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Parts of Speech

by Dessa

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03:11 video


The long awaited second official full-length from Dessa. A dozen new songs (and one bonus track!) comprising her best work to date.


released June 25, 2013

Makers & Players
Dessa (pen, piano, voice)
Dustin Kiel (guitar, piano, sounds, and programming of all sorts)
Sean McPherson (bass)
Joey Van Phillips (drums, percussion, vibraphone)
Paper Tiger (production tracks 2, 3 and 8)
Lazerbeak (production tracks 4 and 7)
Joe Mabbott (magic—black & white)
Rebecca Arons (cello)
Nick Ogawa (cello)
Jessy Greene (violin)
Scott Agster (trombone)
Gabriel Douglas (voice)
Aby Wolf (voice)
Benjamin Burwell (voice)
Mayda (guitar, synth and drum programming, engineered by DJ Chris Neviator)
Bruce Springsteen (original writer of "I'm Goin Down")
Emily Dantuma of Daymoths (sampled cello)
Jake Wallenius of Taj Raj (sampled drums)
Brady Moen (additional engineering and editing)

Executive produced by Lazerbeak, Dessa and Dustin Kiel
Recorded at The Hideaway, The Birdcage, McNally Smith College of Music and Fleur de Tete
Mixed and engineered by Joe Mabbott at The Hideaway, Minneapolis, MN
Additional engineering by Brady Moen at The Hideaway
Mastered by Bruce Templeton at Magneto Mastering, Minneapolis, MN
Art Direction by Kai Benson and Dessa
Photography by Bill Phelps
Design by Kai Benson



all rights reserved


Dessa Minneapolis

Combining wit, tenderness, and poetic sensibility to rare effect, Dessa spins delicate and charged stories and animates them with her expressive alto voice, arresting for its honest, clear simplicity. Transcending the restrictions of genre to reveal an astonishing multi-platform voice. Member of the Doomtree collective. Essayist. Rapper. Amaretto enthusiast. ... more


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Track Name: The Man I Knew
By the time that you told me it was already plain that you’d changed
but your conscience was clean and as white as a line of cocaine
My back to the wall of your bedroom apartment
you’re talking in circles, got two cigarettes burning
and I couldn’t hide how afraid I was to see you so strange
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got no ill will for you
it’d just been so long, I thought I’d always know you
but you’re so far gone
up where the air gets thin…
You cut the kite strings
I’ve seen my name in lights, I’ve seen my face in papers
but my civilian life, I spent ten good years waiting
waiting for you

You charmed the snake
you picked the card
you bent the spoon
A curved plane, the shapes change
Euclid’s made to play to fool, but
I don’t know what that stuff does to you
and I don’t know if it’s real, but
I spent a decade in love with you
and I can’t tell if you’re here, cause

The man I knew
I don’t think that he can hear me now
So dizzy with the altitude
It’s just too far

Who am I to tell you to come down?
Lucky that my palate still prefers a legal poison
Who am I to tell you to come down?
Sit back and raise a glass, a glass to easy choices
Who am I, yeah who am I, yeah who am I
to tell you to come down?


Last night you came to kiss me in a dream and when I woke
what kind of foolishness is this
breathed out a lungful of your smoke
I’ve seen you at your brightest
what a mind, let it burn
who am I to pull you down to earth?
Yeah, who am I to tell you to come down?
Track Name: Call Off Your Ghost
Last night, old friend, big wedding
and I knew you’d be there too
Look at us
all grown up
collared shirts and high-heeled shoes
You cross the room
just the decent thing to do
make sure we’d all been introduced
you brought your new friend
I brought mine
shake hands
Pay courtesy its due
But it takes its toll
and it takes it whole

We’ve lived
too long, too close,
so call off your ghost

You’re asking can’t we just be friends
but this bell in my chest still rings
and it’s better to just pretend
that I can’t see you waving
can’t hear you call my name and
I know how much you hate it
But babe, I gotta walk away
You once said if we were careful
that we could do this all our lives
Ah, but one of us got clumsy
and both of us got wise
and now we’re not so young seems
our wishing well’s gone dry

