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Microcosmos

by Lou Turner

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    Black vinyl version of Microcosmos, with original album artwork by Sarah Bachman. Comes with full color sleeve and lyric insert.

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1.
Microcosmos 03:37
The planet was born spinning Never planning to make its move In space there’s no clockwise No risk of being misunderstood Some planets move left handed Ours is empty handed asking for more From god’s hangnail moon hanging next door Cat scratching on the sky and what for Some of those microcosmos The planet was born in the backyard No gender reveal, but plenty of blue In time, there’s no more time No risk of being caught behind Black hole blues about the way it goes The planet asks for another song From god’s hang-ten stars surfing along Cat scratching at the black so long For some of those microcosmos And if I were bound in a nutshell of infinite space That’s where we crackle in good grace and see face to face We cut our context into pieces we can swallow But something that melts was never hollow But full of microcosmos
2.
Why do we name hurricanes after Spirits that have already waned Laura’s ripping through those Texas plains Now that isn’t like her Though she was a fighter She’s here to stay If only in her name Causin’ storms Why did we tell Pennies about wishing wells Saying spooky spells as they fell Gone spelunking in deep dark abyss Could’ve used ‘em for a hershey’s kiss But there’s some tenderness in resigning to a wish Blowing out those candlesticks Wishin’ for more Why do we sing My country tis of thee We’re far away from that guy as can be Santa’s Jesus Christ’s right-hand-man They’re turning wine back into water again It’s melting all the snow in the land Dashing to and fro Look out below For your lord Causin’ storms Wishin’ for more
3.
Are you peddling yourself again Your lifespan like a talisman Are you the tallest man Did you find a ride to the horizon Are you meddling with hell again Counting the cracks in the sidewalk ‘til it ends Are you the smallest sin That could slip down to the mass of no man’s land Where the sticky grace is see-through thin And the horizon inverts into the ceiling And you wake up in a bed green and growing Are you a(head) with no shoulders again Have you been thinking without breathing in Do you have a big fat plan Have you devised a ride to the land of heads Are you making daily bread sweet friend Have you proofed it until its alive and billowing Have you found a way into the oven To bake with love Where the sticky grace is see-through thin And the horizon inverts into the ceiling And you wake up in a bed green and growing
4.
I didn’t see no horse I didn’t see no spur I didn't see how you could rope the world in your lasso You got a big guitar You got three old chords but they don’t tell no truth You have three chords that make your lasso and their names are empty tame and ugly It’s on the tip of your tongue The timeless troubadour song You got her under your thumb Her name is Hejira She’s gotten under your skin She made her bed in it Tell her the one again about The nudie suited outlaw She’s not some steel-toe-booted cowgirl But even she can see its empty tame and ugly You said you’d make Hank proud But all your buckets got holes in ‘em You said you saw the light But even the devil can’t afford your soul so you’ve been selling swaths of darkness All in shades of empty tame and ugly
5.
There was no good in the way I went about that There was no bad in it, there wasn’t anything To hold onto, no handle of yes-and or nothing To say nothing holds the shape of everything There was no good in the way you walked out the door There was some bad in the way I locked it behind you Forgetting you were the only one to have a spare key And the mold was made from the back door of the defunct bar down the street There was some love there There was no good in the way I kept my mouth shut There was no bad in the things I hid away But the hiding splintered all of the things I had to say And refracted my care into a sun streak over the day Dancing to the hold music for hours on end Dancing to the hold music forget what you intended And then a voice on the other end chimed in and said: What have you been waiting for don’t you already know how this ends? There is some love here
6.
Like a burp in the middle of a kiss Or the hiccups in the middle of speech class I am electric, interruptive I am asking for the hall pass So I can travel unseen to the Nether regions of your dreams And see if they might accommodate me Somewhere in the middle of the story I refused to protagonize further Right around the rising action I Insisted I must be another Kind of character one with a hat Much rounder someone that uses a map To see if it accommodates them And what might we find there Measuring the cosmic stairs It's unfair What might we find there Spin it again like a dare Tell me to breathe and I’ll explode with air With the insistence of an artichoke I tried my best to seem healthy Right along with our climatic climate I was warming, I was ripe, I was ready to be more informed, eat less corn to braid my endings into some sort of a beginning And what might we find there Measuring the cosmic stairs It's unfair What might we find there Spin it again like a dare Tell me to breathe and I’ll explode with air I’ll explode
7.
Like the bird’s nest in the VALERO sign I’ve been making home in the O’s I can find O when I in awesome wonder consider that insects scare the hell out of me So infinite yet beneath my feet O to be armored and attentive to have antenna that dial directly To your cosmic radio, O, your cosmic radio all signal, no static, always home I’ve got the O’s And I suppose I’ve got the oh no’s too O to be a blade of grass expecting nothing of the morning but dew O to hit empty and pull into that valero and O to be full To act like the hunger is real To know that the hunger is real To respect the hunger is real, armored and attentive I’ve got the O’s And I suppose I’ve got the oh no’s too O to be so certain of the darkness to fall asleep that you can close your eyes, fall really deep Close your eyes, fall asleep, and be free
8.
9.
Big Ole Head 02:16
You’ve got a big old head And that’s a compliment I’ve seen all those things you’ve said Sprout and bloom into offerings Now I can stand to hear you rave about John Donne and Voltaire They’ve been steeped over time and aged Bubbling in your mind like a fine bolognese And if your head shrinks in the weather For worse or for better I’ll help you measure We’ll get it right on its screws like we do You’ve been a good ole friend Even when I haven’t been I’ve tasted your thoughts and kept chewing I’ll spit em out when you’re afraid that you’ll lose them Now I can stand to see You take a little space from me If you need a sip of fresh air I’ll hold the space between us with care And if your head shrinks in the weather For worse or for better I’ll help you measure We’ll get it right on its screws like we do
10.
The smallest mercy In February Being the shortest month When it’s the grossest one The softest pointing of the cat’s curiosity He kills the stink bugs for me leads me to their point of entry The smallest mercy Is mercy enough for me To keep me sticking around here And waiting for another one The empty delight in being dead right When you haven’t looked at your phone or your clock or your dash and still you guess the exact right time The empty delight in being dead right at least enough of the time to keep around and pass some more by The smallest mercy Is mercy enough for me To keep me sticking around here And waiting for another one
11.
As certain as Christmas As pagan as a pew As familiar as a kind stranger Is my love for you As processed as velveeta As complex as campfire stew As sacred as saltines Is my love for you If god is love then I’m made holy By my love for you As something as nothing Still means something if it’s true As pocket lint collects in the dryer Over time like morning dew If god is love, then I’m made holy By my love for you Like hot soup in a cold bowl Like a sunset without a view I can’t grasp it but I’m filled up with my love for you

