The Quarantine Tapes

by Liz Bagby

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1.
Posthistoric 03:26
Tonight we burn the tapes, make our grand escape Tonight we break the links, tonight we spill the ink Tonight we wipe the disk, tonight we asterisk Tonight it’s all erased, ghosted out, MySpaced You said you wanted a beautiful forgetting A universe begetting something new Isn’t this what you wanted? Now we’re no longer haunted by what was true Tonight the magnets hum, tonight the future comes Tonight we break the toys, we unmaster noise Tonight we misdirect, tonight we disconnect Tonight the machine stops, tonight the hammer drops You said you wanted a beautiful forgetting A universe begetting something new Isn’t this what you wanted? Isn’t this what you wanted? To unwrite the world, unwrite the world, unwrite the world Unwrite the world, unwrite the world, unwrite the world Unwrite the world, unwrite the world Tonight we unanoint, condense all time to a point Tonight we make it real, tonight we learn to feel URL and IRL and we are all together
2.
Your ad here. You’re out here. A sad flag over seven acres of RVs. Twilight through the dripping trees. Eat at the next stop, pause at the next stop, check it again on your phone. The gears are slipping. Hang a left up at Bob’s Adult Superstore. Got the strangest feeling you’ve driven here before. Can’t follow a road where it don’t want to go. Forgotten, gone rotten, staling on yourself. The fourth time you’ve heard this song. How can a map lead you so far wrong? Billions and billions served, lights slipping curved down the windshield. Get back on the interstate just past Bob’s Adult Superstore. Got the strangest feeling you’ve driven by before. If you wanna go home, well, that’s all you’ll ever see. Look at you now, afraid to blink, the night spreading like an inkstain, soft and complete. Every flash stops your heart. Oh, you’re coming apart at the seams. A bed at a motel, a bed at a motel, the same bed at every motel in the world. I’m sure it’s up ahead, past Bob’s Adult Superstore. Got the strangest feeling you’ve driven by before. If you are alone, well, that’s all you ever are. And when you drive at night, well, do you ever think of me? When the windshield’s lit up white, well, do you ever think of me?
3.
Tar 03:50
I won’t say a word, won’t breathe your name Just go, salt-burnt and nicotine-stained Let’s get out of this gray place, get somewhere bright and hard I want to cauterize the wound with asphalt and tar It doesn’t help. Whatever’s here, this isn’t my frontier. It’s a shimmering mirage that never comes near And we’re dying, dying, dying, dying, dying out here anyway We’re dying, dying, dying, dying, dying for it every day Give me thin air and an altitude bleed Let the ink seep out in shining beads Give me cactus spines, tombstones, Kit Carson led the way Give me exit ramps and tweed amps and photogenic decay It doesn’t help. Whatever’s here, this isn’t my frontier. It’s a shimmering mirage that never comes near And we’re dying, dying, dying, dying, dying out here anyway We’re dying, dying, dying, dying, dying for it every day Give me a vast nothing, high-beam emptiness Give me a raw-scraped despair, a half-baked second guess Give me the end of the dirt road, last known address Give me less, give me less, give me less, give me less, give me less It doesn’t help. Whatever’s here, this isn’t my frontier. It’s a shimmering mirage that never comes near And we’re dying, dying, dying, dying, dying out here anyway We’re dying, dying, dying, dying, dying for it every day
4.
Every day you dream of better, something better, something more Be a real go-getter. What you’re working for Doesn’t matter, doesn’t matter if you’re going full bore Ignore the traffic clatter. Don’t you dream of better, dream of better? Get away. You dream of leaving, dream of leaving, dream of more. Spend your days deceiving everybody. At your core you still believe you’re the exception, you’ll make it somehow. It’s a grind. What do you think you’re gonna find? The self and the plans you left behind? Some treasure map, alluring, undefined? Or else your mind? That’s been gone a while. It’s a crutch. And no one’s going to notice much if you’re dying from a lack of touch. It’s such a quiet way to go. Don’t clutch your pearls, the world won’t care. It’s a climb. You live your life out of time. Windowless and airless, chasing paradigms. You killed the woman, covered up the crime, and that was so long ago.
5.
Hey, sugartooth, we both know it’s time We both know that I’m coming unglued and you’re getting diffuse Hey, sugartooth, ain’t you tired of pain? The pinpricks and the stains of stale afternoons and creeping disuse I choose to see it as it was, you know I choose to hold it precious Some perfect moment caught in yellowed Kodachrome, you know When we were pretty There’s a last for everything, you know Can’t skirt the edge forever You’ve been flirting with oblivion, you know And I get jealous. Well, I know a place Hey, sugartooth, we both know it’s time We both know that I’m coming unglued and you’re getting diffuse Those times are all behind us now, you know These bones are crumbling from the weight of standing This might’ve gone a different way, you know But that was so long ago You tried to be an alchemist, cheating death With some silver-tank elixir When we’ve kissed our last and drawn another borrowed breath You know there’s nothing left Hey, sugartooth, we both know it’s time We both know that I’m coming unglued and you’re getting diffuse Hey, sugartooth, don’t leave me behind Whatever we may find, whatever happens next, it happens to me too Hey, sugartooth
