Track by Track: Cartalk – ‘Pass Like Pollen’
Posted: by The Editor
Cartalk is the solo project of Los Angeles, CA, singer/songwriter Chuck Moore. Moore released their excellent debut LP, Pass Like Pollen, at the beginning of October. Like Great Grandpa’s Four of Arrows from last year, Pass Like Pollen is an indie rock juggernaut with one foot in the world of alt-country. It’s an auspicious start to what will hopefully be a long career. Moore joined us to share a track-by-track breakdown of the entire album.
1. “Arroyo Tunnels”
This song was inspired by The Figueroa Street Tunnels. They run northbound on 110 Freeway, also known as the Arroyo Seco Parkway. When I was young and driving through the tunnels, I would put my hands on the ceiling, hold my breath and make a wish. I wished for the same thing throughout high school, then it changed as I got older. This song, like a lot of the songs on the record, takes a moment and expands on it. In 2017, I was freshly heartbroken, driving on the 110 about to enter the tunnels and made a different wish that night.
2. “Noonday Devil”
Whenever I play this song at a show, I usually start by either saying, “This is a song that was written on my friend’s roof.” or “This is a song about oatmeal.” Both are true. I had a roommate that had just moved out and the dining room table was his. I was left with a lone carpet where the table used to be, so I started eating meals on my floor (even though there was a couch not too far away). I felt more connected to myself and my home eating on the floor. During that time of floor meals, I wrote the first line, “Lately I’ve been eating meals on my floor. I don’t question it, I’m feeling grounded.” on my friend’s roof in Echo Park. I chose “Noonday Devil” to be the first single because I think we all have felt that unexplainable weight in our chest after a loss of something or someone. I want to connect with others, that’s why I write.
3. “Las Manos”
It’s that first look at someone and you can feel they are going to be in your life in a significant way. That look happened one summer at The Hi Hat, a venue in my neighborhood of Highland Park. “Las Manos” feels like you’re on a bit of a rollercoaster with the rise and fall of distortion and the swell of what is happening in the lyrics. It’s looking back at those first moments of connection with someone as well as connecting with yourself (looking at the lyric, “Honestly I scare me too“).
What’s great about this song is how it has evolved since writing it. “Wrestling” is the oldest song on the record. I wrote it back in the summer of 2016 when I decided to skip an outing to a Pride Event. The song was inspired by someone I was dating at the time. They were someone who was passionate and forthright about the things they loved and I admired that about them. “Wrestling” is about making a change within yourself and wondering where the direction is going to lead you.
5. “Car Window”
I can remember the blur of the yellow divider lines on Sunset Blvd, I was leaning more than my head out the window. My partner at the time was driving and the car was full of people I didn’t feel close to. It was at that moment that I realized my unhappiness in my relationship — the weighted kind that makes a home in your chest once it’s come to life. As the lines continued to blur so did my thoughts, I wanted to be happy. I kept telling myself, “I want to be happy” as my head continued to hang out the window. A few nights after the relationship ended, I yelled driving through the tunnels. This song is that yell.
6. “Something or Nothing”
When the song is played live, it’s full band and at a faster tempo, definitely has a country feel to it. When it came time to record the song, we (Sarah Tudzin and I) decided to slow the tempo and have it be guitar and vocals only. I wanted this song to have an Elliott Smith feel. Looking at it the opening line now with some distance and clarity, “I need you, never needed anyone before” I think I was talking to myself.
I’m the kind of person who sits in my driveway until the song is over, a habit I picked up from my dad. I usually tell that story at shows. This song had a lot of revisions both melodically and lyrically, but what was constant throughout was the lyric, “Do you miss me being a ghost on your couch?“. You can be in the same room as someone else and feel like a ghost. I felt that then and I didn’t want to forget that.
8. “A Lesson”
This was the last song I wrote for the record. Like all the songs, this was about a memory and looking inward with the distance from it. Whenever I sing this song live, there’s a lyric that will always be for me, “To lose all self-control when I’ve worked hard to gain it“. To feel better, to learn a lesson, to understand where the growth lies; all of that takes hard work and a close look at yourself–to turn inward and have the inner-knowing that you can gain sight of yourself again.
This is my favorite song and I knew it the moment that I finished writing it. I collected a series of memories in a note on my phone–a Rolling Stone article about Bruce Springsteen, passing a fence where I was kissed on the 4th of July, Downtown Los Angeles at night. She was the first thing I thought about in the morning and the last thing I thought about before bed during the aftermath of our relationship. It had to be that way for a period of time. I had to grieve even though I knew the absence of the person was for the best. I had to feel it all and see the loss in every light to then let it go.
Pass Like Pollen is out now
Zac Djamoos | @gr8whitebison
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