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The Bittersweet Tapes

by Heather Styka

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Rich Larson
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Rich Larson Sometimes the best songs are the ones that quietly rise up from nowhere and suddenly you find them locked inside your brain. Favorite track: Sugarcoat.
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Singing 500 Miles I am tearing it down Your pictures from the wall I’m burning it all Whatever I can’t pawn And I am throwing it out The letters and the books If you ever try to look back You’ll find that I am gone CHORUS: Five hundred miles My mother sang that song Singing five hundred miles You’ll know that I am gone I am packing it up A suitcase full of dresses All my plans and messes I’m headed out by dawn And I am clearing it out The cobwebs from the corners The curtains frayed and worn And you will find that I am gone CHORUS Lord I’m one, Lord I’m two Lord I’m three, Lord I’m four Lord I’m five hundred miles from the one I tried to love And there’s no amount of miles That can get him off my mind Lord, we’re one, two, three forever entwined Five hundred miles My mother sang that song Singing five hundred miles You’ll know that I am gone Singing five hundred miles Lullaby and so long Singing five hundred miles You can hear the whistle blow a hundred miles
Sugarcoat 02:51
Sugarcoat You said a lot of things and we made a lot of plans and when the bottom fell out I landed on my feet ‘Cause I come from a long line of women who are kind Who’d do anything to help another soul in need CHORUS: Tell me what you’re thinking Tell me what you’re really feeling I will listen and I will always be on the line You don’t need to sugarcoat it Bring me all your pain and hope And when the world turns upside down We will still get by I’ve been called a lunch pail poet ‘cause everyday I go to work But when you’re singing for your supper some nights you go hungry As for love, I’ve known lots of it Not often the kind you keep I’m well-versed in letting go when they let go of me CHORUS Who can compare the weight of two hearts I have watched my friends weather unimaginable storms These blizzards with no two snowflakes alike Piling up in new patterns against our doors It’s a hospital visit It’s another totaled car It’s out of your control And it’s right where you are The crucible of each morning makes you stronger than you know You will bend, but you won’t break ‘cause you are made of gold CHORUS
Oklahoma 03:50
Oklahoma Tonight I’m remembering how you took off your hat And blushed when you first asked me to dinner I was a professional at loving and losing Babe, you make me a beginner They might say I should know better Everyone always knows better If you let that stop you, you’ll never know love You and I are reckless dancers searching everywhere for answers You’re the question I most often think of CHORUS: Oklahoma, I’m pushing through But I’m still betting on you Oklahoma, we’re a gamble, it’s true But I’m still betting on you Now I’m listening to songs covered in your fingerprints In every single note I hear your voice And of course the rain is pouring and whispering old letters you sent me from Rock Island, Illinois You mailed me treasures and buttons that you picked up off the street and photographs of our incandescent faces Bursting with the promise of vanquished lonely days We came so close we had to back away ten paces CHORUS We’ve got our own highways to run but there are only so many roads and they’re bound to cross sometime I know we’ve only begun Oklahoma, I hope someday you’ll come find me And you’ll take off your hat And you’ll ask me to dinner And we’ll try it all again Babe, you make me a beginner Lord, you make me a beginner
Blue Vintage Dress I kept that stone that you gave me on the night we danced together Polished flat and smooth in some Yukon river And it was good to dance above the bar, out of the weather before sunrise, in a small room CHORUS: I know the kind of lonely man you are Playing lovers like you play guitar But I confess I knew what I was doing in that blue vintage dress Before sunrise, in a small room Now I rarely trust a man in a fedora or a vest but every man wore one and it seemed you wore it best It was good to drink cheap wine and put our limits to the test Before sunrise, in a small room CHORUS He falls for a song She falls for his arms They have a taste for whiskey in common I’ve heard this one before Been danced ‘round this floor Sometimes a girl wants a love that feels common You thanked me half a dozen times as I headed to leave You didn’t say you’d call Didn’t bother to deceive Well, it was good to hold you And it was good to leave before sunrise, in a small room CHORUS
Not Your Rose I am not your rose though I unfold sweetly You don’t have one good reason to love me I’m just a passing song And you don’t know the melody You don’t have one good reason to love me Who I am in your eager imagination is all that you want to see Sing me the shortest song I don’t have long before I leave And you don’t have one good reason to love me You don’t have one good reason to love me
Disappearing 03:03
Disappearing Twilight makes me fall in love with every ordinary thing The peeling painted shed The oak trees overhead The sky cools into darkness I’m seventeen again I’m seven I’m counting down to before I began This tree stretching over me first fell down as an acorn no bigger than my eye in 1765 The little girl across the street will strain to remember me when she has children of her own In a blink she’ll watch them grow CHORUS: Oh my dear It’s now, we’re here Isn’t that a good enough reason Singing songs of summers gone Please keep holding on Dance me ’til the last star’s disappearing Disappearing I went to the mountain to ask so many questions but the mystic, he replied Put your questions aside Somewhere deep inside I keep asking myself Without my questions who am I What’s left when I’m satisfied CHORUS You are not the answer, my love You are not the question You are not a cherry tree You are one who once loved me A moment come and gone Only a fool would still hang on CHORUS
