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Amateur (Japanese Edition)

by Isaac Vallentin

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Boots Thank you for sharing such a personal story, I really enjoy this mix of the album! Favorite track: Running.
B Graham
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B Graham Loving the new mix/mastering. Favorite track: Dancer.
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My life’s already over I’m just waiting for the day my body Disappears into the dark again If I could do it over I would dedicate my life to something Make myself into a better man Oh man, all this time Felt like I’d already died Every thought betrays the energy I spend Oh man, was I blind? I just had to close my eyes To imagine of the day my body Disappears into the dark Again As I seem to grow older I remember less of happy memory Everything becomes grey in the end I wish I could afford to travel Backwards with my arms wide open Reaching for the help of my true friends Oh man, all this time Felt like I’d already died Every thought betrays the energy I spend Oh man, was I blind? I just had to close my eyes To imagine of the day my body Disappears into the dark Again It was like drowning helplessly for hours Open your window and sing to the birds All of humanity, humanity is in love with itself So, when I saw it through your eyesight I was nowhere to be found
Carol 03:46
Carol, I’ll forever be a frightened boy inside Tell me your old horror story, liven up my mind It was hardly forty stories, thought she could survive Now I wear the darkest garment, mourning by her side Let’s all get up and dance to a song That was a hit before your mum Had sent her body soaring through the sky Let’s all get up and dance to a song That played in her day, long before The thought could ever cross her weary mind Was a quiet girl, with a long braid down her back Don’t have colour television, head to toe in black Sing for Carol, seek salvation, salt behind your step Only jesus christ can see the kisses down your neck Let’s all get up and dance to a song That was a hit before the pastor Deemed it was the devil in disguise Let’s all get up and dance to a song In loving memory of your mum May careful hands protect her beauty Better than they did this time
You of Us 02:51
She was a character In an open sea Slipping through the waves Of an address book Tying shoestrings to her lovers While the hunger hardly dissipates She wore her hair in a braid this year I don’t You of us The scene was not illustrious In her modest room Atop the local bar It was simply natural selection To a broken heart Shooting pennies Through an open wound I don’t You of us
Serve, protect your greed and master Happiness forever after Dopamine for all your children Dope ‘em up before you lose them One more notch upon the table Headed to complete disaster Finding peace through endless bruises Thought it couldn’t hurt to ask you I am endless, I am evil I am everything deceiving Jesus, Joseph, Mary, blasphemy You stop answering, I stop asking Holidays in California Get so wrecked I start to mourn you Leave the hotel with divorces Bet she left you feeling worthless Generation of the cheaters Take from you and give to me Then you take so much it hurts to breathe Well, throw your weight upon your children I am endless, I am evil Leave the good to other people It’s bad enough you gotta teach them Everything they think is real I am endless, I am evil I am everything unequal I live longer, they die faster Serve, protect your greed and master
Bicycle 03:54
The banker walks his bicycle to work five days a week. It bugs him because his thighs rub against the inside of his mind. He lies, and says he takes the path beside the highway where she left him for his brother; he’s a dentist and he’s handsome, even when his hands are dancing on your smile. The banker is reminded of his failures every day. He’d have no other way, for how else could he organize his mind? He tries to recount every detail; from the socks that he was wearing, to the tears that he felt falling from his eyes onto the path beside the highway, where she said goodbye. The banker locks his bicycle and starts another shift. He walks on to the lift and greets the early morning with a sigh. Behind the counter, counting hours until 5pm, when he unlocks his bicycle and walks it down the path beside the highway where she left him for his brother, and he remembers the socks that he was wearing when she said that she can’t love a man who doesn’t love himself, and doesn’t even care to try.
Part of It 02:37
Why am I so self absorbed? Why does everything I love disintegrate before my eyes? I never notice anything I never notice anything that is good until it says goodbye What's the point of having dreams? I work my life away only to be replaced by a machine I trusted them with everything But I can't learn a single lesson When I'm stuck behind a screen Will it always be this way? Why does everything I try to change remain to be the same? If this is really everything Then I've always been a part of it If this is really everything Then I've always been a part of it And I always will be
Running 04:46
I need to stop running so fast About to trip on my own feet And my eyes are set so far ahead About to see history repeat Tell my girl that I don't love her no more Then I pack my things and leave A month goes by and I'll be calling her Saying love I don't believe What I've been putting myself through And I've been putting you through too Guess that I can only chalk it up To feeling down and feeling blue So tired of running from myself It used to be so easy Now it's affecting my health You know it passes all too quickly Flashes right before your eyes You're out searching for an answer End up finding all your lies Tell my girl that I've been missing her And I'm sorry that I'm gone A year goes by and I'll get turned around Back into her loving arms With a smile upon her face Saying baby welcome home Don't you go and disappear again You can't fight this on your own So tired of running from myself It used to be so easy Now it's affecting my health
I wish this song Was loudest in the universe And that my voice Missed by no set of ears If that was the case Then I would have no choice But to proclaim What we all need to hear I love you, stop crying There’s nothing to fear about dying Everything is all that you are And ever will be I love you babe, stop crying I can’t relate To a single living soul on earth I think my home Must be far away from here Aren’t you mesmerized By every single one you meet? Don’t you go blind By the light of your fear? Good riddance, be silent There’s nothing inside you but violence Everything that you’re fighting is a part of you And a part of me But I love you, babe So stop crying for a second I love you, stop crying
Dancer 05:00
I knew this day would come For my parents always warned me They said you shouldn’t be a dancer You’ll be eaten by the dog I wish I’d gone to college And forgotten dreams of dancing As the dog is lacking appetite For those holding accreditation Upon emancipation Baby, I will call you mine Be my only friend Until you rip apart my face When you’re finally free My dancing days will be long gone I’ll be just another dancer In the belly of the dog Towards the dog I’m dancing Bearing teeth, it shares a growl Execute expert maneuvers But the dog is not impressed The leash is nearly broken I dance on without condolence He’s foaming at the mouth I boogie down the narrow street Upon emancipation Baby, I will call you mine Be my only friend Until you rip apart my face When you’re finally free My dancing days will be long gone I’ll be just another dancer In the belly of the dog
I will always answer you Because it’s what I like to do Answer your call I will always think of you Because you have asked me to Answer your call


