7. The Scientific Method – Apr. 12, 2013
My 2012 college semester had me waking up decently early in the morning to get to a computer science class. I usually watched reruns of classic SpongeBob while eating breakfast and getting ready, but as the new semester began the SpongeBob timeslot got changed. Desperate for something to watch in the morning, I turned on My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic for laughs. As the weeks went on, I gradually stopped laughing at My Little Pony and started laughing with it.
Writing and recording for “The Scientific Method” actually began before I started writing “Pause For Effect”, my previous album. I didn’t dedicate myself to writing My Little Pony fan music – it just sort of happened every now and then as the year went on. The first pony song I wrote was called “Dash Dash” – a tribute to Rainbow Dash, my favorite character from the show. Even though I was enjoying the show at the time, I wrote the song as a joke. Such a serious song about Friendship is Magic was sure to incite some hilarious reactions from friends and online listeners. What I didn’t expect, however, was that it would quickly become the most popular song I ever wrote.
The online Friendship is Magic community was – and is – enormous, and they flocked to fan music like nothing I’d ever seen before. I usually felt lucky if a song of mine was heard by over five people, but “Dash Dash” amassed several thousand views overnight. And it was some poorly-produced piece of crap I slapped together in like 20 minutes!
The attention was intoxicating, and I knew I’d have to write more pony music while I had a willing audience. Unfortunately, this excitement led to me writing and recording pony music more quickly than I should have. Much of what I uploaded online was rushed out in a surge of excitement, leading to sloppy production and less-than-stellar performances on my part. After taking a few months to calm down, I revisited these pony songs and realized how much better I could make them. I made a solemn vow to re-record and re-produce the music until I had a wonderful My Little Pony album on my hands… that is, until the Great Hard Drive Crash of 2013.
After an electrical short fried my hard drive, I lost “Dash Dash” and “Return of Discord”, both of which I had planned to remake. As such, the final album contains their original poorly-produced iterations, and while I’m very happy to have not lost these songs forever, I still wish I could’ve cleaned them up and made them really shine. In spite of all this, writing and recording “The Scientific Method” was very fun and exciting. For a brief moment, my music reached a great many ears.
“Dash Dash” is the most popular song I’ve written to date. It was featured on Equestria Daily and got more popular than I had ever anticipated.
“About Raindrops” is a personal favorite of mine.
“Return of Discord” features a simulated live audience that is just a dozen some-odd recordings of myself at different distances and pitches.
8. Keep it Together – May 26, 2013
After the poppy silliness of “Pause For Effect” and “The Scientific Method”, I began craving something darker and less radio-friendly. At the time I was beginning to embrace “weird” and “ugly” music, realizing that “wrong” notes and bizarre melodies had their own strange charm that made for interesting, unique music.
“Keep it Together” is a very trancey, dreamlike album. At the time I was doing a lot of sleeping: both intentional (experimenting with lucid dreams) and unintentional (falling asleep in class). This, combined with my desire to get more experimental, made for a bizarre album full of dreamlike imagery and hypnotic instrumentation. “Keep it Together” marked a drastic shift in my sound, as my experimentation led me to try using instruments I had never tried before. As such, electric piano, xylophone, and strange synths dominate the album.
I personally feel that “Keep it Together” turned out well because I wasn’t trying so hard to make it turn out well. I was just having fun. “What if I did this?” “Could I write a song in this weird time-signature?” “How long can I make a song?” I was merely asking questions and writing songs as answers. As such, to me, this album feels much more authentic and personal than many of my others. I had finally reached a point at which I wasn’t trying to sound like somebody else.
“Shelf Patrol” contains sections written in 15/8, the weirdest time signature I’ve ever written in.
“Relativity” was originally written by my friend Aaron, who sent his ideas to me and asked me to finish it. In the spirit of “The Scientific Method”, the lyrics are about Rainbow Dash.
