A Ways Away
I think I’m genetically predisposed to rock; it’s in my blood or something. I want things to be loud, sometimes fast, and always frantic. I like it when a bass line’s so fat you can feel it in your crotch. I like it when guitars rip through your eardrums. I especially like it when a drum beat is so loud you can mistake it for your own pulse. I want to hear something in the singer’s voice that essentially says, “I will sing these words as if my life depends on it.”
There are exceptions, of course, like when I listen to Elliott Smith, though it could be said the same rules apply—just in reverse. The quieter and more timid music is, the more crazed I feel. Tara Jane O’Neil’s fifth album is definitely in the “softer” category of music. It did not turn me into the crazed, emotional wreck I often become after the first chords of “Needle in the Hay,” but A Ways Away is pretty in its own distinct way.
I expect a lot of female singer-songwriters. Some might say that makes me sexist, but I just say it makes me demanding. I don’t want cliché, Lilith Fair-type, boyfriend-inspired angst, and I definitely don’t want watered down, Top 40 love ballads. I just want the music to be real and achingly beautiful. I want it to perfectly encapsulate something unique to the female experience, is that too much to ask?
TJO’s album has a quiet power that’s hard to describe. I, to this day, don’t know any of the lyrics on A Ways Away even after repeated listens, but each and every song on the record sounds like a lovesick lullaby for grownups. There are gentle, reverberating sounds everywhere, and shaky, childlike singing. If you close your eyes long enough while listening to “Dig In” or “Pearl into Sand,” you begin to think of first kisses, the electricity of love, and long, warm summers that were spent doing nothing in particular yet still managed to feel larger than life. I don’t know about you, but I’m of the opinion that that’s a major accomplishment for a timid little record.