CURTAINS RAISE ON A WORLD BUILT BY BRYAN JOHN APPLEBY:
A SLEEPY CALIFORNIA TOWN WHERE BELLS SWIRL ON THE BREEZE AND ELECTRIC ORGANS TREMBLE WITH THE SURF. WASHED OUT STOREFRONT SIGNS LINE THE ROADSIDE. TEENAGERS, AWAKENING TO THE POSSIBILITY OF LIFE AWAY FROM HOME, TAKE LONG FOGGY DRIVES UP THE COAST. THE BURIED BONES OF LONG-AGO INHABITANTS TELL OF IMPENDING DISASTER—ONE OF MANY SIGNS THAT SOMETHING IS SCRATCHING JUST BELOW THE SURFACE.


WELCOME TO THE NARROW VALLEY.
 

Captive to a nagging curiosity, Appleby found himself moving away from the Northwest folk that was familiar to him and toward a decidedly more winding path. That path has taken him onward to a kind of florid, maximalist pop songwriting that recalls the weird geniuses of decades past—toward songs painted with the lush greens, ominous blues, and glowing reds of the Central Coast.

For much of the time since 2011’s naked-hearted folk scroll Fire on the Vine, Appleby’s been cloistered up working on The Narrow Valley. During that time, he craned to borrow from the school of songwriter/composers who, like himself, once stalked the west coast—otherworldly talents like Harry Nilsson, Brian Wilson, and Randy Newman—as well as rococo film composers such as Les Baxter and Ennio Morricone. (a particular flash of insight came while watching Dumbo on Netflix.)

As the songs came together, Appleby embarked on a journey, with producer Sam Anderson, to capture the evasive sounds floating around in his head. Sometimes, the two holed up in Anderson's South Seattle studio. Other times, they took trips around the region with a portable recording rig, collecting the sounds of B3 organ, timpani, marimba, and grand piano. They enlisted an exhaustive cast of musicians, including friends from local bands, Seattle orchestra members, and veteran session players. The process was rarely easy. Ambitious bites were taken, only to be chewed painfully slow. Sometimes, the pair would scrap a full day’s session. It had to be right. And after two years, the results of the pair's hard work showed themselves, as a transcendent whole began to materialize.

And thus arrives The Narrow Valley, combining baroque California pop and the stranger sounds of childhood TV sets with Appleby's deep sense of the cinematic, yielding an off-kilter world that parallels our own. In one way, at least, The Narrow Valley tells Appleby’s story, too: a story about a rigid world breaking open to reveal curious and wonderful new possibilities.
 

pRODUCED BY SAM ANDERSON
MIXED BY NATHAN SABATINO
MAStered by brian lucey
ARTWORK BY CHRISTOPHER HARRELL
PHOTOGRAPHY BY GENEVIEVE PIERSON
ALL SONGS BY BRYAN JOHN APPLEBY

 

 

LYRICS
THE FAULT LINE

The fault line cracked a long smile
A hideous rock tooth grin open wide
Broke down the dark green dawn
And rolled along the lawns
Abaddon had come

Wake up
Do you hear that?
All the dogs along the block began to cry
A broken bedside vase
Then our books flew off the case
And the walls began to shed their plaster hides
They were trembling like images hanging high
Of stones reflected on the face of a mighty wave
Rising black against the sky

Then I stood helpless in the doorway
Just staring at the room on the floor
And you pulled my sleeve
Said, It’s time to leave
Come on let’s go
It’s time to go

COSTANOAN BONES

Buried on the valley floor
Costanoan bones
Are getting pounded by our bright new roads
We always kick it under the rug

Digging deep the roustabouts
Recklessly keep driving down
Now bottlenecked with no way out
I think we might have gone too far

All along we had it coming
Now grab a coat and get in the car
There’s nothing left for us in California
We gotta move on

The winded eucalyptus bend
And snapping in a heavy hand
The bratty child too fat to fend away the wild dogs

And all along we had it coming
Now Abaddon is moving quick
It’s coming down for good in California
We finally fucked it up

SHOES AND HAT

He forgot my favorite hat at home
She forgot to tie my shoes
Yeah, I know how worn they both got
Just a couple of rags wrung dry
He grips the wheel while snapping at the dial
She wrings her wrinkled hands and looks outside
The silent sun is high