We’ve been living
too long, too close,
and I’m ready
to let you go
I’m ready
so call off your ghost

I think she lives around here
I see her almost daily
all I can do to stop myself from saying something crazy
I don’t think badly of her
I hope she makes you happy
it’s just a lot to ask to watch your future
walking past me
I know that jealousy’s a perfect waste of time
but left to my devices,
I’ve spent far too long wasting mine

Track Name: Warsaw
A wick with no candle
a wheel with no axle
I ride with no saddle
No lift, then I’m dragging the kite

A blade with no handle
a brick for your window
I’m fine but I’m single
a dime and
I’m the same on both sides

You’re a stone-cold killer you say
but you’re looking like a part-time criminal
waive the charade
man, you lay it on thick
It’s a dive bar, save the game
you drink and you sit
Easy to please
but hard to impress
I’m in a mood, new shoes, and a bulletproof dress
Sugar on the rim and a shot of mescal
man, it’s murder in the morning
but it’s good for morale
Can you mortar more
looks like you’re bricking with both hands
Get the spirit level
or the skeleton won’t stand
Fuck the plan, man
I’m tryna call an audible
probable lost cause
but I got a thing for long shots
Yes, yes, naysayers got the wrong job
Best bet when you think they got the wrong odds
And I’ve done some living in a glass house
high note blew the motherfucking walls off

And I sleep
with both eyes open
standing up
alone and holding
off the rust
And I’m still living by my maiden name
the name I came with
the name I made
and I’m bare-faced at your masquerade
filled a flask up before I came
Because night falls
we all wanna hear that fight song
car running like a nylon
brights on
time’s right but the clock’s wrong
never set it, never settle in a time zone
Take what I need with me
pray for rain but brace for whiskey
Something in the tank, money in the bank
callin it a win we
give a little thanks, give a little back
Busy with the grand plan
take one last look
left the bandwagon
for a banned book
To break out you gotta give up the chase
To make love you gotta take off the brace
And we all leave it feeling half done
best you can do is just put a hand up
hope grace and good works in the end add up
Find out when the pendulum hangs plumb
Track Name: Skeleton Key
I haven’t met a locked door yet
that I couldn’t beat
On a chain around my neck
I keep my skeleton key

Don’t waste your worry on me
I always find what I need
Come and go as I please
I’ve got my skeleton key

By now it’s just a simple trick, not much to see
You hear the tumblers catch and click, then turn the key
But I’ve found work and welcome everywhere I’ve been
cause everyone’s got someplace
they wanna be let in


Along the way
the old men call me by mother’s name
she looked just the same they say
The children wave
or hide behind their mothers’ skirts afraid
strangers here still seem strange
They hear the accent
know I’m from nowhere near
but I speak the language
and I know the customs here
I come from over the horizon
pass through every dozen years
Go home, tell of my arrival
The skeleton key’s here


I’ve got my
my skeleton
my skeleton key
I’ve got my, got my, got my
My skeleton
My skeleton key, yeah


Don’t you go
waste all your
worry on me
cause I’ll make
my way with
my skeleton key
Track Name: Dear Marie
Dear Marie, you were right about me
Dear Marie, you were right, you were right

I should have been kinder
I surely knew better
not much of a writer
but I’m sending a letter
I hope that it finds you
in love and at peace
don’t need much of your time
for this apology
Oh, Dear Marie, you were right about me
Dear Marie, you were right, you were right

You said that I could leave you lonely in a crowded room
by smiling bright for everyone but you
And I’m embarrassed to confess it, but it all rings true
you said that charm of mine was easy to abuse

And if I’m so smart
how can I learn so slow
you had the hard part
I was the last to know
I let the flash blind me
the years pass by
standing in your light for most of the time
And I did it I kissed him
I knew it would hurt you
but it put down my loneliness
and that felt like virtue enough

I know it’s much too late
No need to reply
I put us all at stake
Marie, you were right