Prodigal Child It’s been half a year now What do I have to show Six days turned to six months Spring rain turned to summer turned to snow When new friends become old news And pass like strangers in the street And I can’t buy the next round When I’m barely managing to make ends meet I had to go But who could bear coming home the prodigal child I swear I’m learning something out of all of this But I’m not quite through with running wild I’ll get it right this time But I’m not done running wild Long ago I took for granted A bed to rest, a roof over my head These days I long to make plans But I just work to make rent instead Once I talked a big game And every path was open as the sky They told me I had what it takes But lately I’ve been wondering if they lied I know I’m not the only one on fire With a feeling I can’t even describe Everyday we try to tame it but we can’t even name it We wonder if there’s more to our lives We go to work, we drive home Spend time together and alone Most days we act like everything is alright That restless flame burning like a girl in love Pure and eager and bright I'll be glad to see them The childhood friends and the folks back home I'll tell stories of my new life But I'll omit the parts where I'm lost and alone We put on the brave face It's some part of the truth And we focus on the good days Cause that's the only way to make it through
Great Plains 05:07
Great Plains You were headlights in the distance I could see you come my way The closer you approached in the night you were all I could see We are bodies in motion We always knew someday You'd go the opposite direction of me CHORUS: Do I hold on ’til your train leaves the station Do I buy a ticket too Some people say they'd do anything for love But I've got a feeling that's not me and you I’m driving across the Great Plains Through deserts, and oceans of wheat In each town I pass through I wonder if someday that’s where you’ll be Our intersecting long roads have only this point where they meet I’ve seen the end of your line and it’s not in my trajectory CHORUS In my daydreams we hold tight and tethered Find common ground Grow common roots But even in dreams I can’t keep us together Got dream places to go Dream things to do Now I’m crossing all the mountains Every river to be by your side But when I get home How will I know you’ll be waiting for me You’re my safe house in a dark field The place I go to hide But soon the foundation will turn into wheels As you turn to leave CHORUS
Spilling Poetry I’ve got this heart that wants to be taken but when it is held, it wants to be free I’ve got these feet that wanna keep walking But it don't take long before they grow weary I’ve got these hands that wanna keep busy they mostly do nothing, cause there’s too much to do I’ve got this smile covering me like a blanket so I won’t notice I’m still thinking of you, CHORUS I’ve got these arms so strong and so able to carry these burdens but I’m letting go I’ve got these shoulders that once were slumped over Now I’m standing tall though I’m feeling low I’ve got this gut that fills up with stones when I hear your name and when you call I’ve got these ears that hear you in the pine trees hear you in the raindrops, hear you in it all CHORUS I’ve got these eyes searching for beauty but they only find it when they are closed I’ve got this mind that wants to be quiet but it keeps repeating all it thinks it knows I’ve got this throat so parched and so thirsty but when I start drinking, I'm likely to drown I’ve got these lips, they were spilling poetry But everything’s small talk, now you’re not around CHORUS
Sweet Weakness You rolled into town selling snake oil and love Oh, I bought it and I drank it by the spoonful, mm hmm I hung my hope upon your words and on that crooked smile Believing you could cure my heart of every ill CHORUS: My sweet weakness I don't think I'll ever be immune How tenderly you break my heart again Without ever meaning to You read me poems about a riverbed and you read me a story about a man who asked a girl to marry and she said yes The man fell asleep in some orchard, and she watched him Knowing she'd never love another again CHORUS It's not that I just need someone, oh I can be alone and happy I can be alone and happy, I can be alone You're in my blood, you're in my skin It's you alone that I am missing, you alone that I am missing I'm missing you alone So if I am your weakness, if you still think of me each night It's not too late for us to take a walk together sometime And if you asked me to take you back, if you asked me anything I don't think I'd hold out too long to answer CHORUS
Afterthought 04:16
Afterthought I'm an afterthought, I'm a memory I'm that time you drove all night just cause you could I'm every summer day spent listening for the train I'm that pothole town you planned to leave for good I'm that first New York show you played and no one came And I'm that single soul listening to every note with kind eyes I'm that long road home, with new stories to be told All those passages you thought could make you wise I'm the old carousel, that old wishing well I'm those old songs that your grandmother would hum Those crisp autumn days change was something you could taste Cold and sweet and eager on your tongue Every wild desire seemed within your grasp Before you learned what it means to choose I'm that movie star you posted on your wall I'm that small town girl you knew always knew you'd lose You're an after thought, you're a memory You're the journal that I kept beneath my bed I guess you loved me well From here it's hard to tell Sifting through the sweet nothings you said Once you thought that I would stay right by your side We'd be waltzing till our weary bones gave way I thought the same of you Now you're a memory too The sort of dream we all outgrow someday I wanted only you Now you're a memory too The sort of dream we all outgrow someday


Liner notes: "When I decided to record this batch of songs on an album, I wanted to keep them as raw and intimate as the day they were written. So I went down to Tulsa and recorded with John Calvin Abney in an old brick bungalow using the four-track recorder my father bought for me when I started writing songs. The resulting session is honest, unedited, and humming with that familiar analog warble. My thanks to you, dear listener, to friends old and new, and above all, to my family."


released February 16, 2016

All songs written by Heather Styka
Produced and engineered by John Calvin Abney
Heather Styka: vocals, guitar
John Calvin Abney: acoustic and electric guitar, pedal steel, percussion
Assistant engineer: Kyle Reid
Mastered by Peter Andreadis, All City Mastering
Photo credit: Abby Nierman


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Heather Styka Chicago, Illinois

Though rooted in folk and Americana, Chicago singer-songwriter Heather Styka's songs are as fresh as they are memorable, chronicling the human cycles of despair and redemption, and analyzing the importance of places and relationships. Touring nationwide and having received airplay globally, Styka is a familiar face in the Chicago music scene, at venues including Schubas and the Old Town School. ... more

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