Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Patrick Stolley
What you're about to read, in the description to the first song of this session, is a platter of cold food and a leaky roof. It's a horrible doctor's appointment and it's finding a ghastly key scratch across the driver's side door of your car, not to mention a nail ramming through the rubber sole of your shoe, for which you're going to need a tetanus shot. Nick Jaina, the Portland musician, was having a bout of the flu bug or something that was hobbling him so badly that he actually wanted to fall prey to a cold death in a usually deep fat fryer grease-smelling alley connecting our studio to a coffeehouse that we don't go many days without ordering a tall house or two from. He sounds miserable in his account. The day sure could have been cold and snowy/drizzly, though if memories were to serve properly, a quick rewind to that afternoon probably would reveal that things weren't really all that shitty bad.
It might have been brisk, but it was no day to die or to fantasize about it in such a glorified manner that would make the option the greatest preference on the table. Amazingly enough the extra peppy barista at the coffee club jolted him out of his physical and mental stupor that day - with the ultra cheery chatter and the perky teacher-explaining-something-to-a-moron tone - allowing him the energy to fight off the ugly thoughts enough to make it through a splendid recording session and as seems obvious now, the rest of the day and the rest of the over-extended tour.
Jaina is full of these musky moments of Sam Beam finding Jim Beam and having an alibi in something slightly more "Bridge Over Troubled Water" way. He clings to his tenderness without letting it make him too red. It's a method to get to the crux of weariness, without getting too worn out by the business. His is a chilled bottle, a light fire, a calm temper that rummages through brush and the brambles to finally get into the clearing - never getting too peeved, just brushing off his pant legs and pulling the burrs out of his shoelaces, throwing them onto the grass to the side. He takes so much of his material - and what led to that material - in stride, coolly fixing an even brow and a need to see the light at the end of all the tunnels that seem to be stretching out before him endlessly.
He has ink-stained hands that he accidentally wipes on his face as he swipes to catch the bead of sweat that falters down a cheek from a contour near the eye socket. The ink gets all over, making those experiences that he's made into the kinds of literate chestnuts that have become the notable mascots of the Portland and Seattle, Pacific Northwest scene-scape. Art imitates life, but art can become the life that takes on artistic labyrinths and slogs through the copious amounts of questionable changes and hair-pin turns. Nick Jaina was going through one of those days when these songs were laid to tape.
They were written on other days - maybe worse days - but they come off as the brilliantly hopeless times that never seem like they're going to get better, the very blunt rationalizations that this is all there is and there's no reason blubbering over it. It's not about depression or the sky falling, just what is and what can be looked forward to seeing more of. It's the plain truth of seeing things with the clearest lenses - no tint and no exasperation. It's just the way it is. There's recognition that songs don't change a woman's mind. They don't make her drink wine. They don't make her love. A song doesn't really do anything but remind the one singing and those hearing that things aren't fair and we just have to live with it no matter our disapproving takes.
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