I might be sitting in the back but man, I’m gone

NO ONE KNOWS

Building airplanes in the basement
Plates are breaking one room up
Pretty soon they’ll both get tired and pass out cold
And every reckless evening
Slipping silent out the house
Walk between the rows and alleys on your own

And you might go down with the women
You might get off fighting cops
But right now you need the skyline
Breathing fast and climbing high along the rooftops

Had a dream of Santa Lucia
Flying high above the coast
Every roadside hawk was watching as you rose

But then you woke up in a bottle
And you could not reach the top
When a howling in the distance
Came to you right through the fog
And you might grow up wearing makeup
You might find a town you like
Maybe somewhere near the border
With white dishes all unbroken in a pile

Narrow glow of dawn
You’re lying harrowed on the lawn
Where no one knows

HIGH ABOVE THE BLUE

One day you wake up
High above the blue
In a lawn chair on the dunes
And written in the rose-green glow,
You can go easy
Now you owe nothing

Look around while waiting at a light
See a washed-out storefront sign
In a window long been broke
Calling Everything Must Go
Most of all the thing you know

There’s a wind ‘neath the door
Sounds you’ve never heard before
Branches clawing at the pane
Panicked animals are wailing

But the moon
He walks alone
The boy the low black clouds can’t hold
With a silver-threaded light
Breaking in between the blinds
He is drifting through the formless night

Now it is over
Thrown in the new light
Wipe the dream that lingers in your eye 

 

 

 

 

NOTHING MOVES

The lights come up
And everyone moves out to the sidewalk
Smiling as they all drive home
Still you wait beneath the screen alone
Heavy in a coat
Blown out in both of the pockets
Lingering dark along the dead arcade
Wasting time
Stay away

The page is way too thin
And breaking up beneath a dried out pen
There’s nobody on the roads
And you have nowhere left to go 

It is not slowing down
It won’t go swift enough
Nothing moves
Drag through a narrow town
Landlocked and dry 

HIGHWAY 1AM

Dark fog
A lonely rag wrapped up around the house
My car is parked and running
Beer rolling down my mouth
Then I see him
He should be sleeping
Not staring at his old man on the stoop
Snap my fingers
Make him scatter back to bed
Crack another can
And lace my boots
Think to myself
Kid, if you were me
Then you would too

Wind along down Highway 1
Blind in the ghosted dawn
Blending the lines
Barreling through the fog
Red trees are calling for my car

What am I doing?
Little white crosses line the road
Right before I pass out
I see you sleeping
In your room

Rub my eyes
Walk for miles
Back to you

SHOEPAC'S DAUGHTER

In the twilight
Linen neckline
Hanging off your shoulder in the heroine light
I would follow
Through your window
Rose curtain blowing, cut a hole in the night

They caught us throwing rotten oranges
From the one overpass at the edge of town
Hide down in a ditch
Dark hair knotted on the ground
You’re always soot-eyed and angry
The sanded hiss of the wind ripping grass off the dunes
No matter how hard we gnawed the ropes
They would all hold on

When there’s nothing
When it’s over
We will drift away
Leave it all behind

LOOKING DOWN AT YOU /
BOOKENDS ONE AND TWO

Coming from another room
The shadow of a nameless tune
The simple sun is sifting through
The blue smoke from your mouth

The bended chair, the wilted rug
Your stubbled jaw, your pounded blood
Your heavy-lidded eyes look up
To find me hiding at the top of the stairs

Your frozen face, the rigid end
Your parted hair and your paper skin
And furrowed lines like field rows or wakes behind a stone
Collected deeply cut around two eyes I tried to know
And once again I’m looking down
On something I don’t really understand

PRAISE THE VOID

What a relief
No one can see
There’s a heavy-lidded window
Closing off a room
I gotta leave

Sun-faded sign
Hillside Hotel
Everyone is severed
From something or another
Gotta move on

The twilight
A warm wind blowing
Down the blue-black highway

Oh, how it gave
Below the weight
The town laid waste
We’re better off anyway

What a relief
Sweet disbelief
Driving from the wreckage
The rigid valley left behind
High into the hills where we can see

Praise the Void

©2016 BRYAN JOHN APPLEBY LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.