about

What does it mean to be a traveler in a fixed place? An adventurer in domestic space? A troubadour in a confined microcosm, or a constellation of microcosms—that is, a microcosmos? These are the questions Nashville musician, songwriter, and published poet Lou Turner (aka Lauren Turner) was reflecting on as she wrote her luminous third solo album, Microcosmos. The spacious yet intimate cycle of cosmic country songs coalesce as her answer, demonstrating that to write a domestic epic requires finding the humor of a burp in the middle of a kiss, the smallest mercy in the gross but short month of February, the sacredness of saltines, the spiritual in the everyday. With her warm and welcoming voice and nylon-stringed acoustic guitar foregrounded over sparse yet playful arrangements, Microcosmos is a meditation on what it means to privilege cultivation over consumption and to ponder larger realities from within the shell of the fixed reality of a home. The reward is the adventure to be found in stillness and observation, the discovery of the otherworldly in earthly matter, the revelations of groundedness. Turner generously offers up these wonders to the listener, sharing hers, and inviting us to find our own.

Microcosmos, the follow-up to her celebrated 2020 album Songs for John Venn (SPINSTER), was co-produced by Turner and Ross Collier, and tracked live in the barn of a friends’ family farm in Alabama in May 2021 with Collier, Trevor Nikrant, and Joe Kenkel—all four members of Nashville’s resident weird rock collective, the Styrofoam Winos. The resulting sound has that tight-but-loose feeling that can only be achieved by a group of people who are completely comfortable with each other creatively, who can take risks with sounds of horns, coconuts, and pots and pans, while knowing when to pull back, keep it simple, and let Turner’s songs shine. The result feels akin to efforts by the Silver Jews or Lambchop (of which the bassist Matt Swanson appears on “Green and Growing”) or Bill Callahan’s more recent cosmic country records—warm and playful but not excessively ornamented, with the songwriter and her songs front and center.

As Lou Turner began to compile this collection of songs she had written at home or in the backyard during the pandemic months of 2020 and 2021, she joked that she was working on her “domestic troubadour record.” She was reading Bernadette Mayer’s feminist epic poem Midwinter Day, while listening to Joni Mitchell’s Hejira (which she calls “the ultimate road album”), as well as other 70s singer-songwriters—Jerry Jeff Walker, Neil Young, and Michael Hurley in particular. Turner says of Microcosmos: “Musically, these songs are mostly in the country/folk vein of the 70s songwriter but lyrically they’re challenging some of those tropes or totally subverting them altogether, talking about commitment and love—the small microcosmic things that make up the fabric of everything.” She was thinking about how on Hejira, Joni recontextualizes “the road” as a feminist space for solitude and self-confrontation, which as Turner notes, “a lot of the rambler-gamblers aren’t strong enough to do.” On Microcosmos, Turner’s home and mind are her road, as she finds magic in a friend’s rising bread dough, encounters a metaphor for love in pocket lint, and experiences the pitfalls of reticence in a relationship. She confides, “The smallest mercy/Is mercy enough for me/To keep me sticking around here/And waiting for another one.” In that spirit, Turner covers Simon Joyner’s “You Got Under My Skin,” which he refers to as an anti-troubadour song.

