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Light On The Lake

by Signals Midwest

308 02:20
Inched back in down to the water's edge, wondering if it’s possible to miss a place you've never been. I want to feel comfortable asking you questions like "Why do we get so consumed by distractions?" Stuck in a box with the world at our fingertips. Give me time 'cause I'm trying to process this. Along a low-lit coastline where I stood alone, I felt it echo off the waves and come back home. So if there's such a thing as universal truth, let it exist between our persistence and our youth.
You floated in and out of my life. I’m sure it seemed like the most convenient thing to do at the time. Between bones and skin stretched thin lies a tendency I never could explain. So let me go, cause I’m better as a memory to you. Retire the phrase “Remember when?” Just let me start over again. I’ll get it right, I’ll get it right, all in due time. So find me in the pauses between conversations. The little aches and pains that we ignore but will always linger there. I always heard the devil lies in the details, but it seems to me that we build the greatest monuments to the things we know but leave unsaid. Dig ourselves into the dirt in our best shoes and favorite shirts. We’ll break pencils and dry up pens on letters we’ll write but never send. Talk of adventure all our lives but stay confined behind state lines. Are we reflections or next in succession?
Four years worth of dust collected in the center of a room you once called yours. And the furniture’s gone, but the bed frame left an imprint in the floor that will be a reminder to those who might find all the traces of trying a life leaves behind. And I’ve gone back and forth on it one thousand times, but I can’t seem to make sense of how I got here. And since I moved back home, I haunt the attic where I hid away in as a child. And now I do the same. Peering out from shelves that line a hallway’s worth of old family photos, compact discs and and crates of assignments unfinished or turned in too late. And the floorboards are buckling under the weight of the ghosts I’ve been dragging around. So why do we decide to leave when what we really wanna do is stay? And when all we want to do is sleep, we force ourselves awake. And we keep our distance from the things we long to be close to. And we contradict the things we know and try our best to prove the opposite. You can paint over patches, scrub all the scratches from the dirty hardwood floor. Take down the paintings, never erasing what has haunted these hallways before. Empty your wallets, fill up your closets. Is it a privilege or a chore? Do what you damn well please, it won’t bother me. I don’t live there anymore.
You were easier to meet than to get to know. An unwavering smile gave way to something twisted, dark and foreign. And when I would call, you were never home. Maybe I could have prevented something or had some influence. But when you called me from the hospital, I recognized your voice but I didn’t understand it at all. You said you were sorry but you didn’t say what for. And that you wished we could have been friends in real life, but that night reality never hit harder. Whitewashed eyes dimly reflecting a fluorescent glow. You laid still while I was tearing up the floorboards. There in the dimming lights and the peeling labels, clusters of couches and coffee tables. A weakened sun splits a stagnant sky and the church doors open. The bed they made you at St. Vincent held a body’s warmth and a heart stretched distant, out past the shoreways and into the hands of the ones we love but leave alone. I wish I could know what you’re thinking. Your silence, it speaks volumes.
Hope that I come back as a door to a room in the house that your mother grew up in. Hope that I come back as a light on a street that guides you home. Hope that I come back as a timepiece tucked into the pocket of your lover’s jacket, counting the seconds till you return (and I counted ‘em down). Wish that I could have been the left lane under your car through the desert to Denver. Wish that I was the cell tower that connected your calls back east. Hope that I come back as a thread that keeps the sleeve from fraying on your favorite sweatshirt, to keep you warm when I’m not there to (and I’m never there). So resonate through my brain. I’m so sick of feeling I’m resigned to never grow, just eventually fade back into a greying residential cityscape. So we fade back into what we know to be true. Save me from sinking in this city. Be the light that guides me home.
Left the party without saying goodbye. Couldn’t keep it together. Drawn to the drinks and the dim lights, but I don’t feel any better. There’s more to life than a long road seen through a set of tinted windows. But lately that’s where my mind goes when I feel like feeling hopeful. “Do you need some perspective or a sense of direction? How long can you live like this? Come on, just answer the question.” And if you measured our descent in meters per second, then I’m sure that my slow heart would outpace your quick wit. Does it ever get any easier? Or do we just trudge through our days ‘til the end, through the echo and strain of what we don’t know and haven’t accomplished? I guess you can’t ever force it.
Lowercase 03:18
Drink all you want, cause the failures are sobering. I’m closing my tab and I’m headed home. Sinking in sounds that I always found such a comfort in, and you’d quote entire songs back to me. I’m getting sick of this cyclical narrative, self-deprecating and written in lowercase. Treading the ground and making the sounds that you’ve learned to make. But your voice, it was quiet and cold. And I know what’s keeping you company. I hope it does more for you than it’s done for me. No sense silently suffering. Let it permeate. Let it under your skin so you can feel everything. Strip back the layers and find a new song to sing. Soon you’ll be gone and I’ll settle in to stay. You always had a penchant for pushing me away. So while you’re talking of taking the next flight out, I’ll be the one you’re forgetting about. Now it’s time to start again. Drunken conversations. Rapid-fire breathing. Left-out parts of speech and friends all “left and leaving”. I sit here and watch it all unfold before me. Social crutches and a distinct pattern forming. Used to want to have this older kind of fun but now we meet here to convince ourselves we’re young. And I am just as much a part of it as anyone. One might say we’re starting, more might say we’re done for.
San Anselmo 03:14
San Anselmo would have been far enough, but it isn’t where I am now and it’s not where I was. So if you feign some interest and ask me how I’m holding up, I wouldn’t say I’m doing well now, but I guess I’m doing well enough. And in your presence, the coldest place was warm enough. I’d never felt so welcome. It was pure and unconditional. So if circumstances led me backwards to a precipice, I wouldn’t do it any different. It was perfect just the way it was. How long can I keep this up? I’ve been spinning in circles for months. My heart’s in so many places at once. I don’t think I can stay here. I want to frame your figure, but the colors change so quickly. I want to let the light in and let it rip right through me. But in the bristles of your brush, I am a pallid pigment. Like a chord that won’t resolve, I am suspended and dissonant.
Caricature 02:57
You can’t hide what you can’t hold. It’s there in the creases of your smile and the bed frame you spray-painted gold. You know, your words carry such weight. They make me turn inwards on myself and I become something that I hate. I can’t pretend that I’m not affected. How can I clear my head when you occupy whatever space that’s left there? So I’ll shut my brain off and stay suspended in space in case you want to talk to me. Caricature, I can’t exaggerate your features anymore. I’ve been hiding in a cold and quiet place where I can contemplate the coming days and catalogue the messes that we made. I’ll be waiting to hear back from you while you’re choking on nicotine fumes. When you’re aching for your phone to ring, I’ll be sinking in my surroundings. I’ll get swallowed up and I’ll be gone. I’ll get swallowed up like a feeling that leaves when you wake. You’ll swear it was so real and then it fades. And you’re left to feel hollow with half the conviction that you used to have.
I saw you crawl under my skin and I felt your warmth down in my bones. And then the city sprang to life. Concrete and metal hearts that beat in time. And I could barely bring myself to try to pave a passage between how to live and how to survive. Well, I lost my job and I lost my home and the set of extra keys I’d been collecting. I lost you somewhere back there too, suspended between what was wrong and what we’re too passive to do to rectify our mental states. I want to, but I can’t relate to this place. The landmarks that I thought I knew so well used to feel like an extension of myself. Now it seems like I’ve been severed at the seam and you fill every little space left in between.
Your face was framed by the airplane window. Half asleep in the glimmering light from the sky. Your headphones in as you softly slumber six miles up, letting everything pass by under you. They told me, “You can go but it won’t be different. You might as well just glue your feet to the ground. It doesn’t matter the place you’re staying. You’ll always be one forever lost and found, spilling over and losing it.” But as we trace lines on new highways that connect way back to familiar places, I’m thinking, “It has to be ten times more important to pound at the door of a heart that’s dormant than to hide in your hometown and try to ignore it.” But wait long enough, and it’ll steal you away one day. I held it in my hands until it slipped through the cracks in my fingers, the weakest of muscle, the hollowest of bone, the things that keep us whole. All I can say is, “Don’t ever let your fear get in the way.”
Counted all the numbers down and I woke up in Brooklyn with half of my brain melted into the sidewalk. I don’t know what I expected, but it wasn’t this. You were only an island away, but it felt like the world. And I thought about love and the problems with privilege. Walking back from the hospital, hands in my pockets, recalling our conversation about who we are and who we used to think we’d be. How strange it is that we turn out so differently. You spoke softly to me but your words sent me reeling. You said it wouldn’t be long till your body was gone and you’d wave as you floated across. So I stared at the sky. It was calm on the coastline. And I said, “If that’s the case, I will swim in your wake towards the light on the lake as it fades back into you.” I will become a monument to what was once lost. Promise me you won’t stand still. Here’s to carrying on with the weight of a ghost in your wake. Carry on with the weight of a ghost in your wake. When you’re gone, I can promise you that you’ll live on in the glowing light of the impending dawn. We’re still waiting. “Are we reflections or next in succession?” A change of direction phrased as a question.