(or, The Record So Nice I Made it Twice)

I wrote Amateur during the fall of 2015 while walking around Ottawa, sitting on park benches, and singing into my cellphone. I turned 22 in November, and found out that I'd be moving to Italy the following spring for a year-long design residency. Things looked good.

The winter was spent recording in makeshift studios: my bedroom closet, basement crawlspace, the living rooms of friends' apartments, the record store up the street, and my office at night, after everyone had left. I finished up in March, then boarded a plane to Italy.

It turned out the residency was more like a job. I worked, ate pizza, and drank wine with my new friends. Twice that summer I mixed the record, scrapped it, then started all over again. It was so hot that my laptop trackpad burnt my index finger, and my headphones left drips of black sweat down my neck.

Eight months into the residency (on the evening of our Christmas party), my boss fired me. He said that I wasn't focused enough at work, which was true—I found music to be far more interesting than designing postcards for mega corporations—so I shaved my head in the bathtub, said a teary goodbye to everyone, and took an overnight bus to Rotterdam, where my friend Michael lived.

Michael was renting an ex-brothel from a squat-prevention agency, and used a windowless room in the centre of his flat as a music studio. On a typical day I'd wake up, eat some oatmeal, smoke a cigarette by the river, mix for 14 hours, smoke a joint, eat an apple, maybe buy some dark chocolate from Albert Heijn, mix some more, then fall asleep on the couch, tossing in THC-cocoa dreams.

I repeated this process for a month.