On the title song, “Microcosmos,” Turner lays out a central theme of the record and much of her writing in general, which she describes as, “investigating how big, spiritual ideas or meaning can be found in the infinitesimal.” Over ethereal psaltery pedal effects, warm and hypnotic upright bass, and acoustic guitar arpeggios, she sings, referencing Hamlet, “If I were bound in a nutshell of infinite space/That’s where we crackle in good grace and see face to face/We cut our context into pieces we can swallow/But something that melts was never hollow/But full of microcosmos.” The domestic troubadour has made her entrance.

In the lyrics of “What Might We Find There,” the most indie rock of the album’s tracks, Turner is honest about the difficulty in confronting the big picture, the danger of conceiving of yourself as a character in a linear storyline, rather than a flawed person living in the present. She writes, “Somewhere in the middle of the story/I refused to protagonize further/Right around the rising action I/Insisted I must be another/Kind of character one with a hat/Much rounder someone that uses a map/To see if it accommodates them.” There’s a hint of David Berman’s “Storyline Fever” here, an admission that she can’t climb the cosmic stairs to find some better version of herself, that she’s tired of analyzing her place in the world and just wants to live in it. It’s a subversive statement for a songwriter to make, a refusal to story herself beyond recognition, an acceptance of her limitations, and with that, a freedom in everyday reality.

On “Empty Tame and Ugly,” the spaghetti western-esque title of which was borrowed from a James Baldwin quote, Turner confronts most directly the masculine troubadour archetype who blows from town to town, eating and drinking and using everything up, leaving dust and tumbleweed in his wake, but nothing of beauty, substance, or endurance. The pedal steel and horns allude to Morricone, and Turner’s biting words rebuke the hollow commercialism of the Nashville establishment with its fake cowboys and cookie-cutter stories. “You got a big guitar/You got three old chords/but they don’t tell no truth/You have three chords that make your lasso/and their names are empty tame and ugly.” Though she minces no words, her delivery is more mournful than scathing—the vapidness of it all being the sad antithesis to Turner’s delightful, questioning alternative. On Microcosmos, Lou Turner puts forth the counter-concept of the domestic troubadour, and teaches us all how to become one in our respective microcosms—a seeker, a cultivator, she who makes meaning from all she encounters, from cosmic radios, to the cat’s scratches, to a bird nesting in the O of the VALERO sign.

---
“Lou Turner weaves melodies and metaphors like she’s celebrating chaos and sings it like she’s reading my palm.” - Jerry David DeCicca

“Lou Turner is one of the most promising indie rock songwriters in Nashville right now to my ears. I also really love her voice, I love the inquisitiveness of the way she sings.” -Ann Powers, NPR Music

credits

released September 2, 2022

All songs by Lou Turner except “You Got Under My Skin” by Simon Joyner (Cowardly Traveller Music, BMI).

“Empty, Tame and Ugly” borrows its name from a quote by James Baldwin.

Engineered, co-produced, mixed and mastered by Ross Collier.

Tracked live at The Farm in May 2021 (special thanks to the Parrott family).

Band:

Lou Turner: voice, guitar, percussion
Trevor Nikrant: drums, electric bass, electric guitar on “Empty Tame and Ugly”’
Joe Kenkel: upright bass, drums
Ross Collier: guitar, percussion, therevox synth, psaltery, jaw harp, background vocals
Rowen Merrill: string arrangement and violins on “I’ve Got the O’s”
Will Johnson: pedal steel guitar on “Empty Tame and Ugly,” “Look Out Below,” and “What Might We Find There”
Matt Swanson: electric bass and wurlitzer on “Green & Growing”
Anson Hohne: marimba on “Smallest Mercy” and “Microcosmos”
Sally Anne Morgan: fiddle on “Big Ole Head”
Michael Cormier: keys on "Dancing to Hold Music"

Original artwork (painting) by Sarah Bachman
Layout by Rosali Middleman

Lou Turner’s Microcosmos is a release of feminist record label SPINSTER. Microcosmos, the label’s ninth release, will be available September 2, 2022 on vinyl, CD, and digital platforms.

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Lou Turner Nashville, Tennessee

MICROCOSMOS out now via SPINSTER

SHOWS
11/25 w/ William Tyler + Marisa Anderson @ The Blue Room, Nashville

12/18 w/ Joelton Mayfield @ The 5 Spot, Nashville

12/27 w/ Little Mazarn, Jerry David DeCicca and Trevor Nikrant - Austin, Texas


Associated sounds:
styrofoamwinos.bandcamp.com
thegroundkeepers.bandcamp.com
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