“Julius Caesar’s Majestic Cathedrals” contains a rare instance of me screaming!
“Nightmad” is the longest song I’ve released to date.
9. Sort Of (Not Really) – Oct. 25, 2013
I have no idea where this album came from. Somehow, only five months after “Keep it Together”, I had written another entire album. Some parts of this album don’t even sound or feel like me – I almost feel as though somebody else took control of my body for a while and made some music while they were at it.
At this point it’s quite evident that I write albums in response to whichever album I released prior. “Keep it Together” was dark and weird because “Pause For Effect” was so poppy, and “Sort Of (Not Really)” is bright and diverse because “Keep it Together” was dark and refined. “Sort Of (Not Really)” contained my most diverse material to date, bouncing around from raw garage rock to finely-tuned synthpop to moody acoustic pieces to radio-friendly pop rock. I touched as many bases as I could in an effort to keep up with my rapidly changing desires and influences.
Unfortunately, the small gap between this album and the last one does not mean that everything was smooth sailing. “Sort Of” was a frantic, frustrated endeavor. I became obsessed with production at this time, and would not stop editing and re-editing my songs until they were as close to “perfect” as I could get them. I never felt like the music was good enough, and I became terrified that people wouldn’t like the album. Near the end of this period I began to long for the carefree experimental days of “Keep it Together”. In an effort to force some organic music out of myself, I wrote “Cztery Zero” with my friend Enzo and held myself back from obsessively producing it. Even though I feel that my compositions and bass playing are on point here, most of this album still feels cold and distant to me.
“Sugarplum” is a remake of “Without a Care”, the 2nd track on my 1st album, “Gesundheit!“.
“Aggressor” marks the first time I used overdriven bass. My old Yamaha practice amp has a “distortion” button that gives you a great, raw, crunchy sound.
“Color and Light” is a reimagining of a song I tried – and failed miserably – to write with The Sexy Einsteins called “Fresco”. It was originally going to be a traditional bass n’ guitar rock number, but I feel that the electronic instrumentation actually worked out much better, here.
“Cztery Zero” is the first song I wrote with Enzo (he plays guitar on this track). We would go on to collaborate on several future projects.
10. Phases – Oct. 24, 2014
After the frantic frustration of “Sort Of (Not Really)” I wanted to write something less poppy and more personal. At the time I was taking digital music classes in college, and as I learned new techniques or felt inspired, I wrote instrumental pieces that eventually turned into “Phases”, my first instrumental album since 2010’s “Semi-Serious”.
No longer was I trying to write “perfect” songs or craft a sleek, polished album. I wasn’t really even trying to write an album at all. After an intensely productive 2013, I decided it was time to slow down my creative process for a while and take it easy. This new relaxed mindset is evident in songs like “Wash”, “Breakers”, and “Flowers for Fi”. I began to focus more on subtle intricacies in my music, and trying to write interesting pieces with sparse instrumentation. Gone were the “Sort Of” days of fifteen synth tracks playing simultaneously.
To help make the album feel more organic, I subverted my usual methods of instrument programming almost entirely on some pieces, opting for live MIDI keyboard recording and improv over mouse clicks and building melodies one note at a time. For example, “Wash” was written by me putting down a synth pad, stretching it out for a few minutes, finding a nice electric piano sound, pressing record, and just playing what came to mind. A far cry from “Sort Of” ‘s obsessive production!
Even though “Phases” was fun and relaxing to write, I still feel that it didn’t turn out as well as it could have. I’m constantly learning new things when it comes to music, and after taking some time to really study it, a lot of my fundamental mixing decisions were flawed. My bass and drum tracks were often preposterously loud, and I made some questionable decisions to remove some of the more interesting parts from my compositions. Before too long I hope to release an “Anniversary Edition” of “Phases” that tightens up the mixing and livens up some of the compositions. Don’t worry – I promise not to obsess over it!
“Wash” is the first track I released that was almost nothing but improv on my part.
