Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered and mastered by Sam Patlove
One of the worst feelings that a person can have is the feeling of being a long way from home, or wherever it is that they feel like they need to be, and having no way of getting there quickly. It could be that a business trip takes you away from your family and you're stuck somewhere hotel-ish and buttoned down for a week and you're already homesick for your kids' hugs after 12 hours away. It's a torturous sensation and it makes you feel like you're losing all parts of your sanity. It's just flying out the window as you conduct your affairs on behalf of the company - lunch meetings and handshaking, things you have little interest in. It could be that you're one of these traveling musicians and the lure of the road, its necessary component to your livelihood, drags you away from your loved ones regularly. Though they understand the necessity of it all, the toll that it takes on them over time hardly ever ends well. It puts a big and mocking hole right in the bottom of the boat and when the runs of dates out playing shows gets longer and longer and continues on into an infinite period of time, where there's no way out, something has to give or it all just gives out.
What's left, when it all gives out is something very similar to the feelings that Will Johnson and Sarah Jaffe have been writing into their songs for years. It's that painful feeling of having your hands tied, everyone you know - including yourself - suffering through the uncomfortable conditions and there not being a good goddamned thing anyone can do about it. It's the life that was chosen and it's the life that has to be seen through. There's always more thickness in the thin times that come out in Johnson and Jaffe songs, the two singers being so masterful with the wonderful complexities of interpersonal relationships. Those that they seem to be most enamored with are the ones that sound as if they'd be healthy and golden if they were just tended to more closely, if the two people were just together more. The longing and the need could just about kill you when it's coming out of Johnson's mouth. It tugs at you with puppy dog eyes and it pulls you under so easily.
A song like "Just To Know What You've Been Dreaming," shows a man curious and almost totally in the dark. He's willing to offer so much to the woman he's in love with, just to know what she's thinking and feeling, concluding that he has no idea. He's not around. He can't possibly know. He sings, "You know when you're not around/Nothing makes a sound." It seems to answer the question of what he thinks about when she's not around. He's just hoping that the answers are all the same coming from her, though there's a gut feeling they aren't. The need to get back into her house and arms makes it feel like they've been apart for years and there's no indication that they'll ever get reunited. The distance seems far too great. Jaffe - here playing the part of the wind whistling soulfully past the side mirrors, over and above the windshield - provides such great grief, though it comes laced with some important toughness that's sort of like nonchalance. It's as if admitting to the sorrow that the nights without hold, but adding that there's nothing much that can be done about it for this was all chosen and she's making sure that she'll be alright above all else, singing, "Until my body's a temple/Til my kisses are wicked…/I ain't in love with the world/I'm just in love with its clutter."
Will Johnson Official Site