Little Songs

by Joel Henry Little

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1.
The algorithm has been kind to me, Or so the numbers have me thinking. And if I can contain the message, I will drink gas station cappuccinos on the road, I’ll make a quilt for everyone who ever showed me Sympathy. Oh I’ll be a star, come 23. But can I still return to wilderness If ever I should go astray? And if the rotting becomes copious, I will make a topiary from my brittle bones; I’ll populate the empty plots with microphones; I’ll learn to play gin rummy with the garden gnomes and Then I’ll lay Down upon the grass beside the midway. Oh in the podunk caterwauling of the breeze, Low rhododendrons seem to weep for want of bees, And in the wake of Hyades, Here comes the dribble and the pitter-patter from above; The storm is near. I can wait it out another year. The algorithm has been kind to me, Or so the numbers have me thinking.
2.
1965 03:32
1965 - you were 24 - I remember drives down the Jersey Shore, And the linen frocks you wore When you’d pass, unannounced, through the door. Late September came with the marigolds - It’s a waiting game with those types of colds, So you said, “Wait a while, porcupine, I’ll be here, I’ll be fine.” [I’ll be waiting there, waiting there. I’ll be waiting there, waiting there.] Smoking in the hall of St. Adelaide’s With the Kashmir shawl that your grandma made - You’ve been sleeping twenty hours Through the day, in a bed ringed with flowers. [Chorus x2]
3.
Little Songs 03:14
Little songs are all that I have to offer, Little more than something to fill the coffers. Barely marketable things I wrote while I was walking And it makes me kinda nervous feeling like I’m singing to the void. Some days, I think I could’ve been a lawyer, Something more equipped to combat the horrors, Really anything that gives me some more sense of purpose Cause it makes me kinda nervous having to defend being unemployed. Little songs for the end of the universe Little songs when the depression’s getting worse Little songs that all sound just like “Let It Be” Little songs that have little to do with me Little songs for the hipsters in 40 years Little songs that get 4 likes and disappear Little songs taking themselves so seriously Little songs that all end in a major key
4.
"There is a warm heart beating somewhere in Greece, Somewhere the gods would kindly grant us peace. One thousand doors we came to, one thousand shut. Blessed be the ones residing in this hut.” Said Philemon, “We have more than enough to spare!” Though it’s profuse to call what they had threadbare. He filled a beechwood basin, bathing their limbs, She lit a fire as the sky went dim. Seeing their bowl was ever-filled to the brim, They begged indulgence and they sang their hymns. Offering a goose, their guardian, Jupiter refused. Said he, “For you’re deserving of our gratitude, Take to the mountain ere we have destroyed this place, Leaving a temple fit to satisfy your grace. Is there anything you’d ask? Give us any plea or task, Anything you want or lack Before I go.” “I think so… For if we should die apart, Pray bestill my beating heart, I would not know where to start, So let us go In tow.” “It’s so.” “Rest now my love, dear Baucis, let come the leaves. Sup of the earth below these hallowed eaves. My love for thee is like no other before, And, like the trees, will grow forevermore."
5.
I'll meet my quota today, For once in my life I'll really earn my pay. I'll tell Samantha that she Can finally be proud, as proud as she can be. I got caught up in the long con years ago, Thinking that I could outrun All the boxes and the falling dominoes That determined what I've done. I'll eat as much as I want: A marshmallow-covered, chocolate-filled croissant. I'll start a series of talks - A step-by-step course on building building blocks. I'll be part of something real And I'll feel how it feels To have purpose like the spokes on a wheel. I got caught up in the long con years ago And I'm here to tell you all We've been living in the constant rodeo And each clown has got to fall.
6.
Catherine 02:14
Catherine - let’s fly to New Orleans, We’ll have a Halloween for two. Catherine - no need for metaphor, I lived that way before I met you. I’ll call you by your name, You’ll call me by mine. When I’m tired of the game, Remind me everything’s fine. Catherine - you’re up in galleries, I’m counting calories again. Catherine - I did alright alone But I was never known way back then. It took me all I had to find you But I had to find you I had to find you I had to find you Catherine
7.
Pale sun rising, covering the meadow in gauze, The meadowlarks diving, and buttercups bow awaiting applause In Huckleberry Hollow. I tell Johnny, "Boy, I love you more than the sun. It's feeling so funny withholding my heart and telling no one In Huckleberry Hollow." He tells me, "Charlie, I don't see how Telling a soul would help things now. Just hold my hand and everything's fine Here in the meadow, Here in our time." Distant thunder rolling in from over the hill, The clouds buckle under; I've never seen heaven looking so ill In Huckleberry Hollow. We hum the tune to Shenandoah Over the howling winds that blow. We pray by morning it'll be past, Then to the hills we carry at last.
8.
Cradle-baker 01:50
Cradle-baker kneading on the sheets, Gently snoring in the moonlight, moonlight. Ballerina shadows overhead Swaying to the distant sirens - I’m waiting for a call To let me know when she gets to Montreal; And even though she’s a frequent flier, Pilots get tired... Motor-purring, Sascha leaves the room And I feel my iPhone buzzing, buzzing.
9.
A rusted fleur-de-lis sits high on the garden wall Above a canister of Everclear grain alcohol. I take the hammock and prepare for a long-distance call. Someone is running from something - Weight of anxiety’s crushing me. I left the company a year ago, more or less, After near 7 years of feeling perpetually depressed; My parents took me in and ever since, who could’ve guessed, Nothing has changed for the better. Anna has called and I tell her this: Do you ever miss stars The way that I do?
10.
Cape May 02:34
Strip of satin overflowing Out the hatchback, on the parkway, Waving like a little child As she pulls off into Cheesequake. The attendant does his service Without speaking, without looking. She takes off with no eye contact On to Cape May, no more stopping. Up ahead, the rain clouds gather, Just a few drops, then it’s buckets As the Sufjan Stevens CD Starts replaying with the trumpets. She remembers Cracker Barrel, Playing checkers with her father, And the fighting with her sister, How they threatened her poor mother. She is rounding exit zero, Her thoughts racing, her heart pounding. Lying down, the sun starts peeking; With a breath, she begins crying.
11.
Oilman 02:00
Centuries old are the bones that bring me here I am no more than a common buccaneer Great is the gall in calling the haul mine Now and withal I’m robbing you all blind After a while the well just sort of dried All it could muster was stale and ossified Buzzards ahead, mahogany red sky Two copperheads I watched as they sped by But it’s all that I love and it’s all that I know And it’s all that I care about Though it is losing its glow It is all that I care about Though it is causing me woe It is all that I care about Black runs the blood within my veins Crude is my wine And knowing all that will remain I’m fine, I’m fine, I’m fine
12.
You Left Me 01:50
You left me, sweet, two legacies,— A legacy of love A Heavenly Father would content, Had He the offer of; You left me boundaries of pain Capacious as the sea, In between eternity and time, Your consciousness and me.
13.
In time and measure perfect moves All Art whose aim is sure; Evolving rhyme and stars divine Have rules, and they endure. Nor less the Fleet that warred for Right, And, warring so, prevailed, In geometric beauty curved, And in an orbit sailed. The rebel at Port Royal felt The Unity overawe, And rued the spell. A type was here, And victory of LAW.
14.
Jonathan fears being left on his own. Lately he’s taken to jogging Hoping that someone will notice his pain, Frowning at all who pass by. Jonathan resents most everything But most of all his appearance. He would be dead but for telling himself Maybe someday things will change.
15.
Arizona lemon tea, 99 cents from CVS - I haunt those aisles - little boy, buttonup shirt and sweater vest. On Saturdays - synagogue, upper west side in the freezing rain I’m thinking of going to Arizona on the next plane. 2012 - all of my cousins are there, my sister too. We’re in the pool, wearing my Illinois shirt to hide from view All of the scars - I’m ashamed! I’m ashamed of them! I’m ashamed of me! I’m not that shy, not a man of very few words; I’m somebody. Arizona lemon tea, 99 cents from CVS - They scan the bars and would I like a receipt? I answer yes.
16.

