I've been playing music for as long as I can remember. Starting with a few years of piano lessons as a child, I opted to switch to trumpet when it came to school. I practiced just enough to stay involved in the marching bands, concert bands, and jazz bands at my high schools. I also composed for piano and full wind ensemble. Eventually I migrated to focusing on guitars of various kinds, and alternative/emo/indie/pop/rock genres came to the fore. I've written and recorded lots of different songs, and have performed at numerous venues. My favourite experience was probably going on tour with my friends' band, The New Frontiers (while they were supporting Manchester Orchestra).
Below you'll find a sampling of albums, songs, or music videos that I've released. I sometimes produce work under my own name, and sometimes under the name Splendour Hyaline, which is the rock band I formed with my brother David long ago. (David now runs Earthones Audio---check it out!). If you want to keep up with my music the best thing to do is follow @jonathanlipps.music on Instagram.
Like most people in the world, I sometimes listen to Taylor Swift. This is a bit strange for me, though, since I typically avoid mega-pop stars like the plague. But you have to respect Ms Swift's songwriting skills, however famous she has become! In particular, I am enamoured of her album "folklore", whose production aligns much more with the type of music I normally listen to.
And so, admittedly very late in the game, I've decided to hop on the Swiftie bandwagon with this cover of one of my favourite tracks off that album. (It is, predictably, probably one of the most depressing songs available in the Taylor Swift catalogue, just how I like it!)
I wrote this song while reflecting on global and personal pain and darkness during 2023. In a way that particularly resonated with me at the nadir of the year, I loved the image of nothingness pregnant with light, the intention of creativity "hovering" over the chaotic absence of sense, just about to be revealed for the love that it is. Could this be where we are, in the big scheme of things? In the roil of chaos, just prior to something better? Could it be where I am, in the little scheme of my life? "'Cause some of the infinity of love, it turns out, is meant for me." And you. And everyone.
In the summer of 2009 I got a bunch of mp3s from a friend. In this particular batch was an album called "Shallow Grave" from some artist named "The Tallest Man On Earth", a name which I figured (correctly, as it turns out) was tongue in cheek.
The album was intense, raw, organic, overcompressed—all things I loved, and none of which I had previously associated with folk/country/Americana. But that is what was happening. I was immediately drawn in, and have been following Kristian Matsson's music ever since. I always find myself coming back to this first record, and often this song in particular. I don’t know if this story it tells is perhaps intended to be a metaphor, or what. It certainly has a chilling element to it that belies the beautiful folky melody. Regardless, there’s a sense of wistfulness, of resignation to oneself and one’s choices that I find compelling.
This is a song / music video recorded with my brother at Earthtones Audio. While the song has intensely personal and specific meaning for me, I like to think it also says something universal about significant transitions in life (and death): the courage, fear, loss, and hope involved. We recorded this song in basically one day while I was visiting on a short trip. I decided to throw up my phone to capture some video as we were working, and it turned into this really fun way of showing our recording process and visualizing the different parts as they come in and out of the song.
This is one of my favourite songs by one of my favourite songwriters. I still remember checking out Bon Iver's first release back in 2008 and being blown away by so many of the songs. This one in particular captured me. The impenetrability of the lyrics, the loose and jangly guitar tuning, the sheer emotion pulsing throughout. It captured me. So here's my hopefully not-too-skinny homage to this musical love of mine.
Present-Future is Splendour Hyaline's latest release. It consists of 14 songs written and recorded over a period of 11 years. The recording process took place primarily in San Francisco, but spanned my move to Vancouver. It's an indie record with pop rock sensibilities, verging on the epic, with influences all over the place!
This full-length album was recorded mostly at Spareroom Studios in San Francisco, CA (now Earthtones Audio in Forestville). I wrote the songs, sang, and played all the tonal instruments. David Lipps played drums, produced the album, and did all the mixing and mastering. Chris Nyffeler designed the cover art.
This album is the result of a lot of experimentation with composing using electronic instruments and the exploration of more subtle emotional landscapes. Before this (and still, really) I did not have much experience with electronic music, certainly not "techno" or "EDM" or "house" or any of these sub-genres. But I had a keyboard and some synthesizer software so I got to playing around. I wrote these 5 songs over the course of 2-3 years, and still come back to them from time to time (particularly the first track). I'm now doing a bit more electronic composition again, and will hopefully be producing more instrumental electronic music soon!
In 2007-2008 I spent about a year living and volunteering at the Tumaini Children's Home in Nyeri, Kenya. Part of my efforts there involved facilitating music programs for the kids. It turned out there was a robust culture of songwriting---kids would create vocal melodies and lyrics and sing these songs to one another (mostly in the form of Christian worship). I worked with a number of these kids to add backing music to their songs, and recorded them. The resulting album was a really interesting mix of original East African folk melody (sung in Swahili or Kikuyu) and whatever influences I already had. All proceeds from the release of this album went/go to Tumaini!
Vocal melodies and words were written by the Tumaini kids. I did vocal harmonies, instrumentation, and album art (aww yeah matatu!)
I wrote this album while on sabbatical at Schloss Mittersill, a castle in the Austrian alps not far from Kitzbuhel. The castle used to be an intentional Christian community (in some ways not unlike a monastery) devoted to retreat and study. It's now a hotel! Anyway, this oddly titled album was inspired by NT Wright's Christian Origins and the Question of God series, an important work on the origins of the Christian religion within its historical and cultural contexts. The album is thus accompanied by a tiny essay.
The process of writing and recording these theologically-oriented songs was magical, and unlike anything I've experienced before or since. Playing on an old piano in a grand castle hall, or singing vocal lines in a stone chapel in the castle wall, my breath frosting in the midwinter night---unparalleled! Sadly I just had a set of SM-57s and a cheap USB-powered digital audio unit, so I couldn't do full justice to the physical and spiritual context. But the songs themselves, despite being super stripped-down arrangements of piano and vocals, remain powerful artifacts of that sabbatical for me. Mixed/mastered by David Lipps. Cover design by Chris Nyffeler.
In many ways this 6-song EP was Splendour Hyaline's first record that I was really proud of. We originally released it in 2006, but the version linked above were remastered and re-released in 2014. I was doing a lot of exploring in my songwriting, and we put together a pretty hard-hitting EP I think! This record even got reviewed in a print edition of Paste Magazine, back when print magazines were a thing. The reviewer compared us to Pedro the Lion / David Bazan, which is pretty fair given that he remains one of my biggest influences!
As per usual, I wrote the songs, sang, and played the musicky bits. My brother David did the drums and the mixing magic, and designed the album art.
This little collection of 4 songs was composed of two re-recordings from Splendour Hyaline's first album, plus two new tracks. Originally released as the "Splendour Hyaline EP" to basically nobody, and containing some songs which went on to be on the "Hope" record, David and I remixed/remastered these and re-released them in 2014, with some additional instrumentation. It's basically the oldest music I've made that I've felt comfortable actually posting on the internet (though maybe I'll get brave and upload Splendour Hyaline's first album for archival purposes someday). Cover design by our bud Chris Nyffeler.
Splendour Hyaline's debut! 12 songs of acoustic indie rock with some drums (no bass guitar, mind you!) This incorporated basically everything I'd written during my undergrad years at Stanford. It also represents David's and my foray into sound engineering, production, mixing, etc... And it had the quality to match! Some of these songs are still very dear to my heart, of course. Sadly, it's not available on any of the streaming services, since I'm not brave enough / don't think anyone cares! Cover art by David Lipps.