Unsurprisingly, when I listened to the masters at the end of January, my heart crumpled like an empty milk carton. Shame and embarrassment surged through my body; for the first time in my life I had made something I hated—and I hated myself for making it. (N.B: The backdrop of early 2017 didn't help: Trump, Brexit, European migrant crisis, et al. Things didn't look good.)

So, like the failed artist I was, I moved to Berlin, took a vow of silence, and wandered through the frozen city drinking litres of Warsteiner and rolling cigarettes with numb hands; trying not to think about my terrible album, or the people that I loved back in Canada, or what I'd do when my bank account stopped drawing 20s from the geldautomat.

Three months slipped by, and my European visa expired. I returned to Canada in the spring, a year after I had left. Everyone developed funny accents while I was away.

Summer came, and I worked up the courage to try finishing the record…again. I stripped down the arrangements, removed a couple of songs, and mixed it on an old analogue board, hoping to avoid the rabbit-hole pitfalls of a computer. The results were charming but sloppy, and I consequentially spent six months re-mastering the album in my apartment.

This was the version of Amateur that came out in 2018.

Music died for me after that. I didn't want to hear these songs again, let alone play them. I stopped performing, stopped going to shows, and stopped thinking of myself as a musician.

A year and a half passed while I made dinner and read books and battled my ego in other subtle ways. Eventually I started writing poems, some of which slyly became songs. By the end of 2019 I had enough material to fill a set, and the universe provided me with an opportunity to play in Taiwan.

At my concert in Taipei, one of the promoters introduced me to a fellow named Seki. Seki worked for a Japanese record label called MIDI, which put out Yellow Magic Orchestra back in the 80s. He enjoyed my set. He also lived in Canada as a child, and adored Mennonites and maple syrup. We hit it off.

Our paths crossed again a few days later, at a music festival in Tainan. At the closing party, he asked if I'd like to have a drink with his boss, Mr. Okura. I said yes, and we made plans to meet at midnight.

I found the Japanese-style bar nestled in an alleyway, where a silver-haired man wearing a threadbare suit jacket was seated next to Seki in the back. We talked about Japanese films and Canadian songwriters, I got drunk on whiskey, and they offered to release my music in Japan. I bowed and said arigato (without a trace of irony), then danced back to my hostel, the tallest man in Asia.

When Seki asked if I could find some bonus material, I went rooting through my hard drives and stumbled across this version of the record—the first one, from Rotterdam—like a shimmering jewel in the wastebasket of my career. It sounded pretty good. It had some songs that I'd forgotten about. We decided it would be the Japanese edition.

And with its release, a chapter in my life has finally come to an end. The Coronavirus stalled our plans, which makes this tale a five-year, five-country affair. I just turned 27, and like many people in their late twenties, I'm still untangling the mess I made some years before. I’m just happy it found a way to your ears.

This album is dedicated to my partner Allyson, who waited for me with superhuman patience to come home and return her love; and to Mr. Okura, who passed away unexpectedly only a few months after we met—thanks for putting out YMO, and thanks for putting out this mess, too.

God bless the living and the dead. God bless the amateur; the lover and the fool.




released November 25, 2020

Ben Atkinson — recording 1-10
JF Beauchamp — trumpet 5, flugelhorn 10
Robert K. Chapman — recording 1, 2, 5, 10, 11
Pascal Delaquis — drums 1, 2, 3, 6, 8, 10
Gabrielle Giguere — voice 5, 11
Cameron Hill — saxophone 1, 3, 5, 7
Pascal Huot — voice 11
Keturah Johnson — voice 11
Jeff Kingsbury — drums 5, voice 11
Yolande Laroche — clarinet 1, 5
Karim El Maktafi — cover photograph
Denis Martin — mastering
Allie O'Manique — voice 8
Mika Posen — violin 6, 7, 10
Michael Powell — vibraphone 11
Allyson Rousseau — voice 11
Théan Slabbert — bass 1, 5
Raphael Weinroth-Browne — cello 6, 7

Thanks to Anika, Jochieh, Zooey, John, and Seki.


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Isaac Vallentin Pictou, Nova Scotia

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