I’ve had one too many
it takes quite a few
Was counting my losses
wasn’t sure if I should count you
And I know it’s much too late
no need to reply
I put us all at stake
Marie, you were
Marie, you were right
Track Name: I'm Going Down
We sit in the car outside your house
and I can feel the heat coming down
I go to put my arms around you
give me a look like I'm way out of bounds
yeah, let out one of your bored sighs and
lately when I look into your eyes
I'm going down, down, down
going down, down, down, down

We get dressed up and we go
out, baby, for the night
We come home early burning
burning in some fire fight
I'm sick and tired of you setting me up, girl
setting me up just to knock, knock, knock me down, down, down
going down, down, down, down

Pull you close but when we kiss
when we kiss I can feel the doubt
I remember back when we started
my kisses used to turn you inside out
I used to drive you to work in the mornings
Friday night I'd drive you all around
You used to love to drive me wild, but
lately girl you get your kicks from just driving me down
Down down, down, down
going down, down, down, down
Track Name: Fighting Fish
Swimming in a snifter
pretty as a picture
don’t get it twisted man, her bite is a bitch
You can name, you can keep her
but take care when you feed her
You never can take the fight out the fish
Chompin at the drill bit
never one to still sit
you can test my metal with a magnet and some tin snips
Ink test, all I see is canines and some wings tips
Pilot pen in pocket, I’m riding instinct and inkjets

Around here we don’t like talk of big dreams
to stand out is a pride, a conceit
To aim high is to make waves, to split seams
but that’s not what it seems like to me, cause
I wanna try I wanna risk
I don’t wanna walk, rather swing and miss
I’m not above apologies
but I don’t ask permission
got a lot of imperfections
but I don’t count my ambition in em

Zeno’s arrow
never hits the mark
It’s always
hanging there over its shadow
safe from battle
waste of arch-
er’s time and trouble
waste of effort
waste of parts
If you don’t aim for the center
it's a waste of the art

I didn’t come looking for love
I didn’t come to pick a fight
I didn’t come to wave or take pictures
pander to some benefactor, ring on every broken finger
Won’t extend my wings to be clipped
I know the culture here is to stay humble but shit
if we all go round bowed heads, button-lipped
if none of us go for the bell, then who is?
My mother says
I’ve loved too many men
but I took and left something in every single bed
The rook can look left, right—just turns his head
but the knight might rise up, investigate the grid
Gender, genre
guess I’m on one
bent both
Just the constructs
of the old word
gone broke
Women, children
let me tell you
I’ve been both
and it’s a myth—
we all swim for the life boats
I didn’t come looking for love
I didn’t come to pick a fight
I come here every night to work
and you can grab an axe, man,
or you can step aside


Self-taught, self-made, bet, self-styled
self saw, self came, self took island of converts
to conquer is old school
we march em in converse
just armed with their own tools
While my knees still flex
while my joints hold steady
mind sharp, spine straight, Chucks laced ready
I travel by kite
travel light, at touch down
I swallow the dice
I make my own luck now

Zeno’s arrow never
hits the mark
It’s always hanging there
over its own
shadow in the dark
its own shadow in the dark
Track Name: The Lamb
You came up from anesthesia
like a diver out of air
surprised to be alive
startled I was there
It’s been a long time
and I’ve got no axe to grind with you
but goddamn it, man, this hatchet
won’t stay buried without some sign from you
sign from you

I don’t quite come in peace
but times like these ask us
to set aside old grudges
Duty calls, I heed
but I don’t love it
The night nurse leaves
just you and me
and you give a look
to freeze gasoline
I don’t believe
that you’re reformed
or you’re redeemed

If they ask me,
I’ll deny it
but I remember
what you did
While it’s true you were a young man then
I was just a kid
One of us was lying
both of us half damned
one of us the lion
and one the lamb

You’ve got a way with words
You got away with murder
But now our roles reverse
and your table’s turning now