“Durbin” was actually written for a digital music class, as was “Breakers”.
“Arctik” was written with a C++ program I wrote that randomly generated sequences of notes. I simply picked out some instruments and wrote what the program told me to write!
11. Zeugma – Apr. 5, 2015
After taking some time to calm down with “Phases”, I finally felt ready to write another album. Heavily influenced by the airy electric piano days of “Keep it Together”, “Zeugma” is pure, unfiltered Sean Lenox. If someone were to ask me what my “sound” was, I would point them here.
Zeugma uses a blend of electronic and real instruments to create an airy brand of synthpop and art rock. After learning more about music and production both from college and writing “Phases”, I felt ready to sit down and put together some of the most interesting compositions I could muster. “Zeugma” is quite beefy, sporting song runtimes often exceeding six minutes. Song topics are very personal, dealing with themes like social anxieties, deep-set fears, stories and daydreams, and inspirations I had picked up from college. I indulged in my favorite musical motifs and decisions – cranking up the rhythm section and rocking some long instrumental breaks. I even threw in a new wave throwback for good measure.
“Zeugma” is actually quite somber at times. I was perfectly happy during this period, so I suppose the loss of my teen angst caused my “dark” music to lose its hard edge. I traded my dark synths for pianos, and my virtual distorted guitars for real clean bass. As a result, “Zeugma” feels mature to me, like the work of someone who’s begun to discover who they are. Have I? Not even. But I can pretend.
Much like “Phases”, I feel that “Zeugma” suffers from poor production decisions. The bass and drums are very loud, and the vocals drown out the instruments a bit. An “Anniversary Edition” of “Zeugma” could also be a big help, I feel. As much as I brag about all the “new techniques” I learned, I still have a long ways to go before I really know what I’m doing. 😛
“Spreading Myself Thin” contains a two-minute piano solo – the longest solo I’ve ever written.
“Foxes & Dragons” was purposefully written to be my favorite song on the album, which is why it sounds like Peter Murphy.
“Zeugma”, the title track, embodies what was originally going to be the overarching concept for the entire album. In the beginning, I envisioned “Zeugma” having a fictional backstory. The idea was this: I decided to take a circumnavigational trip on a blimp named “Zeugma”. In the beginning of this trip I would be happy and excited, but as the trip went on I would grow fearful of the blimp and worry about crashing. As I rode the blimp, I would write music reflecting my emotions, the idea being that I had written “Zeugma” while on the blimp. I lost interest in this concept, but still decided to use the idea for the title track.
12. The Time I Rode a Horse to the Moon – Jan. 12, 2016
And finally, after six long years, we come to an album I released two days ago. An album that, given how refined and somber my sound had just become on “Zeugma”, is silly enough to induce backlash. In spite of its unfocused nature and wacky subject matter, I am quite proud of “The Time I Rode a Horse to the Moon”.
It’s hard to do a retrospective for something you just released, so I’ll spare you the attempt and stick to the facts. “The Time I Rode a Horse to the Moon” contains material as old as 2013. It’s a collection of songs I had planned on including with previous albums but never found good places for. As such, these outcasts and misfits have banded together and carved out their own identity. After realizing that the mixing on “Phases” and “Zeugma” was actually kind of crap, I put my nose to the grindstone and re-produced these oldies with my new knowledge. I also wrote some new songs, because I didn’t have enough stuff sitting around to make an entire album. EXCITING!!!
“Reindeer Jam” was my attempt to write a rock song with a traditional jazz structure. I was taking a jazz history class at the time, and fell in love with the free-wheeling nature of jazz pieces that encouraged so much improvisation.
“Way Back Home” is the first country song I’ve ever released, as well as the first true collaboration between myself and my Dad. We’ve collaborated before, but this was a true joint effort as we both wrote large portions of the song.
“Fret” consists only of my voice and sounds coming out of a Casio DG-20.