Too late for a New Year / 2012 retrospective post? Too bad.

I’m writing this from my friend’s laundry room in Oklahoma City.  I’m in the midst of a slow drive from St. Louis back to Oakland, so it’s been great to see friends but difficult to find downtime to write.

Twenty-twelve.  What a year.

Most of all, this past year was marked by politics, a shift that had begun with my involvement with Occupy in the fall of 2011 but has since deepened into a more serious devotion to radical change.  Of course there was no one moment, but probably the single most catalytic step was J28: my arrest, recovery and reflection, and recommitment to the struggle.  As I’ve continued down this road, I’ve found a new circle of friends and comrades who are on the same path that I am, though some further ahead.  I’m incredibly enriched and gratified to know that I’m part of a heritage of folks fighting for justice and liberation.  Most of all, I want to shout out to my dear friend Brian Belknap, whose experience and wisdom has been a huge inspiration on this journey.

(Here I’m gonna do that thing you should never do and give a disclaimer.  At the height of the Occupy movement, I was blogging regularly, seeing myself as some kind of arsehole citizen documentarian.  I haven’t gone back and reread many of these entries, but I’m certain that they’re riddled with naivete and contradiction.  But I’ve left them up, partly for transparency’s sake, but mostly because I think they may actually have some value as a real-time record of one stumbling into radical politics.)

I also got married this year, which surprised no one but was more delightful than expected.  I turned thirty, and promptly gained thirty pounds, which might have something to do with the fact that I also retired from vegetarianism after nine years (if you think I feel like telling you why right now, think again).

As for my music goals.

I had my second most prolific year yet as a songwriter (after 2010), and I daresay that some of them are my best yet.  Which I say every year!  I know I’m on the verge of sounding obnoxiously perky, but I feel like I have every reason to believe my best is still ahead of me, and I feel very thankful for that.

Here’s the list:

  1. Stone’s Throw (#J28)
  2. Nancy (Death To Capital)
  3. Fashion Survivor
  4. Claire, Luz, Light
  5. There’s A Reason To My Rage, There’s A Folly To My Fear
  6. Suffer Song
  7. I Want To Kiss Death
  8. Reno
  9. Marigny Love Song

Six of these will be on the new album!  More on that in a little bit.


(continuing writing from Austin, TX)

I did two Northwest tours this year.  I’m starting to get into the rhythm of working that circuit every six months or so.  I also played awesome one-off shows in New Orleans and St. Louis.

Not least of all, I got myself fired from a job I had grown to hate, and have been happier ever since!

Okay.  Now I really have just one goal for the year.  And that’s to record a new full-length album, the best one yet, and to do a really, really good promotion for its release in the fall.

It’s hard to convey how excited I am about this.  I think I’ve got a more consistent body of great songs ready to lay down than I have ever before.  And the arrangements I’ve been playing with over the past year, with Maia Papaya on upright bass and vocals, or Brian on lap steel, are I think at just the right level for these tunes.  They add a great deal of richness and soul without covering up the song.  Not least of all, I’m planning to take my time with the recording process, not rush anything, and even spring for mastering.  Shoot, maybe I should put this mug out on vinyl, for all that…

This is the first time I’m not trying to rush a record out the door, in time for tour, for a farewell show, etc.  I love the last three records I (and the Folksonomy) have put out, but there are of course moments that could have been better executed, as there always will be.  But I do have the luxury this time of minimizing them by having time to reflect.  And on the promotion end, I can really give myself a good six months or so to put together a really solid campaign and make the biggest splash possible.

Oh, I guess I do have other goals too, like exercising and being a good stay-at-home partner and of course continuing to tour the Northwest and such.  But this is the main one, I really am itching to share this record with you.  I think it’s gonna be so good!  With all that ahead of me, I’m really just itching to get back to the Bay and dig in.  But right now I’m gonna go explore Austin.


Shareef Ali

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