Praying for Greater Portland
Once a week, for a year, every Sunday, starting on his 24th birthday, Sept. 5, 2010, Clint Sleeper would record a song. The end result is a lengthy song cycle he calls An Audible Record of My 24th Year. The songs range from spiky post-punk rockers to lo-fi spoken-word pieces to melodic electric folk tunes. Some songs feel loose, atmospheric and improvised. Others seem like tightly written compositions.
Sleeper’s project, recorded under his nom de rock, Praying for Greater Portland, was partially inspired by the album 52 Weeks by the group Into it. Over it., another song-a-week project. Sleeper actually ended up with 53 songs, because he went birthday to birthday.
Like any music project this sprawling, the results of An Audible Record are variable. Some of the songs are stone jams, others so sketchy they barely earn the title “song.” A discerning listener might want to pick a single disc’s worth of favorites, but the ramshackle kitchen sink quality of the thing is part of its charm. All the songs have a tense, emotional quality—however, you might want to abbreviate the word “emotional,” it’ll probably still apply.
Sleeper found the discipline of the weekly schedule rewarding.
“It was sort of demanding and unavoidable to be that consistent. On Friday and Saturday, I’d start to feel the pressure of that week ending. But it was a nice feeling, a dry feeling, like, OK, now I’m going to go do another one.”
In addition to the once-a-week schedule, Sleeper made some other rules for himself: No instrumentals, every song must include lyrics and at least one vocal track; and “Nothing singer-songwriter. I didn’t want to do anything that could be pulled off with just one voice and a guitar, sitting on a stool. Every song had to have at least some multi-tracking.” These limitations provided him a framework to work from—enough structure to get started but nothing so specific as to provide an inflexible template.
“I like forms,” he says, “I find them necessary. I make al these rules for myself.”
He says his songwriting became more fluid over the course of the year. (His recording skills, particularly in regard to capturing drum sounds, also improved.)
Embedded within An Audible Record is a loose concept album, The Future is a Cold Dark Place, We Should Try to Die in the Sun, about aging, and the suspicion a leader of a youth movement might feel when he finds himself too old to be considered a youth.
The disciplined schedule was often a challenge for Sleeper—especially on the road. “It was so hard on tour. It’d be like, ‘Hey, can I borrow a guitar, a Macbook, headphones and a pair of wine glasses?’”
But it was also rewarding.
“It just became so reliable,” says Sleeper. “There’s a difference between something being predictable and something being reliable. I felt reliable, not predictable. My hungover roommates would be bummed every Sunday morning because they knew it wouldn’t be long before I’d start recording drums.”