Well, this cold season seems endless, and although it looks like the pandemic is finally being dealt with, it’s been a struggle to find the time and energy to be creative.
Slowly but surely, I’m digging out of the hole and providing a sneak peek at the long-awaited final full-length record I’ve been working on for the past three years. I first heard this as a Concrete Blonde song, heard the original, and loved it immediately. This song is by Leonard Cohen and was released on his February 1988 record, I’m Your Man. His words are eerily prescient and speak to these times, so I did my rendition here.
I played this song a lot live with band the past few years, especially in Antigua, and always loved the juxtaposition of the dark doomed lyrics and the joyous groove, much like a second line celebration of what we have lost. And looking back over the past year, we have lost so much…
As we wrap up this dumpster fire of a year, things are looking up. A new president, a coronavirus vaccine, and a stimulus package are but a few things to look forward to in 2021. I am looking forward to finally releasing my record next year as well. As we are negotiating how to celebrate the holidays, I wish you well and send you this playlist to enjoy while bearing out the winter season.
2020 in Hindsight – a playlist by Alice Lee
Also managed to make a video to the track I made at home to round out the year.
This is a track I recorded at home and put to video. Lagrimas Negras is a traditional Latin Caribbean song from the 1930s, here set to a hiphop and reggaetón beat. I wanted to capture the energy of the wave of youthful protest this past summer, from underground street dance to taking to the streets and expressing joy, love, fear, and anger. I feel like the fever broke from lockdown with marches and vigils and a community for change. Recorded on Garageband and produced on iMovie using Rotor footage.
Well, best wishes for 2021. We’re not out of the woods yet, I know, but hopefully in for some new developments and changes that will be positive.
I will be finalizing my album soon and dropping some singles down the pipeline, so stay tuned.
Hello, a lot has happened in a few short months, but time has simultaneously dragged on and flew. After pulling myself out of a funk and some uncertainty at work and at home, I finally finished a track or two on the computer at home, and posted one I’ve been working on this summer in stops and starts.
Lagrimas Negras is a son-bolero (cuban-style song) that originated in the Dominican Republic by the Trio Matamoros in 1931. It has become a classic standard, covered by the likes of Buena Vista Social Club and Celia Cruz.
I wanted to do a banger, something you’d hear in a block party or blasting out of a car in the summertime. Some joyful noise in the midst of so much pain and confusion, as a tribute to my brothers and sisters who are marching against a system that has never worked for them. Black people have had to endure every type of indignity, yet still can sing and dance and celebrate life on a level that is admired and emulated. And in the Caribbean, the African influence has been strong and set the roots of Latin music, so I thought doing something raucous and driven with an army of voices to echo what is happening. So R&B/hiphop and reggaetón in equal measures, side by side.
Anyway, I will be better about making tracks, and hope to drop some breadcrumbs leading up to the record release. Stay tuned to the usual outlets for more music soon.
So, as you know, all hell broke loose in March. The world turned upside-down, life was put on hold, and we were all staying home to keep from dying or infecting other people. Lots of people lost their jobs with no warning, businesses were forced to close, and people had to keep faith that what they were doing was for the greater good.
Well, we are in the second month of quarantine, and collectively, we are starting to lose our minds. The uncertainty and anxiety of how long this will last has started to come out in weird ways, some people breaking the rules, travelling, seeing friends for some relief, others lashing out, as it becomes apparent that we are not all equal in this crisis, and that some will suffer while others play and ride it out. It is extremely difficult to come together when so many forces tear us apart.
I wrote this song in one wine-filled scrawl on notebook paper, left it for a couple weeks and then added structure to it one late night before bed. A friend of mine keeps bugging me to enter Tiny Desk, and I didn’t think I had it in me to do one of my chestnuts, but this song came out, and I decided to bite the bullet and put myself out there to get this across. Mourning my twin heroes, John Prine and Bill Withers, men who served their country, spoke the truth, and weren’t afraid to tackle social injustice.
