On Friday, September 30, Humans Etcetera—the experimental rock project of American-born, China-based singer/songwriter Chris Henry—will release new album Part of Being Human, via Nefarious Industries. It’s an intricate and eclectic set of songs, combining grungy rockers with complex time signatures, progressive structures with melodic hooks, and thoughtful, introspective narratives. Today we’re streaming the album in its entirety. Hear it below.
Humans Etcetera’s Chris Henry also wrote up a track-by-track breakdown of the album to read through while listening. Check that out below.
This album is a collection of songs about things we experience as part of being human. Without giving too much away, I’ll try to briefly talk about what each song means to me.
1). Trick in the Book – I’m friends with an expat couple in Wenzhou who have several dogs. They told me about a time a woman claimed she was bitten to try to extort them. She made a big scene, but refused to even show where the dog had supposedly bit her. Basically, it was a scam. The story got me thinking about how some people cheat for money.
2). No Refund – In this unpredictable world, every choice we make is a gamble. You never know what conditions are going to suddenly change. Most of the time the changes work with us, or at least not directly against us. Other times, we’re not so lucky and regret comes in to torture us even further.
3). Lovebirds – There’s a chilling imbalance in our expectations of love. As much as we might want it to be a pure and simple thing, love’s got a dark side to it.
4). Consumed – I often struggle with the reality of living and functioning within the motions of modern-day capitalism. Without any real alternatives, I just try to remind myself not to let it manipulate me into buying shit I don’t need or participating more than I have to. You know, stuff is cool and all, but happiness and fulfillment come from within oneself.
5). Treelined – Living in a big city has its conveniences for sure, but QT with nature isn’t exactly one of them. So once, during an increasingly rare instance of walking in the woods, I decided to sing to the trees around me.
6). Bored – This ditty has been with me since 2016 when I first moved to Wenzhou, China. I didn’t know anybody, so I spent A LOT of time in a tiny apartment just making music. This track was born out of that. I dusted it off, recorded some live drums, and put it on the album. It’s cool when albums have a track around the middle to chill out for a bit.
7). Ask Someone for Help – In 2014, I fell for a “tea-scam” in Shanghai. In 2015, I graduated from university and had no idea what I was doing. In 2020, I turned 30 and hit an awful spell of depression and anxiety. This song still makes me wanna cry.
8). No Reply – Wet floor signs shouldn’t be taken for granted. I strolled into a restroom in Wenzhou once and slipped around like a fucking cartoon character. To be fair, I was texting at the time. So, senses were impaired. But it got me thinking, like… what if I’d cracked my head open on the floor and bled out, waiting for a meaningless text? Death is always skulking nearby, ya know?
9). Gone – I believe it was Serj Tankian who said, “Why don’t presidents fight the war? Why do they always send the poor?” On this track, I tried to imagine what it might be like being sent to war.
10). All Tree No Bark – Here’s a fairly on-the-nose song about deforestation. I guess I’m also getting back to the idea from “Trick in the Book” about doing bad stuff for money. And worrying about those trees I was singing to on “Treelined.” It segues into the last song pretty well.
11). Gold Coast – This is a beach in Tuen Mun, Hong Kong. Back in 2014, I did a semester abroad at Lingnan University. My friends and I frequently took the double-decker bus from campus, past the mall, and up Castle Peak Road to Gold Coast. It’s a place and time I hold close to my heart. The song is a sort of preemptive apology to the beach in a future where the environment’s already been ruined.