Bronze Age of the Nineties

by Liance

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Connor McCabe
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Connor McCabe An engaging listen, earnest lyrics coupled with wonderful modern folk instrumentation. Favorite track: KZ Earthquake Tremor.
Andrew H
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Andrew H Always creating. Always giving life. Liance is pushing great music out to people across genre and political lines. The storytelling is mythic in it's simplicity.
Favorite track: that was the best near death experience ever!
Daniel Hickey
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Daniel Hickey Bronze Age invites the listener into the complex, often painful stories of their own life. The record doesn't shy away from extremely personal details, but it's more than just a diary. Bronze Age is a beautiful, complicated and nuanced effort of narrative storytelling in song. Favorite track: Bronze Age of the Nineties.
henry zander
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henry zander gorgeous, haunting, beautiful, everything about this record reminds of the best out of some of my favorite other artists, a glorious coalition of the things i love in folk music. Favorite track: Mt. Vernon OH.
Richard Wu
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Richard Wu A courageous, tender album dealing with the experience of death. Haunting melodies, gripping narratives, and tragic—yet hopeful—humanity. Favorite track: Pine Rest.
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Since Nov 2016, all proceeds from this album have gone towards Girls Rock! Grand Rapids:

Receipt of donations. I'll try to keep this as updated as I can:




released November 13, 2015

All songs by James J Li.
Mixed and recorded by Johnson Cochran.
Mastered by Steve Ross in Hong Kong.



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Track Name: Meg
Meg lost her mother sometime last December when she was only 19
When they found the tumor I wonder if they knew that it’d be their last Thanksgiving
We’d cry for hours some nights on her sofa when she was consumed with grief
But Meg is my sister and I’ll love her forever for she is family
My own mother lost her own father in her early twenties
He was a chain-smoker and a bus driver; his lungs collapsed suddenly
I wish that I knew him, I wish that I loved him, I wish I had memories
But I have my mother and I’ll love her forever for she is family
We choose who we love but we have no choice over death or disease
So hold close who’s left and the rest keep in memory
Track Name: 19-22
I was nineteen you were twenty-two
We were listening to Majical Cloudz in the room
With the sentimentality of a Hallmark DVD you said you loved me too
And all these moments will pass away
And even these friendships will one day fade
To be remembered at weddings, and funerals, and late nights and long-haul flights
She said, “James, I’ve been in a chasm since the day I’ve met you, I’m sorry.
I don’t know if I’m gonna survive but you’ve been an angel in my life to me.”
A martyr for the world-wide web
Shaking with the sediment
I never saw her again I guess I was tired of being held responsible
Track Name: Bronze Age of the Nineties
Call it the Bronze Age of the Nineties
At least that's what the flyer said
Brother Paul inhaled all those amphetamines
Till his throat was dry his face masked with sweat
Jenny bought twenty-two tabs of acid
One for each year of her life
From a high-school teacher in Kentwood
Hiding from his daughters and wife
And I have done bad things and called it love

We signed student loans like famous authors
Sang the Jesus Prayer until it stuck
Drove around Michigan with no direction
Exorcised Daniel in a parking lot
Back home the city is in trouble
Back home the students are on the street
Back home Patricia's fearing for her life
Oh God they've politicized the police
And I have done bad things and called it love

Johnson spent four months in Budapest
Where he grew his hair out long
Jared's manager at Chipotle now
Sometimes we sleep in his basement and write songs
Meg's going to get married
Erica's transferring to GVSU
Justin's recording their second album
Tentative release date: This June
And I have done bad things and called it love
Track Name: Pine Rest
Woke up disappointed that I woke up at all
On the hospital bed, the needle draws from my arm
My mind's receding, tumor in my heart growing
Like a bad Christian metaphor
No laces in the ward, no blades or drawstring
The light shines through the window, checks that I'm still breathing
I guess I don't want to die but I want to feel alive again
And I know that this aint living, I hear twenty reapers calling

Love's not infatuation, it left me a mess on the floor
Though we make it you still change behind the curtain
Outside these walls the pressure's mounting, my mother weeps through the phone
In the shadow of Lion Rock, bruised students refuse to go home
I hear twenty reapers calling, oh they know me by name
Angels falling in the courtyard, delight in tracing my veins
Broke her leg on the subway, staggered her sorry way back home
Escitalopram your sweet revenge, bottles of trazadone

Lost your faith in a Christian school, where you lost your virginity too
Androgynous Superman; I only want to yours
Fear's your only love language, pepper spray, and the leaves of Fall
My only sacred memories of you aren't so sacred at all

No laces in the ward, no blades, or drawstring
The light shines through the window, checks that I'm still breathing
I guess I don't wanna die, but I want to feel alive again
And I know that this aint living, I hear twenty reapers singing
Track Name: Sheets
Snowed in again
Can't get out of my house for a weekend
Vortex in the backyard
Took all the trees and neighbor’s cars

