Eleven songs about the Los Angeles neighborhood of Highland Park, past and present.
Listen to the song “Trash Day”:
- Trash Day
- Highland Park
- Figueroa Street
- Old Man Brunk
- Arroyo Seco
- Here Come the Hipsters
- Our Back Yard is Full of Cats
- A Country Boy in Highland Park
- Mr. T’s Bowl
- El Dorado
- Charles Lummis
I’ve written about the lives of scientists for two records, sung from the perspective of bees on one, described people as a form of weather in “Evaporation,” added melodies to Sex Pistols songs, and recently gone in a zoological direction with “26 Animals.” Most of the time I prefer to write songs by taking some sort of leap — to sing as a frog, a bumblebee, or Albert Einstein. But on “Historic Highland Park” I stayed closer to home. I looked at my neighborhood, my experience living here, and a little of its history. Here’s what’s on the record:
“Trash Day” was written on a shiny spring Tuesday, which is trash day in Highland Park. When we play the song live, Steve performs his infectious trash can dance. “Highland Park” is the title song. The street I live on, “Figueroa Street,” was once the longest street in Los Angeles. “Old Man Brunk” is about the first white dude living in the Arroyo Seco. Not much is known about him, but I like that he left San Francisco “because the town was good.” Next: “Arroyo Seco.” Behold the concrete trough! But touch not the waters, especially in August. “Here Come The Hipsters” is a paranoid fantasy of Sunset Strip creep creepage. I hope it’s paranoid, anyway. “Our Back Yard Is Full of Cats” was written on a day when our back yard was indeed full of cats. “A Country Boy In Highland Park” features Steve’s theremin in its full glory. Yes, I grew up with a composting toilet of my father’s invention. And I used to sing to cows while waiting for the school bus. Cows took a real interest in my early vocal work. Those Holsteins would hear me and amble over across the fields to stand nice and close, chewing and looking and paying mysterious and profound brown-eyed attention to my every syllable. “Mr. T’s Bowl” describes a favorite indie rock bar in these parts. “El Dorado” is Artichoke’s first song longer than seven minutes, and includes a short history of California and our place in the grand scheme. Finally, I went out on the porch and played “Charles Lummis,” a biography of Highland Park’s own corduroy-clad humanitarian booster of the Southwestern United States, its people and history.
Big thanks go to Daniel Leyson for playing guitar on “Trash Day” and “Highland Park,” and to David Hurlin for playing drums all over the record. Also thanks to the organizers of “Lummis Day” for having Artichoke play in 2008. A special limited-edition version of the album featuring eight songs about Highland Park was produced in honor of the 2008 Lummis Day Festival in Highland Park. Jackson Browne headlined, and Artichoke played the crowd-pleasing hit Highland Park: