A Swan At Smiley's is a track record of a hot, dizzy summer spent in a basement apartment on Colfax Avenue, Denver, Colorado. I had just arrived home from an ugly year in New York City, living on the edge of the Bronx with a weird ballerina girl who fed me rice cakes and tamarind kool-aid all the time. I abandoned all hope all ye who enter ETC out there and flew home to Colorado, where I woozily established myself in the aforementioned apartment, a tiny space with creaking, warped floorboards, dripping ceiling pipes, and two tiny windows that looked right out on Colfax— clomping sneakers, bus stop benches, and sirens--- just at the corner of the Royal Host Motel and Smiley's Laundromat, which is, the sign says, the World's Biggest.
I wanted to make an album—I had all these songs in my head—but I didn't have much money, so things started slowly. The first and last songs on the LP are Dictaphone recordings made on the lounge piano at a local Ramada Inn. I sat in there and banged on the keys until the guy in the tie and nametag gave me the boot. I told him, "I'm making an album." He seemed nonplussed.
In the spring, I sold a bunch of paintings at a gallery and immediately bought some swanky recording equipment. One by one the songs started rolling. "Wait For Another" was the first—I imagined it a punch-drunk hoedown dedicated to the feeling that life might get better—someday, but for the time being, pass the buck to someone else. "5 Quarters for Saint Pedro" is a song written for Pedro Gonzalez, who lives behind Smiley's. 5 quarters for a tallboy at the Capital Hill bodega. "Mr Sandbags" is similarly written for everyone I saw out there, dragging ass up and down the pavement, seemingly forsaken by all and asunder. I worry about those people. That lead me to write a bunch of songs to God, as though to shake him by the goddamn lapels a little bit. "Geese", "Schopenhauer Rock", etc. It was a period filled with girl trouble. A lot of the songs are about the ups and downs of it all, and how the ups are worth the downs, most of the time. This album is dedicated to a girl named Annteta, and that's all I'm going to say about that. It was a great summer; I have fond memories of it. Things were relatively solvent. I'd record everything that came out of my head, sit on the stoop and drink beer with the neighbors, paint on old doors and windows I found in the alleys, walk to the Lion's Lair, play "Funky Drummer" on the juke, dance. I love that walk between Broadway and Colorado Boulevard along 15th, all that pink and green neon, all the banging and clanging and cop cars and hookers strutting their wares in sweatpants, and free BLTs at Pete's Kitchen. It was good, it all found its way into the record. It is kind of a bittersweet love note to Denver, my old lowdown underdog hometown. I am proud of this record. I like it. May it go platinum, like STEAL MY SUNSHINE.
released April 1, 2008