Washed the sheets today
Flattened the topography of your remains
And as I remained there
Unraveled the history of this bed
Track Name: Mt. Vernon OH
I spent a week at Johnson’s home in Mt. Vernon, Ohio
To record some tracks for my first EP for a July release
And see his high school friends like Graham, Andrew and Nora
And spend time with Johnson before he left for Hungary

They filled up quarries with water to create artificial lakes
A massive smoke stack loomed over the tall, tall trees
We walked barefoot through the mud and bushes to the secret hangout
We took off our clothes and swung from the rope into the cold
Teenage middle-school girls, awkward and self-conscious
Swam close to us, swearing at each other in young voices
They left when they felt what they thought was something biting their feet
It started to rain, I began to shiver, limbs rotating aimlessly
Four years ago the police searched the water for a murder victim’s body
They never found it, just some sunken cars

Nora drove us to the Edge of the World at golden hour
We parked inside an empty lot through a destroyed fence and a railway track
Walked down the gravel road which was littered with bones, bags and dead animals
Stacks of red bricks, smashed-in TV’s and the hood of a car
Then we found it a large expanse of concrete where a factory used to be
Trees and long grass grew out of cracks, puddles pooled sporadically
It was alien and disturbing for reasons we could not explain
We stopped walking when we smelled chemicals, and ran the other way

We explored an abandoned poorhouse that was falling apart
Ran out of its collapsing floors when it started to get dark
At the top of the Observatory Hill in the grass we went star-tipping
And stumbled our way back to the car when we heard something screaming
We drifted around Kenyon College at midnight where Andrew gave me the tour
Walked around the Church Holy Spirit and its red carpet floors
I tested out the acoustics clapping my hands and singing Victoria City
A moment is infinite because every moment is unique

On the last day we went to the Sunday Service where we talked to God
On the last day Johnson’s mom talked about Joe; her autistic older son
She wanted to build a special-needs home for three other kids and Joe
And she cried when she said that‘s how she’d provide when it was her time to go

Only saw Johnson one more time that year at Pitchfork Festival
It was the second night after headliners Neutral Milk Hotel
And standing in Union Park with harsh lights and empty plastic bottles
We hugged and left separately, it feels so long ago
There’s only a finite amount of times I’ll go to Mt. Vernon before I die
But it doesn’t mean that it aint special or that I won’t at least try
I’m not one for hyperbole or cheap clichéd sentimentality
But Johnson is a friend I will keep and love for as long as I breathe
Track Name: Oyster Boys
Feeling obsolete in the twenty-first century
Oh, how I should have listened to mother
And pain unravels a thread that was sewn
From your belly-button when you were only four-years old, or so I've been told
My sister called from the site of her second baptism
Hands covered in mace and lungs caked with tear-gas
She said, "James! The police will soon have us on our knees,
But the good lord is watching over you and me, and our dying city."

And all the boys, all the girls, all the boys, all the Oyster Boys
How I wish that I knew what I've been through

I'm nobody's angel or darling or messiah
My therapist says nobody waits forever
But the next few weeks could change everything
We're living in perpetual history, do you agree?
There're not many things both pure and ethical
The Paris Metro still smells like piss
But for all of life's fleeting and fragile indeterminacies
Something more animal still flows underneath, something terrible

And all the girls, all the boys, all the girls, all the Oyster Boys
How I wish that they knew what I've been through
And kissing you, kissing me; ambiguity
Oh how I wish that you knew what I've been through
Track Name: I Watched the News Today, ISIS Burned a Man to Death in a Cage
I watched the news today, ISIS burned a man to death in a cage
I watched the news today, a man died at Kava House just minutes away
He was only thirty-five, he had an overdose in the bathroom and he suddenly died
I passed the scene on the way to work, ambulances on the street, and the coffee-shop was closed

Isabelle died young at eighteen, they found her in her mother's car in the front seat
Two months later I learned from Facebook that Mr. Ford hung himself in his bathroom
I went to his funeral at KGV, my middle-school teacher saw me there and he hugged me and he cried
They were in a band that often played The Wanch; at the service they played All These Things That I've Done

Auntie Fung Yee died when I was six years old, it was a rare cancer of the blood
She was in her early thirties; her parents couldn't look at her when it was her time to leave
Fung Yee died in her husband's arms in the golden light of the hospital in Wellington
He's doing better now, though last year they found that he has the same cancer
I watched Joey Basha’s last set, Saturday afternoon at Clockenflap
His next record was meant to be pretty big, but a few weeks later he went missing
Our desperate friends made appeals online; his boyfriend was the last person who saw him alive
They found Basha in a public bathroom; his arms poked with needles, his wallet stolen

Yeah death never happens the way it should
Sometimes good people die alone in the bathroom
Nobody talks how it’s violent or undignified
How unfair it all is, sometimes there’s no reason why
When someone you love dies it stings and it bites
But you’ve got to continue on, you’ve got to keep them inside
Sometimes living’s the only response to loss
You’ve got to keep it together, and see how things play out
Track Name: KZ Earthquake Tremor
May 2015
Woke up thinking that I was trembling
But then I saw the mirrors and pictures on the wall were shaking
On the bus I saw two middle-aged guys hit on a high school girl
And I left in a kind of rage that I didn’t do more
If our stalkers met each other, would they fall in love?
It’ll always be these warm humid nights I’ll remember
When the sun sets at nine and the kids smoke on their porches
Faces lit up orange and blue with their cigs and phones

