Art for the Sad, Angry & Horny

Hi Darling Ones,

I cannot wait any longer. We have to talk about the flagship in the room.*

My plan was to wait until I had an actual physical copy of Amanda Shires’ new record Take it Like a Man (TILAM) in my hot little hands. There would have been an arty picture of the record with some lyrics on it for the header. I might have been past this obsessive stage of falling for a new record. Who knows? Nobody, because I’m talking about it now. Again. I talked about the song “Hawk for the Dove” already.

I’ve listened to TILAM fourteen times since it dropped Thursday night. I have no shame. This record perfectly fits into a sad/angry/horny groove inside my soul and listening to these ten songs on repeat just feels good.

Also, if you’re the kind of person who loves a really good record/book pairing, might I suggest you try TILAM with Gina Frangello’s blistering Blow Your Own House Down? Both of them feature notes of bravery and brilliance with the subtle aroma of vulnerability and ferocity. These are two works of art by women at the top of their game. For real, if you ever find yourself feeling sad/angry/horny** all at the same time you will find much camaraderie in the book and the record.

Back to Ms. Shires. She is, without hyperbole, one of the greatest songwriters of her generation. The use of imagery in her songwriting is spectacular (see: “Parking Lot Pirouette“). She’s adept at wordplay (see the line: Like a common loon I started hearing birds. in the song “Take it Like a Man.“). And she weaves together ideas in the most unexpected and startling way. One of my all-time favorite lyrics is from her song “Harmless” where she sings, Your eyes a shade of wonder like if thunder had a color.

There’s something really exciting when you recognize an artist pushing themselves further than they have before. This is evident in TILAM. There’s also something really magical when an artist trusts you with their truth and is brave enough to show you their vulnerability. Shires has spread this all over TILAM. And I could go on and on about the sequencing of this record and how side one is angry and sad and how side 2 is bouncy and horny.

Instead, let’s talk about the utter brilliancy of “Fault Lines” the last track on side one.

“Fault Lines” is, as Shires has said many times, about a shitty time in her marriage to Jason Isbell. It’s a spare and desolate. The song expresses the emptiness that comes after the anger has burned through your system and now you’re just done. Done. What raises this song to the level of complete brilliance is how Shires uses Isbell’s own song to explain exactly how she’s feeling. She sings, And the character you wrote yourself out to be, the flagship, all part of my fooling.

When I first heard that word, flagship, in this song while laying in my dark bedroom at 11:30 on Thursday night, I felt my central nervous system start to sizzle. Oh, I thought, she is going there.

If you’re not familiar with Isbell’s catalog, “Flagship” is a song off his 2015 record Something More than Free. It’s a song where he vows to never let their love fade. On this song both Shires and Isbell sing, Baby, let’s not ever get that way. I’ll say whatever words I need to say.

And if you listen to Shires’ new songs, it’s very clear they got that way. You can also hear it on “Empty Cups.” The sound of silence rings in every room.

But the specificity of calling him out for failing to be the character he painted himself to be and her feeling foolish for believing it. . . well that’s a heaping helping of bravery mixed with vulnerability. Also, sweet burn. Also, ouch.

I’m sure I’ll have a lot more to say about this record as it continues to reveal itself to me.

Angrily, sadly, and hornily yours,
Jodi

 
*Whenever I hear the word flagship I first think of Kurt Vonnegut because when my friend Shawn got Vonnegut to sign a copy of Cat’s Cradle for me, he called the book the flagship of his fleet.

 
**My Weird-Al brain has been singing a version of John Cougar Mellencamp’s “Lonely Ol’ Night” called Horny Ol’ Night, featuring this line, “I don’t know, I’m just so sad and horny all at the same time.”

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