Elevate Difference

I Was Just Comforting Her

During my exploits as a queer culture addict, I’ve heard Gretchen Phillips’ name dropped multiple times, generally paired with admiration and approval, but I never went so far as to investigate the source of her praise. It turns out, her newest album, I Was Just Comforting Her, is an ideal model for a newcomer like me because it brings together the eclectic variety of her extensive music career through careful and quirky genre-blending, while keeping true to the lyrical themes she knows best. 

I Was Just Comforting Her, a ten-track album sporting a charmingly gay portrait of Gretchen in flannel kissing a tree, and a simple, distinguished line drawing of a cat, revisits the artist’s past and lends a new hope, both politically and personally, to the present and future. Her musical experimentation offers a certain mysticism to the album in that from song-to-song, you don’t know if you’re going to get a drowsy love song reminiscent of Emmylou Harris or a jumpy electronic pop hit musing on the bipartisan polarity of red and blue states. As with many of her songs, she juxtaposes the raw emotions and frustration that comes with yearning for the incommunicable with quick-witted irony and beats you can bop your head to. 

I Was Just Comforting Her speaks to the wide range of sensations that are provoked by self-exploration and the boundaries and connections we share with the people around us. In the track “Burning Inside,” her on-point lyrics adroitly convey the day-to-day perplexity, anger, and alienation that comes with feeling condensed, misunderstood, and at a loss for the right answers. In several songs on the album, she explores the anxiety and grief of relationships gone sour, and the heartache spawned by alcoholism and the borders that push us farther away from the people we love.

What I appreciate most about the album is how clear it is through her instrumentals and lyrics that she’s having fun. Whether providing a poppy anecdote on beating up a guy on a bus who got too cheeky, or a sultry, no-nonsense dedication to a swimming instructor pervading her wet dreams, her songs provide entertainment for the listeners and the creator.

Written by: Renee Leonowicz, May 27th 2009