‘After All‘ – Dar Williams (2000)
Eleven years ago, when I first wrote about this song on the blog, I couldn’t find it on YouTube so I had to upload my own version. That clip has received more than 125k views since. Not exactly ‘Gangnam Style,’ but pretty impressive for a rather obscure artist like Dar Williams.
On that clip, and on the other videos that eventually made it to YouTube, you’ll find many comments by listeners that this song quite literally saved their lives. I can only imagine how heartening that must be for Williams.
‘After All’ is about Williams’ battle with depression and contemplation of suicide. It traces her journey to the moment when “life chose [her] after all.”
I find this lyric so powerful, and the melody so lovely, that it moves me deeply even though I’m fortunate enough to not relate to it on a personal level.
Williams has a knack for these simple but profound sentiments. Her ‘When I Was a Boy‘ is another favorite song of mine, one that contended for this list. I posted that one on YouTube as well, where it’s received more than 190k views.
‘Poses‘ – Rufus Wainwright (2001)
Rufus Wainwright’s sophomore album, Poses, is not my favorite of his, but it is the one that established him as one of my favorite artists. And this title track, in particular, cemented his greatness.
Wainwright wrote this song about the young, hopeful men — himself included — who come to New York City seeking enlightenment but end up disillusioned and in pain. The romantic weariness of his vocals is buoyed by the swelling piano and strings.
‘After All’ and ‘Poses’ are songs that work for me the way some great movies do — by immersing me in an unfamiliar perspective and painting a vivid portrait of another person’s life.
‘My Love Has Gone‘ – Josh Rouse (2005)
Coming up with a list of favorite songs leads inevitably to another challenge — coming up with a list of favorite albums. I’ll give myself that assignment for the coming months.
Of all the albums represented on this countdown, Josh Rouse’s Nashville is the one I know without a doubt will show up on that albums list. It’s a melancholy masterpiece and I simply adore it.
‘My Love Has Gone’ is the album’s finest moment, a straight-forward heartbreak ballad about the lonely space between the end of one love affair and the start of a new one.
Funny how the chronology and my posting pattern conspired to make today’s featured trio such a bummer. I realize my whole list is rather somber, but this batch was a doozy!
Find out how much love the world can hold
Once upon a time I had control
And reined my soul in tight
Well the whole truth
Is like the story of a wave unfurled
But I held the evil of the world
So I stopped the tide
Froze it up from inside
And it felt like a winter machine
That you go through and then
You catch your breath and winter starts again
And everyone else is spring bound
And when I chose to live
There was no joy, it’s just a line I crossed
It wasn’t worth the pain my death would cost
So I was not lost or found
And if I was to sleep
I knew my family had more truth to tell
And so I traveled down a whispering well
To know myself through them
Growing up, my mom had a room full of books
And hid away in there
Her father raging down a spiral stair
Till he found someone
Most days his son
And sometimes I think
My father, too, was a refugee
I know they tried to keep their pain from me
They could not see what it was for
But now I’m sleeping fine
Sometimes the truth is like a second chance
I am the daughter of a great romance
And they are the children of the war
Well the sun rose with so many colors
It nearly broke my heart
And worked me over like a work of art
And I was a part of all that
So go ahead, push your luck
Say what it is you’ve got to say to me
We will push on into that mystery
And it’ll push right back
And there are worse things than that
Cause for every price
And every penance that I could think of
It’s better to have fallen in love
Than never to have fallen at all
Cause when you live in a world
Well it gets in to who you thought you’d be
And now I laugh at how the world changed me
I think life chose me after all