She achingly describes how “there are days when the cage doesn’t seem to open very wide at all,” referring to her own debilitating obsession with a man that has “love in his heart” for his own wife and daughter. However, as the music swells to production levels more typical of Rilo Kiley than Williams—bringing in a violin, mandolin, and soaring choral vocal backups—Wainwright declares, “My heart was made for bleeding all over you / I know you’re married but I’ve got feelings, too / And I still love you” with honest hurt and determined strength.
Wainwright doesn’t only focus on the borderline of the socially acceptable, however. She self-consciously explores everything from the shocked naïveté of a jilted lover (“You cheated me and I can’t believe it”) to the origins of artistic inspiration (“I could steal a melody / Of this I am allowed”).
The mood of her music covers a similarly broad spectrum, from the downright creepy ballad “Tower Song” to the more rock-pop feel of “Comin’ to Town.”
Wainwright’s strangely poetic and profoundly female way of expressing the myriad dimensions of love, music, and self-expression recalls Mary Chapin Carpenter and Carol King, though the album does has its grating moments.
Wainwright is very talented, but I wouldn’t want her to sing me a nightly lullaby, and she can wax whiny.
Still, modern music could use some more true artists. At the risk of sounding cliché, it’s easy to lament the dearth of songwriters who can create rhythms, melodies, and harmonies that are beautiful without being over-sampled or over-trodden—especially ones that give a fresh and insightful peek into the human condition.
—Staff writer Meredith S. Steuer can be reached at email@example.com