Old First

by Hans Bilger

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Andrew Shackley
Andrew Shackley thumbnail
Andrew Shackley Great little record. Very personal lyrics and beautiful instrumentation. Most of these songs make me think me of a girl and I do love that about them. Can't wait to see where you go in the future, Hans. Favorite track: Red Planet.
JON LO thumbnail
JON LO Gorgeous, honest-to-goodness MUSIC. Favorite track: Stay Awhile.
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This is my first solo recording. I recorded the whole thing over a couple of snowy nights in the upper hall of my family’s church in Brooklyn last December. The oldest tune is from the sixth grade (my first song); the newest from last semester (I'm a junior in college at the moment).

I asked for favors at every turn while I was making this record, so it only seems right to pay it forward: all digital proceeds and CD profits will go towards the Old First Restoration Fund (www.razoo.com/story/Old-First-Restoration-Fund). Old First Reformed Church is a pretty special place—it provides important services (worship, AA, shelter for the homeless, arts events, and much more) to an amazing cross section of the larger Brooklyn community, and its congregation contains some of the best people I know. Their sanctuary has fallen on some hard times recently, and it’d be great if we could help to get it up and running again.

Thanks so much for listening!


released September 17, 2014

Hans Bilger: vocals (1-10), resonator ukulele (1, 3-8), ukulele (2, 9) double bass (10)
Eli Greenhoe: guitar, harmony vocals (4, 9)
Sarah Yakir: violin, harmony vocals (4, 9)

All music and lyrics by Hans Bilger

Recorded by Jason Borisoff at Old First Reformed Church in Brooklyn, NY

Mixed by Jason Borisoff

Mastered by Dan Cardinal at Dimension Sound Studios in Jamaica Plain, MA

Photography by Marilyn Catasus (portrait) and Burkhard Bilger (Old First building pictures)

Design by Astrid Lewis

Special thanks to: My family, Eli, Sarah, Jason, Dan, Astrid, Marilyn, Stefan Hagen, Pastor Daniel Meeter, and the people of Old First.



all rights reserved


Hans Bilger New York

I'm a bassist, ukulele player, and singer originally from Brooklyn, NY. I'm junior at Yale University at the moment, and I spend most of my time playing music, sleeping, and learning about ecology. I'm also trying to build an electric oud.

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Track Name: Red Planet
Red Planet
© 2013 Hans Bilger

I saw that red planet glow in the sky
shining as we walked along the path by the water
I saw those stars pin a smile cross the night
we were close to the city’s sheen but feeling farther

But as we ambled on, I followed your eyes
Gleaming underneath the light of old stellar embers
I clutched you close as they fell on the skies
And the smile's anchored lines stretched on forever

Oh, the nighttime didn't stay
I saw it clearly in the day
We'd grown apart
Points in the dark
And you seemed near from far away

If we could live like stars, honey, we’d warm as we aged
growing brighter even as we’d start to fade
and as we circled high up above, we’d seem tethered
but if we lived like stars, we’d never live together
Track Name: Polychroma
© 2011 Hans Bilger

Well I figure I’m due for some making anew
or a bit of transcendence at least
when you’re ground to the bone seeing sepia tones
you’ve arrived in the belly of the beast
and until I find the ways out of terrestrial mazes
I guess I’ll just stay here underground
but polychroma
color me a different sort of brown

and I’ll wait patiently on the shores of your seas
watch for your clippers on the crests
of the waves coming soon with the tides of the moon
and I know you’ll relieve my distress
and though I’m not sure I know you, I can assure you
my motives have always been true
but polychroma
color me a different sort of blue

and when at last I see you, you’ll be miles away
on the gales of some midsummer storm
sweeping across the silver sage plains
to level the old world I lived in
and the one thing I ask, though it’s only a whisper
as you tear down those last supporting beams
animate my technicolor dreams
Track Name: Sea Change
Sea Change
© 2012 Hans Bilger

I’m about to leave my home
cast off and pretend I’m grown
thought I was all I’d ever known
but I feel the waters stirring

cause younger vision felt so true
my eyes resolved more than they skewed
I’d paint the day in brighter hues
till the ocean started to darken

there’s a sea change
rolling through my head these days
a tremor from the benthic throws my ripples into frays
and though I haven’t plumbed the depths of all these churned and turbid waves
I know that I won’t be coming back again

I appraised myself for half a year
packaged quirks and hid my fears
but the fog rolled in from off the piers
and I lost myself in the silence

I pitched and reeled with muted roars
caught between shore and unshore
but this gyroscope spins evermore
I can feel myself self-correcting

there’s a sea change
rolling through my mind, I know
this melting winter ice is cutting channels from below
and though it’s hard to see another
in this swirling mist of snow
I know the birds will populate the skies again

so did I sail my first leg right?
or did I hold myself too tight?
the distance wavers, dull and bright
I’m unprepared but well-provisioned

there’s a sea change
rolling through my head these days
a tremor from the benthic throws my ripples into frays
and though I haven’t plumbed the depths of all these churned and turbid waves
I know that I won’t be coming back again
I know that I’m never coming back again
Track Name: After The Fall
Until You Come Back Home
© 2012 Hans Bilger

your beauty bold surrounds me
it swaddles me with sky
but the water cold, it drowns me
no one can know just how to die