6.
Hotel Song 04:48
Spend the evening alone In the glow of the phone Well, it’s love of a kind, I grant you, but don’t you want more? Absurdly easy to tell You’ve checked out of this hotel Leave a tip on the pillow, the key on the desk, press the floor So lovely, so lush, in this carpeted hush The rush of the air from the street And I’m beat. I concede. I call defeat. I go up, you go down Go on and pour another round When the morning turns pale, I’ll try and I’ll fail to make you hear You go left, I’ll go right Another casual goodnight It’s late and I’m done pretending there’s anyone near You with your hand full of ice Such a convenient device So matter of fact when you act, but you let this slip by Me with my plastic smile And it’s been stuck like this a while Try to speak but the muscles are weak and each word’s a lie The rattle, the glass, or the pass of the flask God, I don’t want to ask any more What’s it for, all this show in the shadows below? I go up, you go down Go on and pour another round When the morning turns pale, I’ll try and I’ll fail to make you hear You go left, I’ll go right Another casual goodnight It’s late and I’m done pretending there’s anyone near The vacancy sign paints a line Down the side of your face. The contours have changed. How’d we get here? Everything’s so shabby and strange I go up, you go down Go on and pour another round When the morning turns pale, I’ll try and I’ll fail to make you hear You go left, I’ll go right Another casual goodnight It’s late and I’m done pretending there’s anyone near You go on, I’ll go off Make mine a Molotov Trash the room, torch the place, there’s no one inside anyway You go dark, I’ll go light There’s no point in a fight You’ve already said every last thing a person can say
7.
Today, Today 04:50
Today, today, your old life comes calling Today, today, your old fears come crawling around Today, today, it finds you and reminds you Today, today is every yesterday Did you think we’d forgotten? Oh no no—we’ve been biding our time All of us unaddressed regrets, all of us outstanding debts Did you think you’d get away? Oh no no—nobody does All of us lingering requests, all of us uninvited guests All of us—all of what was Today, today, your old life comes calling Today, today, your old fears come crawling around Today, today, it finds you and reminds you Today, today is every yesterday Did you think you’d sleep tonight? Oh no no—you can lie awake All of us unforgiven wrongs, all of us half-remembered songs Did you think we’d fade away? Oh no no—we’re here for keeps All of us casual remarks, all of us unacknowledged sparks All of us pulled from the deep We are the voices of the bad dreams the missed calls, the stuck trains We are the ghosts that flicker out behind your smile We are the scorched-earth credit score the last trip to the liquor store the ancient photo posted on your profile We are the shadows stretched at twilight We are the day becoming night We are we are we are we are we are— Today, today, your old life comes calling Today, today, your old fears come crawling around Today, today, it finds you and reminds you Today, today is every yesterday
8.
Ghostlight 02:34
You persist like an image burned onto a screen A hollowed-out negative ghost in the machine Unchanged, unchanging, staring me down: Here’s who you are, here’s who you’ve been, here’s what you’ve done Here’s what’s gone You remove yourself, a silhouette Of what I lost, what I’ll never forget I leave your message unopened, keep your face on my phone: Here’s who you are, here’s who you’ve been, try to move on Here’s what’s gone And in this house some specter haunts the corners of my vision. I wonder what it wants. And in this room I sleep alone and dream of dying, everything unknown And in this night the lights come on as if to whisper: Here’s what’s gone Here’s what’s gone
9.
When you said goodnight, I would have touched you then Lingered against your skin, leaned close I would have found the nerve to speak, hidden embarrassment, begged you to stay as you went—but so it goes What do I have but time? What can I do but waste it? The moment drew out a line—I reached out and erased it The hours spool away, oh, and I squander them Let myself wander in the past And my reckless lonely heart greets me at every turn Is this the way I’ll learn at last? What do I have but time? What can I do but waste it? The moment drew out a line—I reached out and erased it A ring around a finger, a stiff drink, a blues singer Oh, the old impressions linger on A last night on the town, the alley echoes drown your sorrows, Love, oh, ashes, we all fall down What do I have but time? What can I do but waste it? The feast was almost mine—I was afraid to taste it Sleep all day and drift confused about the house at night, unused To idleness, to loneliness, uncertainty I do the things I know I should. Solitude’s all well and good Until you can’t stand the company
10.
Asteroid 04:42
Some nights I pray for some great asteroid These fragmentary lives flung across the void No meaning, no cosmic revelation No waiting, no train station No hesitation, no explanation No apology, I find you, you touch me No agenda, no message pending And we’ll make love like the world is ending Call me by my secret name I will whisper into your skin Carve me out from nothing Define me for a time Cry out your hurts Show me every scar Forget to pretend This is where we end and whatever’s next begins in a vast, violent crash when we disintegrate into ash

