclo
I keep being awoken
In the dead of night
By barking stray dogs
Out chasing cars

I carry you wherever I go
In my salt encrusted shoes
But in the end the truth is
All I can share is photos

It’s a disorienting feeling to be suddenly back home
Was it just a dream already scattered to places unknown?
Was it even worth
Coming back?
I see you from afar
And blow you a kiss…

I carry you wherever I go
In my salt encrusted shoes
But in the end the truth is
All I can share is photos
Track Name: The Comet and the Wandering Moon
You were rooting through trash on the edge of downtown
Scouring estate and yard sales
Scavenging parts from cars abandoned in a meadow

In a heavenly flash she flew in earthbound
And became your holy grail
It’s so easy to forget she can only be viewed through a telescope

Like a dispatch from the Oort cloud
Into your orbit she’d sail
Disrupting your world in such a spectacular show

You’re seized by the need to touch her somehow
You want to grab her by the tail
Expend all your strength and refuse to ever let go

Don’t aim for shooting stars
Don’t pine for the wandering moon
Never set your sites on a comet

Don’t aim for shooting stars
Don’t pine for the wandering moon
Never set your sites on a comet

You’re aware her path is an elliptical route
You can predict without fail
Yet you’re so entranced by her ethereal glow

You cannot catch her — that’s not allowed
The physics won’t let you prevail
You might as well snatch at flakes from of a flurry of snow

Don’t aim for shooting stars
Don’t pine for the wandering moon
Never set your sites on a comet

Don’t aim for shooting stars
Don’t pine for the wandering moon
Never set your sites on a comet

Yes, there’s a cosmic spark to her embrace
Yes, her impact’s made a mark you cannot erase
But once she departs you must not give chase
For you’ll always be kept apart by silent and empty space

Your meteoric rise was eclipsed by your doubt
You feared like mad you’d fail
It was imperative that you crash and burn, you know

Feel the earth drag under your plough
Thresh your wheat with a flail
Steady yourself and resist the pull of tomorrow

Don’t aim for shooting stars
Don’t pine for the wandering moon
Never set your sites on a comet

Don’t aim for shooting stars
Don’t pine for the wandering moon
Never set your sites on a comet

Don’t aim for shooting stars
Don’t pine for the wandering moon
Never set your sites on a comet
Track Name: You Will Sail With Me
I will build a sailboat
You will sail with me
We will sail together
You will sail with me

My feet feel the sand rush
As I slowly sink
The waves tug my ankles
As I slowly sink

I know it’s just a dream but
I like it anyway
I know it’s just a dream but
I just can’t
Give it up
Today
Dear

Run up shore then retreat
And crisscross the sea
We could sail forever
And crisscross the sea

I know it’s just a dream but
I like it anyway
I know it’s just a dream but
I just can’t
Give it up
Today
Dear

I will build a sailboat
You will sail with me
We will sail together
You will sail with me
Track Name: Your Inexorable Pull
I feel your inexorable pull
As we travel in the same circles

I feel your inexorable pull
As we travel in the same circles

Maybe one day these concentric rings
Will meet in an intersection
Can we achieve visual contact?
I’m hoping there’ll be a connection…

I feel your inexorable pull
As we travel in the same circles

I feel your inexorable pull
As we travel in the same circles

I can’t explain all the forces
Behind this strange attraction
I am flotsam, a derelict vessel
Fueled only by my imagination…

I don’t really know that much about you
All I know is that I know about you
And that seems to be about enough for
me…

I could launch a miniature spacecraft
On a mission to your doorway
And you could send up a weather balloon
To meet my argonauts half way

I feel your inexorable pull
As we travel in the same circles

I feel your inexorable pull
As we travel in the same circles

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