I’ll wait for you tomorrow
forget that you’re not down the hall
what a crafty thing is sorrow
that comes right after the fall

but oh my darling
who knows where you’ve gone to roam?
I don’t know how to start again
until you come back home

but as I sink beneath the surface
I see a different sort of light
the world, it isn’t flat I guess
it circles just beneath our sight

cause though you left me long ago
I only lost what I could see
your bones became the ebb and flow
and your smile grew into me

so oh my darling
go wherever you may roam
I’ll start from where I began
cause you never left your home
Track Name: I Have Walked
I Have Walked
© 2010 Hans Bilger

I have walked down this street before
when I didn’t know your name
I’ve seen these colors in those eyes before
when the one they belonged to was the same

but on the back porch in that warm decay
oh, I just played along
chainlinks stitching up our yards
but the floodlights overhead were hard
oh, it was a different song
I felt the chords begin to fray

I watched all those insipid tv shows
you insisted that I see
I took your needle and sewed myself new clothes
the one you used to tear out all the seams

but by the water in the summertime
oh, I just played along
breezes toying with your hair
but the barges far across the bay
oh, they played a different song
you became too much to bear

and as I turn the corner of the street
it’s you I see before me
I’ll tell you now, I couldn’t take the heat
of the way you pretended to adore me
Track Name: Montreal
© 2010 Hans Bilger

The filaments are cold and grey, it’s hours after dark
I sift through embers from the day, looking for a spark
but as they flicker, I can see how far we are apart
you’re in view but out of sight

you sent me postcards from Detroit and Montreal
you told me how the time passed by your window down the hall
sometimes I wonder if you care for me at all
or if you love someone else

the distance is by days and not by miles
I cannot find the ways to find the time I need to find

I signed my name beneath the text, I sent it stamped and sealed
our conversations hung there in the air like Calderian mobiles
and for a second I thought love was something skybound, light and real
but now I’m sinking in the ground

sometimes I wonder if I’m chasing vacant sounds
if no love existed to be lost, then how could it be found?
but since I’ve got this hole I guess I’ll keep on digging down
until I find your love
Track Name: Separate Lives
Separate Lives
© 2013 Hans Bilger

I put too much stock in a birdsong
I personify the night
I position my heart places it cannot belong
at suffocating depths and unsafe heights

I might plod over frost in the morning
I might plunge ever downward and deep
in search of a love that walks in without warning
in search of a love I can keep

but if I found you would you fall away
like smoke before my eyes?
will I be near you later than today?
or would we lead our separate lives?
or would we lead our separate lives?

yesterday I walked down to the old pond
my feet felt bitten by the cold
and as I sat down upon a gnarled, mossy lawn
I conspired with the mist to bend and fold

in the clouds I swear I saw you
I saw you in the clouds
but the sunlight shone right through you
you were nothing but a shroud

A starling never whistled you good morning
no constellation smiled in the night
we imagine companions without warrant
and marvel at our false augmented sight

oh my dear, you’ll always fall away
like smoke before my eyes
I’m convinced that love will never stay
and we’ll lead our separate lives
we’ll lead our separate lives
we’ll lead our separate lives
till you prove me otherwise
Track Name: The Briar In The Rose
The Briar in the Rose
© 2013 Hans Bilger

I’ve been following a different tack
drawing from another vein
I’ve stopped waiting for the moon to wax
when it only seems to wane

cause dear, when I found you
I thought you would be the last I’d have to find
although it confounds me, dear, heaven knows
I think I’ve found the briar in the rose

do my letters seem perfunctory?
do our conversations stall?
do you marvel at the way we seem
to totter back and forth but never fall?

there’s no blame
don’t you feel the same?

we’ve been struggling to reconcile
what we saw with what we got
we allowed ourselves to be beguiled
thinking that we had what we did not

cause dear, when I found you
I thought you would be the last I’d have to find
I thought we would always be, heaven knows
but I think I’ve found the briar in the rose
Track Name: It'll All Make Sense Sometime
It’ll All Make Sense Sometime
© 2007 Hans Bilger

I wish I could say I’m sorry
for the damage that was done
I wish I could have prevented
all the battles lost and won

didn’t know that I could
have misunderstood

as I walk through the shadowed forest
I sure wish I knew the way
I wish I had a light to guide me
it’s been darker here these days

didn’t know that I could
have gotten lost in these woods
I can make it if I try

as I sit in the pussywillows
and look up at the sky
I start thinking about
where I’m going
and how hard I’ll have to try

didn’t know that I could
still don’t know if I would
it’ll all make sense sometime
Track Name: Stay Awhile
Stay Awhile
© 2014 Hans Bilger

would you like to stay awhile
watch the smoke unwind
I’ve been thick, but you’ve been mildly
opening up my mind

would you like to stay awhile
watch the diners close
hands entwined, the times we’d while
away from all we know

nighttime draws me far, I’ve found
drifting as I wish you near
I would not forget the sound
of morning in my ears