about

So, funny story: I started an arts residency in January, for uninterrupted solo time to focus on creative work. Isolated mountain town, minimal internet, little human interaction, no day gig.

Six weeks later, that had become one of the weirdest and loneliest sets of circumstances I could have chosen. Two of the near-future stories I had planned to write were already obsolete. The year's theater projects were canceled. The chance to have an in-person workshop of the script in progress was gone, as were band gigs—and even rehearsals—for the foreseeable months. Even returning to Chicago had turned into a fraught, complicated prospect.

Not funny ha-ha.

Music has been one of the few things I can still work on. Instruments and gear on hand: one guitar, one amateur-quality Casio keyboard, one microphone, one shaker, one foot tambourine, and one pair of tap shoes. All other sounds were created by feeding those things through digital effects or jerry-rigging instruments from stuff around the house (a dictionary, a tin can, and a cardboard box all make appearances). Nothing has been professionally mixed or mastered.

The residency is in a casita (an adobe tiny house) that, according to the foundation staff, is haunted. It is full of hints of motion, just at the edge of your vision, and odd noises. Some came from the magpies, ravens, crows, and mice that tended to congregate around the place. Some things were less easy to explain, like the lamp that re-illuminated just after I had turned it off. During a bout of insomnia, I saw the recording interface light up as though it was getting audio input, even though it was the middle of the night and the computer was asleep. Other times I heard murmurs and static from a USB cable that wasn't connected to power. So I assume there's some ghost noise in this recording somewhere. Most of the songs have to do with memory and death anyway: maybe I brought the ghosts with me.

This is rather a hodgepodge collection, including some ideas that surfaced a year ago but weren't right for any of the projects at hand then. Some of this music will go on the next Baguettes album (working title: Posthistoric). Some are just specific to now. Many are begging for Charlie's guitar, Julie's trumpet, Zach's touch at the kit, Thomas's way with a bassline. But who knows when or how that will happen?

credits

released April 13, 2020

All songs written and performed by Liz Bagby.

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Liz + the Baguettes Chicago, Illinois

Indie rock + alt-country + post-punk = post-country. At least that's what we tell ourselves.

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