More than a year has gone by since the release of The Sunset Tree, a record which music writers all over the country rallied behind to an extent that would be embarrassing if it didn’t actually seem to be getting better with age. With its heartbreaking lyrics about life in (and the undying hope for an escape from) a broken home, it’s a record one can enjoy on an intensely personal level. But it’s also a record to be enjoyed for its melodies, for its boundless energy and for its striking ability to maintain a lighthearted feel despite the heavy subject matter. That it can be experienced in these two very different ways depending on how the listener is feeling at the outset is, I believe, the key to its overwhelming success.
Now obviously, this isn’t the kind of thing that’s easy to follow up, and with Get Lonely, John Darniele has made a record that doesn’t succeed on as quite as many levels, but is admirable for its unwavering commitment to a single tone and mood. All but one or two of its songs are extremely slow, and many of them are eerily quiet, featuring vocals that barely climb above a whisper yet stand tall as the record’s focal point. They tell a story that’s complicated and sinister, dealing with the lingering effects of a presumably fictional break-up. As he did on The Sunset Tree, Darniele uses the narrator’s home as a primary device. He’s constantly either leaving it or returning to it in a hurry, unsettled by his inability to escape memories of his former lover. By the time the record comes to a close, it’s not clear exactly what has happened, and I’m sure it will be the subject of much speculation in the coming months. But on the final track, ‘If You See the Light’, we find the narrator hiding beneath a dining room table, complaining that no one in his town can keep a secret and waiting for his door to be broken down.
You can draw your own conclusions about the meaning, of course, but the point is this: in order for the record to reveal itself fully, you have to be willing to give yourself over to it. If you are, the payoff will be huge. If not, you’ll probably just think it’s boring.