At Home At Sea

by E.G. Phillips

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1.
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...
2.
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
3.
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
4.
Ephemera 02:25
​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
5.
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
6.
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
7.
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
8.
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
9.
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
10.
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
11.
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

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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