about

The tinge of cold in the back of your nose, not quite bracing yet, mingling with the homey smell of a woody burn, unlike that of the waxy-wicky shabbat candles - or maybe birthday; the pregnant curve of the spongy foam that buffers your lips from the gas station cappuccino on the long drive back from Massachusetts; the constant motor of purrs and the limply lilting kneads from your cat on the wool blanket; the consistency of the drips of chocolate that pool under your croissant you promised yourself you wouldn't buy when you can no longer cope with the unique pain of everyday-feelings; the rush of cool calm in the pit of your tummy when you first saw the way the sun shines off the water through that tiny corridor between the stucco units of Villa Charlotte… These are little things, little stories, little feelings, little songs; but that doesn’t mean they don’t matter.

Seven months after Gare Du Nord Records' release of Joel Henry Little’s dense and knotty third album, “Ephphatha," comes something slightly breezier: "Little Songs" - a group of 16 short, mostly-unrelated tunes ranging in subject from Greek mythology to a Proustian moment at a CVS sparked by a can of Arizona iced tea to a fictional oil baron's conflicted love of his trade, with a couple detours into 19th-century poetry in between. Recorded from April 2019 - April 2020.

credits

released October 30, 2020

All songs written, performed, produced, mixed, and mastered by Joel Henry Little, except:

*Violin on tracks 12, 13, and 16 performed by Amy Dulsky Little
*Track 12 based on "You Left Me" by Emily Dickinson
*Track 13 based on "Dupont's Round Fight" by Herman Melville

Thanks to Franck Zeisel for the mastering advice, and to Ian Button and Gare du Nord Records for facilitating the distribution/PR!

Dedicated to C.N.B.

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Joel Henry Little New York, New York

Joel Henry Little is a 22-year-old singer-songwriter based in New York City. He has been self-producing original songs since the age of 12, amassing a unique and genre-defying body of work that borrows equally from folk, classical, and musical theater traditions. ... more

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