In 2014, singer-songwriter Brandy Clark burst onto the music scene with the release of her incredible debut album, 12 Stories. Since then, she has been one of the genre’s most critically lauded, yet commercially underappreciated artists. Clark is seemingly the type of artist who thrives on making art, rather than seeking the approval of the mainstream. She makes music because she has to, and nowhere is this more evident than on Your Life Is A Record, out today (March 6). It’s truly a work of art that we, as music fans, should be thankful for.
What Clark has always done best, as both a writer and an artist, is tell stories, and Your Life Is A Record is truly a collection of those such stories. Unfortunately for Clark, most of the stories here tell the tale of a breakup. Speaking to NPR, Clark revealed that much of the album was inspired by the ending of her own long-term relationship, a case of art imitating life. “I went through a breakup of a 15-year relationship. And my therapy on an everyday basis is to go in and write songs, so I couldn’t help but write songs about that, even if they were somebody else’s idea.”
The album was produced by super-producer Jay Joyce and veers far away from the trappings of the trendy bombastic Nashville sound. Instead, the record has an organic, acoustic sound. With only a handful of musicians joined occasionally by the Memphis Strings & Horns, the songs have the freedom to breathe within the music, taking on a life of their own as they’re stripped bare to the listeners.
As mentioned, the album is very much a breakup album, ebbing and flowing through the different emotions that accompany the dissolution of a relationship. On the heartbreaking “Can We Be Strangers,” Clark laments, “I don’t want to want you/ I don’t want to love you/ I don’t want to hate you/ Or even care enough to/ We struck out as lovers/ We struck out as friends/ Is it too much to ask/ Could we be strangers again?”
There’s “Pawn Shop,” which hooks you immediately, as Clark opens with, “She pushed her wedding ring across the counter/ And said, ‘tell me it’s worth more than I think?'” The song then tells the tale of a wedding ring pawned at a shop, in order for its previous owner to begin her new life.
“Bigger Boat” featuring Randy Newman offers a moment of levity on the album, tackling politics, the news, and the constant scares that seem to infiltrate daily life. “You can’t eat this/ You can’t eat that,” They muse. “Is there anything that ain’t giving cancer to rats?” Of the song, Clark told NPR, “I think you can get away with a lot with humor. I think you can say a lot of really serious things. If you do it with a little bit of humor, I think, at least for me, I can often get the point across better and not divide.” And as the 2020 election nears closer, this song couldn’t be more timely, as the pair snarkily sings, “We can’t agree on who should be captain, so we can’t keep this thing afloat.”
Offering a similar levity is “Long Walk,” telling the tale of a “middle age mean girl” who Clark would like to see “take a long walk off a real short pier.” The song is the perfect kiss-off song to that annoying busybody who just can’t seem to mind her own business. The lyrics here are brilliant, as Clark remarks, “I hear it’s cold as you/ At the bottom of the ocean.”
Other highlights include the album’s first single, “I’ll Be The Sad Song,” “Bad Car,” and “Who You Thought I Was.” On the latter, Clark tells of all the things she wants to be now that she’s no longer in a relationship, in comparison to the things she wanted before. “I used to want to be Elvis,” She admits longingly as the song segues through the protagonist’s character growth. “Now I want to be honest/ I want to be better/ Now I want to be the me I should’ve been when we were together/ I want to be at least almost close to worth your love/ I want to be who you thought I was.”
Meanwhile, “Bad Car” tells the sad story of a car that’s bound for the junkyard. “I know it’s a bad car, I know it’s a piece of junk,” Clark sings before recalling the car’s finer moments and its role as a trusty companion through the harder moments of life. “It witnessed all those tears nobody ever saw me cry/ When I broke the law through Arkansas to tell my dad goodbye/ Didn’t get there pretty, but it got me there that day/ So I’m a little sad to see it roll away.”
That bittersweet emotion found on “Bad Car” is a theme that truly permeates this album, and no one does bittersweet better than Brandy Clark. While each of her records have truly been masterful, there’s something truly next level on Your Life Is A Record.
Clark will hit the road in support of Your Life is a Record, with a stop at New York City’s Bowery Ballroom on April 28. See a full list of tour dates here.
1. Pawn Shop
2. Can We Be Strangers
3. Who You Thought I Was
Your Life Is A Record is now available everywhere you buy or stream music. Take a listen below and check out more new recently released music on our “New Country Music” playlist. Be sure to give the playlist a follow for your weekly new country music fix.
Your Life Is A Record Track List
1. I’ll Be the Sad Song
2. Long Walk
3. Love is a Fire
4. Pawn Shop
5. Who You Thought I Was
7. Bigger Boat (feat. Randy Newman)
8. Bad Car
9. Who Broke Whose Heart
10. Can We Be Strangers
11. The Past is the Past
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