Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Mike Gentry
At least one of Jolie Holland's songs puts the Texas-born singer in the mood and the state that she finds herself constantly reeling from in her music. Where she wakes up is in a pit of despair, wondering how or if she can live without the one who's just left her. A pit of despair is worse than the wrong side of the bed, way worse. It will taint everything touched during the day, assuring that nothing will get much better - there will be little to no improvement. Holland is a hypochondriac with very specific particulars attached to her mania. As a lyricist, she's almost positive that love is going to kill her. She's sure that either the good or the horrific aspects of love are going to stop her heart from pumping and her breathing to slow, choking her down into an immobile lump of bones and organs, from which there's no returning. Love sounds so fucking serious and deceptive, conniving and dastardly in Holland's beautiful, beautiful songs. She has an endless capacity for all of the warring factions that are involved with what seems to be her normal, everyday life. It seems to rarely get cheery, but it always maintains a level of disheveled exhaustion that doesn't stray from pretty prose and sentiments that could be loved, in spite of all the negativity. It's as if she never gives up on it, while always sounding as if she were done for. She takes knives to proverbial wrists, to the scene outside the window, to majestic mornings, to lovely nights, to hope and to despair, letting it all just lie out there on floor, a full display of all the components that she's wrestling with, trying to smooth out the bumps and the turbulence. She lets the sunshine rests on her. She lets the moonshine rest on her in the throes of these episodes, not acknowledging its light, brightness or any of its lucent powers, just letting it fall and her mind sorts it all out in a poetic scatter. She gives it all the freedom to paint however it wants to paint, with splatters, sharp lines, violence, compassion or with eruptions that only mean something in code. Her songs are butterflies and swords. They are sharp enough to cut through bone as if it were soft butter and they're soft enough to fall asleep upon instantly - lullabies for those terrorized by all of the discrepancies that love dishes. There's no telling how much of her love is left to give as it sounds as if she's had it torn, taped and torn again so many times that it's losing some of its original properties, getting fuzzier and less distinguished as the years have passed, making it more mysterious and difficult. She sings to a former lover, "I'm flirting with the words/I'm talking to the weeds/Look what you've done to me," and says that she feels like a queen down at the bus stop on the street, sounding harmed and haunted by all that transpired - another day starting off on the wrong foot. The birds of paradise are taller than she is, Holland sings, and the moments of drizzling sadness are plentiful, providing her with all of the nurture and nourishment that she could possibly need to keep going. There is no medication for what tends to ail her and that's only so unfortunate.