Friday, February 12, 2010

Solitude: Elsewhere

Today's post comes from reader Elaine. Thanks, Elaine!

Sarah McLachlan: Elsewhere


Sarah McLachlan's debut album was a piece of art that touched me as a young woman. I don't know if this song is about choosing solitude for its own joys, or as an escape from something. In my own life, it could mean both, if I think about it.

I believe
this is Heaven to no one else but me
and I'll defend it as long as I can be
left here to linger in silence
if I choose to
would you
try to understand

If you haven't heard this song before, I really would love to hear about your first impressions. If you have, please share your thoughts, too! Are you like me?

Thank you all. I love this blog.

Contributed by Elaine

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Solitude: Lonely Girl

Todd Snider: Lonely Girl (live recording plus intro from Tales from Moondawg's Tavern***)

[purchase] - the studio version on Todd's 2000 Happy to Be Here CD...

Boy meets girl... in a rehab center, of all places - takes him a while to get up his courage to ask her out... and they not only need the permission of the center's board to date... but they have to keep a plant alive for a set period of time. He's a singer-songwriter, she's an artist... and they end up getting married - sometimes two Wrongs do make a Right... and truth is stranger than fiction... which you'll hear if you listen to the entire story and song posted...

P.S. The illustration above is an actual painting by Todd's wife, Melita...

***copied and pasted from my Vinyl Records post:

...courtesy of Rich Willis, a creative and generous Todd-lister who, in May 2007, put together (and made available to the list) "
Tales From Moondawg's Tavern, a compilation of Todd's stories [with the associated song] thru the years" (backstory here and download info here)...

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Solitude: So Lonely

The Police: So Lonely


Admittedly and unabashedly based on Bob Marley's No Woman, No Cry - itself an admonition to a lonely subject - this deliberate attempt to hybridize Thrash Punk with Reggae came into being on Outlandos D'Amour, but didn't chart until its 1980 re-release as a single.

Throbbing with Punk's alienatation, but like so much of The Police canon bereft of its class consciousness, the second verse comes across as a bit too theatrical, perhaps a fitting harbinger for Sting's later solo career as a sensitive popstar. But I like the speed-up-slow-down of plodding verse and driving chorus; with it, the song plays out as an apt rhythmic portrayal of the alternately maudlin and angry character of so much of our own loneliness.

Solitude: Side of the Road

Lucinda Williams: Side of the Road


Sometimes, you only need a few moments alone to clear your head. Lucinda William's "Side of the Road" starts out with that premise, but by the last verse, those few moments seem to have stretched on, and a future with her partner seems a lot less sure:

If I stray away too far from you
Don't go and try to find me
It doesn't mean I don't love you
It doesn't mean I won't come back and stay beside you

That may be so, Lucinda, but it doesn't mean you will come back, either. If I were her other half, I'd be worried. Is he still parked on the side of the road, waiting for her return?

Lucinda recorded "Side of the Road" for her self-titled 1988 album, but I prefer this stripped-down, live-on-the-radio version that appeared on her Passionate Kisses+ EP in '92. It can also be found as one of the bonus tracks on the now out-of-print reissued version of Lucinda Williams.

Solitude: At Seventeen

Janice Ian: At Seventeen


Something about becoming a father has made me the biggest sap in the world. My 24 year old self would beat the crap out of me, I'm sure of it. But when I listen to this song I'm moved by Janice Ian's open confessional describing the deplorable rules that govern the lives of what she calls "ugly girls".

I learned the truth at seventeen
That love was meant for beauty queens
And high school girls with clear skinned smiles
Who married young and then retired
The valentines I never knew
The Friday night charades of youth
Were spent on one more beautiful
At seventeen I learned the truth

As a father and as a human being I sincerely hope the truth isn't always as harsh as that for those women who don't fit the dysmorphic caricature of beauty that we've developed in the western world. From what I've seen I think my hope may be in vain. Still, I hope my daughter never feels this way for a minute of her life, and I hope no other girls do either.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Solitude: I Am a Rock

Simon and Garfunkel: I Am a Rock

The ultimate loner's anthem.

Friendship causes pain. Love causes tears. A fortress of imaginary walls and an armor made of the written word will keep the cold world away.

You're left to wonder what exactly has happened to the protagonist of this song that has led him to withdraw himself so much.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Solitude: Visa fran Utanmyra

Jan Johansson: Visa från Utanmyra


Swedish pianist Jan Johansson made nearly a dozen records before he died in a car crash in 1968 at the age of thirty-seven. The most revered one was the 1964 classic Jazz På Svenska (=Jazz In Swedish), which featured instrumental renditions of traditional Swedish folk songs.

The most famous song from this his most famous album is the opener Visa från Utanmyra (literally "Song from Utanmyra" - Utanmyra being a location in the province of Dalarna). Just how old the song is is unknown, but an early version had lyrics and was titled O Tysta Ensamhet. Which is English would translate into O Silent Solitude - a title that makes perfect sense when you hear the song.

O Silent Solitude was told from a first-person perspective and expressed a nearly maddening desolation and all the burdens that come with knowing you can never have the one you love. But with the lyrics removed and with Johansson's nimble piano-playing the song takes on a rather different form. One which just barely promises the tiniest bit of light on the horizon. A faint ray or two breaking through the thick, grey clouds.

If O Silent Solitude almost hinted at a longing for the grim reaper to put an end to the protagonist's lonely existence, Visa Från Utanmyra gives him the strength to go on for at least one more day.

If there's a lesson to learn here it would be that of perseverence. Why throw in the towel today when what you've been waiting for might arrive tomorrow?

Photo (slightly cropped) taken in Dalarna by Keith Vertanen

Solitude: Lonely Lover / Lonely Soldier

"Hey girl, you seem to be lonely, and I´m a lonely lover..." A perfect track for these Valentine times. That´s Gregory Isaacs, one of the grand voices in reggae music, desperately looking for a partner. But a line like "give me the right to own and control you, then I know just what to do" sure makes one wonder about his success rate.

And here´s another fine song of his that fits our theme like a glove. This time the Cool Ruler puts himself in the place of a soldier "off to fight a war, which they say will make man free..." He dearly misses the missus though.

Solitude: I Will Survive

Cake: I Will Survive


Who doesn't love Gloria Gaynor's original?!? (and I'm hoping this is a rhetorical question) - whether to the jukebox strains in a crowded bar fueled by a few drinks... or in your car as you're flipping through radio stations... you can't help but sing along... loudly and badly but enthusiastically... to this anthemic ode of empowerment...

Cake puts an interesting spin on the traditional... with a male point of view, a well-placed obscenity... and a killer trumpet solo - whether disco or rockin', "as long as I know how to love I know I'll stay alive" is the message... and thriving, not just surviving, is the meaning (you really *aren't* welcome anymore - so there!)...

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Cold/Solitude: Cold and Lonely

Slaid Cleaves: Cold and Lonely


A transitional song, connecting one theme to the next with the tiniest of conjunctions.

Texan singer-songwriter Slaid Cleaves is yet another critically praised yet struggling artist, one whom several of us here at Star Maker Machine believe is criminally undersung. This track, from his 2000 album Broke Down, wrings exquisite despair from a rich palette of slow, deadpan vocals, eerie backing electric and lap slide guitars, and a bleak narrative of loss, speaking volumes about our support for the dustbowl poet.