Highland Park 2
Since we made “Historic Highland Park” in 2009, Highland Park-ish song ideas have continued to trickle in. Some of them became recorded songs, such as “The Market of Farms,” “The Ancient Flu,” and “Mr. and Mrs. Woobeewoo.” Those three ended up on the “Etchy Sketchy Skies” album. But the idea of a second fully Highland Park album kept pulling at me. It’s a unique place — as are are most places if you look carefully. I enjoy specificity in songwriting. Without it, you get mush, and I don’t think it detracts from broader associations for listeners if I say “Figueroa Street” instead of “the street,” for example. I dig it when Robyn Hitchcock, Ray Davies, or the guy from Half Man Half Biscuit get hyper-local in their tunes.
Many thanks to the talented and generous musicians on this record! Here are a few thoughts about 16 years and a dozen songs:
Highland Park 2
1 It’s a Monday Night in Highland Park at the Tail End of July
A relaxed full-band atmospheric portrait of our ‘hood in the heat of summer.
2 Nibble On a Kumquat
In case you’re wondering how the vocals sound halfway between Donovan and Robert Pollard, I sang through my distortion pedal and a Moog tremolo effect into my guitar amp, recorded two tracks, and hard panned them left and right, all while nibbling on a kumquat. Lydee’s distant high vocals contrast nicely.
3 Succulents and Vinyl Taking Over Highland Park
We made a music video for this one back in March of 2020 as the pandemic was gathering steam. Musicians performed remotely and then sent me the bits to collage together. David Birdsell and my wife “shot” me. The video features Ty Key on drums, Joe Bray-Ali on keys, Chet Johnston on bass and Yours Truly singing and guitaring. Follow my youtube channel for more.
4 A Concrete Tree With the Branches Amputated
Some of you may know of this wretched eyesore sculpture at the Highland Park metro station. Nice full-band sound on this track.
5 Uh Huh
A short rocker with an Elastica – esque (aka Wire – esque) guitar riff. David Birdsell made a video of the band playing scrabble and having tea in the back yard while being attacked by a leaf blower.
6 Big Wind Blows Down Figueroa
Speaking of gusts, a powerful windstorm blew through Los Angeles and our neighborhood of Highland Park back in 2011. It did a lot of damage, including destroying our friend Amy’s house as you can see on the back cover. This spunky little song is the true story of that event. The studio recording sounds a bit like the storm itself.
7 I Might Have Killed Your Rosebush
A tiny song with many unexpected chords and vocal effects made the same way as “Nibble On a Kumquat.” The rosebush in question is Amy’s. It lived.
8 Diggin’ Dave
About 15 years ago, a torrential rainstorm was too much for our huge retaining wall and half of it fell into the street with an earth-shaking crash. Many tons of rock and mud filled our sidewalk on Figueroa street, causing pedestrians and old folks and people in wheelchairs to detour dangerously into traffic. (Note: insurance companies are often useless.) Heavy rain continued for many days, and I urgently needed to clear the sidewalk. I began shoveling and hiring random burly passers-by. One of the least daunted by the task was this big old dude named Dave. At some point during the second day of digging I observed his swastika tattoo.
9 It’s a Dangerous Life
A brief, mellifluous enumeration of things the healthy songwriter should avoid in order to keep that way.
10 We’re Highland Park
A few years ago it seemed like everybody was saying of our ‘hood: “It’s the new Silverlake!” and “It’s the new “Echo Park!” This rankled a bit, so here’s a cheerleading defense of Highland Park’s unique identity.
11 Highland Park Blues
Many blues greats have some form of “Every Day I’ve Got the Blues” in their sets. Here’s my take. Note the chewy and delicious bass guitar of Chet Johnston, who plays on most of this album.
12 Small Flock
Lyrically, it’s a singer’s absurd bragging about his indie rock band that has one fan named Paul. At the show in question, Paul couldn’t make it. Artichoke ended live sets with this song at every show between about 2004 and 2006. A recording of “Small Flock” was heard on the sandpaper-covered CD “20 Grit.” But that was a short run of CDs which never emerged digitally, so here is the indie dance hit at long last.
Timothy Sellers: vox, guitar, bass, tambourine, cover art
Chet Johnston: bass
Lydee Walsh: vox, tambourine
Tim Curran: saxophone, harmonica
Joe Bray-Ali: keyboard
Carl Urbinati: guitar
Sharon McGunigle: vox, accordion
Probyn Gregory: trumpet
Ty Key: drums
Fredo Ortiz: drums
Shawn Nourse: drums
Tammy Kaehler, Allison Achauer: photos
All songs written and recorded by Timothy Sellers between 2004 and 2020