Last month the plumbing got broken so I went to Yesterdog to pee
Slept on Katie’s sofa, cos the house was full of dirt for a week
There’re rats crawling in the basement, now there’s shit floating there as well
But rent’s real cheap and I’ll still be living here in the fall

Spent three days in the Rat House, sleeping til the afternoon
Only went out to see CARE play their release show at the Powder Room
Hit my head hard on the counter when I thought I heard your voice
Maybe I’ll see you at Barnes and Noble, maybe at Family Fare
In the frozen foods section suddenly find myself gasping for air
Your Tweets still cause me anxiety, there’re no safe spaces in these streets

If I could open my mind to the world like film to camera lens
I’d open it up and let everything pour in
My great-grandfather died in a darkroom
So I mail my film to a lab on the West Coast
It’s May 2015, and all the tremors are my own
There’s no witness to my life and I’m not in love
Sometimes I see two divergent paths, but usually I see none

Isabelle, died in her mother’s car, in the morning
Her father drove down these country roads, looking for her
The longest night of his entire life, I wish it ended differently
In the morning you were cherry red and golden
In the morning you were eternally eighteen
I gave your father a painting of a koi fish
He ran downstairs and they cried in the pantry

Senior year of high school I took a trip to Cambodia
On the bus from Phnom Pehn, Gerri put their head on my shoulder
And I was devoted from the start: we listened to my iPod in the dark
On the Killing Fields I rubbed the ground with my shoe, And underneath the dirt I found a child’s tooth
At Siem Reap an old American played classic rock covers at the bar
To an audience of one: he was the happiest guy I’d ever seen
Track Name: That Was the Best Near-Death Experience Ever!
Junior year, I transferred to a new high school
2010, I was listening to The Age of Adz
Left the old one because I received death threats
Got suspended for wanting to jump from the sixth floor
Feeling real lost feeling pretty lonely
With no new friends at all and teenage anxiety
I wanted to play music at Wednesday morning chapel
But Steve who was in charge said I couldn’t sing at all

Steve’s a math teacher from Petoskey, Michigan
Every free period he’d teach me how to write songs and sing
Then I learned he was married to Sufjan’s sister, Jamila
All my first songs were copies of Casmir Pulaski Day
After graduation I moved to West Michigan
The winters are long and it’s been a tough transition
But I’ve made good friends who’ve kept me through
Like Jared and Meg and Johnson and Space Girl too

In March I took a flight to New York City
Stayed on Mark and Mara’s couch in Harlem for a week
Met Marzuki, Sufjan’s brother, and talked about our music
Listened to the sirens at night, the helicopter circling the building
The next week Sufjan played our college
Jamila had flown up from Hong Kong, specially
We met up and she invited me to sit down with the family
We watched their home videos on the cathedral screens

The concert started in a swirling rush
People were crying and awed, like a soft apocalypse
When the mirror balls lit up for Blue Bucket of Gold
Saw my life flash before me, felt my blood getting cold
Sufjan used to drive from Hope College to here
And watch his heroes play this very room
Someday I’ll be playing on this stage too
And the cycle will only continue

After the show I did load out and helped fill the truck
Ken Heffner’s my friend and he’s helped me out so much
While checking the CFAC for the last lighting cart
I saw Jamila and Sufjan walking towards us

I said, Thanks for the near-death experience
And he laughed and said you’re welcome James
Then Jamila took a photo with my camera
Then we hugged and said goodbye and left the parking lot

Two days later I played a full set at the Cave
Where Marzuki, Sufjan’s old band in the nineties used to play
It went real well but I hated every minute of it
I was already depressed and it felt so disingenuous

After the show a friend asked me to stop playing a song
He said it was about his ex-girlfriend because they shared the same name
I told him that he was mistaken and that he had it wrong
But the incident left me shaken and I decided to scrap that song

Spent the next few days walking the neighborhood
Seeing stores unchanged since the Nineties, fields where houses once stood
Felt real lonely and faceless, thought about throwing in the towel
Felt like a slow-motion panic attack, even waking up was hell
Then I saw Jessica from my time at Pine Rest
She was one of the only ones my age; she’d get sleep paralysis
While awake, screaming and crying unable to move her legs
We weren’t allowed to hug in the ward but we still did

And there outside the froyo store on the other side of the walls
We hugged and smiled and something inside me began to thaw
Ran back home and lay in bed and held my guitar
Felt myself plunge into the indeterminate soup of the universe

The cycle’s got to continue on and on
When I’m dead what’s left of me will be these songs
It’s Tuesday night and I’m feeling pretty well
Steve’s mastering, Johnson’s mixing the new album
I sleep with the window breeze, I sleep on my side
Sometimes I wake on my back, and I’m paralyzed
And I listen to the blood buzz through my ears
And the birds up above, they gather and disappear