It’s not a “stay home, we’re all in this together” anthem. I wish I could make you feel that good, but I speak my truth about the general anxiety of this time and how perplexing it seems at times what it’s doing to us. I hope I don’t offend, I am just expressing my current reality as an essential worker, waking up every morning, taking my temperature, wondering if I have it or not. The mask, though unnecessary indoors, helped with my nervousness and served to document this moment in time, when it is such a flashpoint for our daily lives, to cover our faces and what makes us individuals for the sake of public health.
I hope you can understand or see some of this reality I am sharing with you. I hope you can be kinder and more understanding to your fellow human, I know it’s easy to be angry when we are in different boats in a turbulent sea, but I feel like our survival hinges on reaching for the better parts of ourselves and finding ways to cope, create, and continue community.
Quicksand was originally a Joni-eque acoustic tune with ambient cello that lent itself well to remixing. We did a drum and bass remix and then this one, which I really loved. Found a bunch of stock footage from old TV shows and wanted to make a trance-like presentation that you could project onto walls during a party or as an installation. The track is quite long, so the hypnotic approach was the only one that would work if I didn’t want to radio edit.
This is a song I recorded two different ways – this one was commissioned for the Soundwalk series, an audio tour of Williamsburg. The other was a revamped acoustic pop song, renamed “How Will I Be Now?” on Lovers and Losers. The lyrics were inspired by Henry Miller, who I was reading at the time and who lived in Williamsburg.
In the video, I wanted to capture some of my favorite things – nature, trees, water, and of course, dogs! I hope this is the first video featuring a dog. The random dancer is extra credit : )
So I finally listened through and edited the hours of live recordings I had on my Samsung phone and selected some to upload for your listening pleasure.
I was playing in Antigua solo, then in duos, and finally dawned on me to start a funk power trio. We started at Cafe No Se, then other bars, and as usual, had to do the musician shuffle and find subs. As I scrambled for players, the sound changed. It went Latin, and upon meeting Tom Grenzner, blues harpist extraordinaire, a little juke joint.
The next season, I expanded to a quartet, and we started to play shows in some great bars. People were dancing, and fun was had. Again, found subs as players came and went, so Usual Suspects was an inside joke on how often the lineup turned over. When I knew I was returning to the States, I decided to properly record live my farewell gig. Dinosaurio Records released it, and you can get it here.
Surprisingly, this song made the karaoke books, probably through my distribution deal in Japan for this record.
This is probably the most pop song I ever wrote during one of the darkest times of my life. There is something about the happy-sad combination that I am hopelessly drawn to, that sometimes makes you want to laugh and cry at the same time. So this is the classic story of unrequited love, with one sitting on a broken heart and the other conflicted yet committed to a seemingly perfect union with a “perfect girl”.
Musical touchstones include Stevie Wonder, Patti Page, and Groove Armada. This was sequenced on Reason and done on ProTools Free, added drums and vocals at Studio G Brooklyn. The video was done in Rotor.
In light of the impeachment hearings, I am releasing a new video of an older tune.
I wrote this song after being inundated by news of bad politics, dysfunction in society and social media, climate change, and police brutality. I messed around with Garageband and came up with the arrangement, with a bow to Herbie Hancock on the keyboard riff, Nina and Aretha on the vocal lines, and some 6/8 electric blues. I created this video through Rotor using stock footage.
Stand back no more to see
But an unrevised history
It’s an unsteady world
But why we gotta act like dogs to live and let die
Picking fights with each other
Precious loser, you can’t love another
Zero sum he gain you lose
But you can’t pick and choose, pick and choose
(Chorus) Can’t look me in the eyes as you take your shots The blood on your hands will come out in the wash
How can you stand by and watch your brother
Fall and suffer at the hands of another
How far are we from done
From disconnecting, thinking we’re the only one
Na-na-na-na-na. hey, yeah
This ship of fools gonna sink with nobody steering us Safe and sound, blind leading them blind as we run aground Who’s there to save us when we gonna drown The water keeps rising as we all go down
Na-na-na-na-na. hey, yeah
Spend your life, break your back for a system that bruises you Twenty lashes in jail when it fails you accuses you Don’t exist in the eyes of the law, they can do with you as they please You stand up for yourself and they bring you to your knees