Too weak to lift a spoon, I fed you
shaved you when your hands were shaking
dosed you like they told me
never more, lord, the demands you’re making
Help the monster on two feet
walk him down the hall, repeat
and when he’s strong enough to stand alone
you’ll notice what big teeth
But blood is blood
and what’s done is done
yeah, blood is blood
and its burden is a beast
You lie expressionless
face set like the Old Testament
silence always your best defense
I bet
you guess
I came
to settle debts
They tell me you’ll get better
I don’t know what to say
cause they could sew your hands together
but they can’t make you pray


But now you’re careful, now you’re good
but do I scare you, like I should?
Now you’re careful, now you’re good
but I still scare you, and I should

You’ve got a way with words
You got away with murder
But now our roles reverse
and your table’s turning now
Track Name: Beekeeper
Here comes the beekeeper
with her pitcher full of smoke
She’ll put us all to sleep
I hope it’s dreamless and it’s deep
Sweet Prometheus, come home
they took away our fire
and all that scarcity promotes
is desperate men and tyrants

What fine design
what hands, what minds
The envy of Eden
our tools and our reason
it’s clear in the animals’ eyes
We stand upright
build fires at night
made on the sixth day
to rest on the seventh
and now we just try to survive

The surgeon and farmer meet
and each greets the other with a bow
They’re kindred instruments, you know
the scalpel and the plough
And in the shadow of the mountain
we work when work abounds
and we wear out all our prayers
when the work runs out

Track Name: Annabelle
Annabelle, pick up the phone
I’m calling from the kitchen
we just never seem to listen when we’re sharing the same room
I’m not sure anymore what might get your attention
every day you see me less than
you did just the day before
Out there in the garden
motionless for hours
yeah, it’s just like there’s a statue dressed in Annabelle’s old clothes
And part of me’s afraid to wake you from the dreams you’re having
scared the scattered pieces won’t come back together whole

Annabelle, come back to me
I’m calling you from home
Annabelle, come back to me
I’m living here alone

Another quiet evening
That book that you’ve been reading’s open
but I don’t believe I’ve seen you turn a single page
Even here right beside you
I barely recognize you
you’re like a photograph I’m watching fade away
I want to shake you
I’d prefer that you were angry with me
you’re like a bird now, looking lost without a cage
I don’t know what to call it
I’m not sure who could solve this
problem of a disappearing girl, oh Anna stay


You’re in the bathroom with a flashlight
you’re trying to weigh your shadow
yeah, you say it’s gotten heavy, hard to drag across the floor
Same scene we had last night
and I still know what happens to you
I just stand here useless, sometimes listen through the door
The ringing in your ears
has gotten worse it’s hard to take you say
it sounds like heavy traffic
as we’re climbing into bed
And I believe I almost hear it
I know better than to touch you lately
praying I don’t wake up to the car crash in your head

Annabelle, come back to me
I’m trying to get through
Annabelle, come back to me
Or take me there with you
Track Name: It's Only Me
Hello, it’s only me, I know it’s late
Hoped to catch you still awake
And maybe I was wrong to call
guess tonight broke my resolve
I’ve been having that dream again
It seems I always will
I don’t know what the thing means
except it sends me to the telephone and still
I know that love is never free
it bows your head and bends your knees
But there’s no sword without an edge
and I sleep uneasily when you’re not in my bed, cause

I didn’t come to play it safe
I came to win or lose with you
I only live alone awake
cause every night yeah
you pass through
yeah, you pass through

Hello, it’s only me
Yeah, love it’s only me

I didn’t come to play it safe
I came to win or lose with you
And I win or lose with you
I only live alone awake
cause every night, yeah, you pass through
yeah, you pass through
I didn’t come to play it safe
I came to win or lose with you
And I win and lose with you
Track Name: Sound The Bells
Boys sound the bells
the sun rose from the west today
I doubt we’ll see it set
Oh and boys bear it well
put all your paper maps away
Mercator here can’t help

Go lift your sails up
for one last swell
Go lift yourselves up
to sound the bells
Sound the bells

Looks like our writing on the wall
is lorem ipsum after all
A higher tide will wash it all
wash it all away
The lighthouse keeper’s last relay:
hand shadows and a final wave
Now’s the time to rouse yourself
spend the strength you’ve saved