Two love songs, two recovery songs, and one heartbreaker.
- “When My Fever Breaks,” John Moreland.
A straightforward love song without ambiguity or an escape hatch! A rare thing in my listening world. “The strongest will, the softest touch/I never thought I’d have so much,” but surprisingly my gag reflex is not engaged, perhaps because of the understatement of Moreland’s delivery. “Homespun” comes to mind, but then there’s that drum machine buzzing in the background. Most everything else I’ve heard by Moreland seems pretentious and doom-laden but this one works for me.
- “Run With You,” Kinley.
Also straightforward love song, but to a band or performer rather than a…person? You know what I mean. “Your dark energy it captivates,” the singer says, and “You are the coolest girl I’ve ever seen.” So, an out and out fan letter, but a really catchy one! The singer just wants to “run with” the performer, just wants to let themselves be carried away. See “Nirvana” by Julianna Hatfield for another excellent expression of the same impulse.
- “Everything Has Changed,” Best Coast.
Best Liz Phair song since forever, courtesy of Bethany Cosentino and Bobb Bruno. The singer recounts her addiction-freighted past and but then tells us everything has changed. The physical manifestations of that change seem small: she’s sipping coffee, walking her dog, taking nature hikes, cooking for two. But the joy in her voice, and in the music, is evident. These are big deals!
- “Arizona,” Lady Lamb.
Another song that seems to celebrate a journey back from a dark place, though more quietly and ambiguously. Again it’s the everyday details the singer proudly recounts that indicate the distance she’s come: here, buying too many plums, eating one, saving the pit. There are memories of how much easier everything seemed in childhood, and of how much more complicated life is now, everything connected by a string but the string taut and tangling the singer in. “Still time is kindly turning over/I feel her drying my eyes,” she concludes, one of those lovely sentiments you find yourself repeating in your head awake at 3 am.
- “I’ll Be the Sad Song,” Brandy Clark.
This is the heartbreaker, a classic country where half the song is seeing how the songwriter will tug the metaphor just a little further while still managing to make it sound inevitable. The singer is speaking to an old lover. If life is record, she says, and the people and the places are songs, then “I’ll be the sad song/Your good love gone bad song.” Perfect! “That last verse, you’ll wanna change it/Some night when it’s raining.” More perfect! The melody in the chorus reminds me of something else I can’t quite put my finger on, but even that familiarity supports the song’s message of something lost but not gone.