Tyne Darling - The Secret November In November of 2008, Tom Vollman took up a brief, albeit extremely fortunate, residence in a fourth-floor walk-up at the corner of 72nd Street and Broadway on Manhattan's Upper East Side. The apartment was spartan, populated by only a small, twin-sized bed, a card table with a single folding chair, and a black Steinway baby grand piano. The weather stayed pleasant outside of the apartment's clouded windows for a number of days, before the first flits of east coast winter took hold and drowned the entire enterprise in a sleety mix of snow, slush and rain. It was there, between those crooked walls and within the soggy footsteps of many late-night sojourns to Williamsburg, that the fodder for The Secret November was born. The songs came in spells, brief hails of lyrics, rhythm or both, only to be shaped, polished and finished in Milwaukee, Chicago, Los Angeles or Austin. The songs, as a result, reflect those locales (as well as the many spaces in between) just as much, if not more, than they do their Gotham roots. Nearly a year later, in October of 2009, the plot for The Secret November was developed and further formatted in a third-floor apartment just east of Tompkins Square Park. By then, the recorded sketches spanned 12 complete compositions. Over the course of the following four months, those same songs would evolve into their current manifestations. Chris Dorch, Ted Fleming, Bob Berry and Caleb Willitz all added flavor and flare, laying instrumentation onto Tom's original skeletons in the cozy, friendly confines of Willitz's Chicago-based Rattlesnake Studio. As the winter's dirty snow retreated against the passing frames of a sun-drenched, early March, the mixes (tracks and segments crammed tight like an over-packed bushel of Cortland apples) made their way back to New York City and into the skilled hands of Eric Ambel. Throughout April and May of 2010, Ambel dissected and further shaped the songs, eventually adding guitar, bass and organ at Brooklyn's Cowboy Technical Studio. He and Tim Hatfield mixed the record in a three-day chunk in late May before passing things forward to Paul Gold at Williamsburg/Greenpoint's Salt Mastering. Essentially, the record is a fevered attempt at securing the vague premonitions of a passing fancy. It's a obsession with the fluttering focus of love and longing, framed in the somewhat squeamish platitude of the here-and-now. Reflections of misremembered occasions, celebrations of discovery and near triumph, and the pangs of regret populate the horizons of the record's 12 tracks. Written and composed with a subtle nod to Caillebotte's impressionistic fury, the derived meaning of the compositions is far less important than the feelings and thoughts it's harmonies conjure. L.E.S. stands a testimonial to the siren-like streets and tiny warrens that surround the sidewalks of Ludlow and Rivington, while Three dreams of the guild and pomp of Gatsby and the dark-haired, silver-screen ravens of the 1940s, both collapsing under the enormous weight of endless possibility. In the end, though, "We only dream of rock-n-roll." Punk Rock Girls imagines heartache along the slowly sloping boulevards of Silverlake, harkening, at it's core, back to a fragmented conversation on a fenced-in, glass-covered patio in Austin, Texas. Untitled revels in the feeling of foolish optimism, holding fast to the notion that despite the set-backs and glorious truncations, the tangles of life might just work themselves out, while Rollers basks in the fragrance of unrequited love that, under different circumstances, might have been. The record closes with the sparse The New York Palace, a track consisting of only vocals, trumpet and upright bass. Amongst this rigid sonic topography, the lyrics careen their way toward a promise to be a little bit better, to shine a little bit brighter, and to stay a little bit longer the next time around. In the world of The Secret November such a promise isn't too much to ask, it's rather the only thing to ask.