Song Notes

1 Losing Habits

The subject of the title track has been many things, opaque as dread, fear, depression, malaise, angst—but also, as clear as cancer and real loss. Whatever the source, it can be a powerful motivator. In our case, it drove much of the writing and recording for the album, and some of the fears in “Losing Habits” hang over other songs in different ways. There are parental anxieties, personal tragedies, but also, the reverence for life that comes with all of them. 

2 Love You Worse

I love you more. I love you most. I love you to the moon… and back. We regularly throw out phrases and endearments as if love can be measured or quantified. In this case it’s not so much about the measurement as it is the impairment. Of course, love brings uncertainty…only because it can render us volatile, vulnerable, defenseless and neurotic. These are the worst qualities of love. But in the spirit of measurement, to say I love you worse is to say I love you more 

3 Breakfast Table

When Danny and I first toured with Wagon, one of our earliest supporters was the “proprietress” of WFMU’s Radio Thrift Shop, Laura Cantrell, recognized by The New York Times as “one of the city’s best-known deejays among music lovers with a country-and-western bent.” Laura hosted Wagon at the station and invited us to perform at a WFMU live show. We kept in distant touch through career changes, weddings, births, and everything in between. Ben stopped writing and became a music supervisor and producer, Danny became a teacher, and Laura stopped DJ-ing and became a full-fledged Artist (and a universally adored one at that). When Danny and I began passing songs back and forth last year, one tune suggested faint echoes of Tammy and George / Emmylou and Gram, and after a little lobbying, Laura was gracious enough to join us. She sings the duet with Danny, and she rolled up her sleeves to work on the writing as well, adding a lovely bridge, a new title, and – what else – a line about a radio.

The story in the song is common: a fraying relationship with too many things taken for granted. We’ve all seen long-lasting relationships and marriages fade or fall apart. When it happens we think back about these couples.They seemed so content or so perfect for one another. Of course, we want them to be perfect. The video could represent a couple’s happy times: holidays, vacations, more than anything, a shared purpose.

4 Here For You

This was the easiest song to record live in the studio. It just moved effortlessly; one-take for the basic tracks. Tom, Blake, Lee and Danny locked-in immediately and it could have gone on and on. Shame it had to end. Most people can relate to the scenes of mistakes and apologies painted in the lyrics. Sometimes a mere presence can be the start of a reconciliation.

5 Please Leave Traces

What did Thoreau’s parents think of his choices? Were they concerned when he decamped to Walden Pond, all but abandoning society for two years? Did they worry about his safety? What if his experiment failed tragically? As parents, there is only so much we can control and only so much protection we can – not to mention ‘should’ – provide. In Thoreau’s case, I suspect his parents encouraged his individualism and skepticism despite whatever collateral damage it may have caused him. But they could be forgiven for worrying about some loneliness as well.

6 Same For You

“Same For You” could be a kind of companion piece to “Breakfast Table,” asking the questions that never come in that sadder song. Of course, without questions, there is no dialogue. The video zooms out from the personal toward the social and political. Airports. Bus terminals. Carnivals. Museums. Amusement Parks. India. Venezuela. Korea. Mexico. Exploring in total safety, the visitors at the world’s fair are nonetheless motivated by curiosity. Lauren Balthrop sings the ache, “Take me to another world; I’ll pack up the stars…tell me what you want to do; look at where we are.” It’s a love song that honors the question above all. 

7 Hello Annabella

Anyone who reads the beginning of Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities will see that the first verse of “Annabella” is ripped right off the page. When Marco Polo tells Genghis Khan about the city of Isadora, he talks of “spiral stairs” and “perfect violins”. Calvino’s book muses on the puzzle of memory: are our stories “accurate,” what details do we remember and why? The song takes its motivation from these questions. “Annabella” owes another debt to Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity. Like Rob Fleming in the novel, the character in the song cycles through memories of past relationships. Imagining both explorer Marco Polo’s stories in Invisible Cities and Rob Fleming’s in High Fidelity, the verses obsess over otherwise mundane details that have somehow become significant over time.

8 Take It Back

Alternate Title: “Grave Illness And The Overwhelming Temptation Toward Denial” The impulse is always there, under any stress, to put a happy face on for others. There’s nothing inherently wrong with the motivation. Sometimes it’s necessary to put one foot in front of the other and keep living. We can press on; we can not take everything back.

9 All My Time

“All My Time” sits squarely in the parenting cycle of the album. If they sang a little easier, we might have used James Baldwin’s words in this song: “Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.”

10 Ruby

Originally this song was titled “The Quiet Power,” taken directly from Susan Cain’s conversation about empowerment for introverted kids.  I have introverted kids; three of them. From my experience, there’s only so much any parent can say to their kids about the simple idea of embracing who they are.  This song reflects just that: the coming of age and the loss of innocence while being haunted by anxieties and fears of rejection.  Ruby is not the protagonist but an object of desire. She represents a way of engaging with the world that many introverts covet. – DK

11 Gone

A friend’s son was killed in a traffic incident that railed our whole community. For some of us near an event like that, there’s a tremendous guilt that it’s not us. On the other side of that guilt is the recognition that there’s no reason that it isn’t us. The next year Manchester By The Sea came out, and seeing the film brought a lot of those fears back. The first verse in “Gone” is all Casey Affleck and his drooped shoulders.

12 Through That Door

Without any real intention or coordination, while dealing with medical crises at home, I saw the films Still Alice and Amour. With very different approaches, they both deal with how family and friends react to a loved one who is gradually becoming incapacitated. The declines in both films were more pronounced than my circumstances, but it was frighteningly easy to relate.