released October 22, 2013

Signals Midwest is:
Maxwell Stern - Vocals, guitars
Steve Gibson - Drums, vocals
Loren Shumaker - Bass, vocals
Jeff Russell - Guitars, humor

Extra personnel:
Toby Reif: Guitars, vocals, various noises
Jon Loudon, Ben Pierce, Dan Zimmerman: vocals on track 4
Jon Meador: Cello on Tracks 2, 10, vocals on track 6
Gang vox crew: Jake Stern, Adam Wagner, Tim Carlson, Ken Dix, Lauren Vandevier, Corey Willis, Luke Hogfoss

Recorded March 9-17, 2013 at Bad Racket Recording Studios in Cleveland, OH
Engineered by Adam Wagner
Produced by Toby Reif
Mixed by Toby Reif at the Ellis House in Bellingham, WA
Additional recording by Eric Muth at the Treehouse in Philadelphia, PA and by Toby Reif at the Ellis House in Bellingham, WA
Additional engineering by Henri Rapp and Dave Polster
Mastered by Dave Eck at Lucky Lacquers in Madison, WI

Lyrics by Maxwell Stern
Songs by Signals Midwest

Jon Loudon, Ben Pierce and Dan Zimmerman appear courtesy of SideOneDummy Records

In memory of Joseph Quandt


all rights reserved



Signals Midwest Cleveland, Ohio

we are a punk/indie band from Cleveland, now spread throughout OH and PA. we've been doing this together since 2008. we have been lucky enough to see the world together but will still play in your kitchen or anywhere really.


  • Oct 29
    Gainesville, FL

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