“I may know the word
but not say it
this may be the time
but I might waste it
this may be the hour
something move me
someone prove me wrong
before night comes
with indifference

If I’m on my knees
I’m begging now
if I’m on my knees
groping in the dark
I’d be praying for deliverance
from the night into the day
but it’s all gray here
but it’s all gray to me

I recognize the walls inside
I recognize them all
I’ve paced between them
chasing demons down
until they fall
in fitful sleep
enough to keep their strength
enough to crawl
into my head
with tangled threads
they riddle me to solve
Again & again & again…”
~I May Know The Word
Natalie Merchant, Tigerlily

In a serious throwback to my childhood introductions to alt-rock and female songwriters, I’ve been listening to Natalie Merchant with a fervour. It came back to me when people were afraid of a giant earthquake hitting LA and I remembered what a great song San Andreas Fault is (really great!), but the rest of her work is also spectacular.

The 1995 solo hit album “Tigerlily” has something quintessentially SoCal about it, with willowy, atmospheric keys and floating guitars. Merchant has an ethereal quality, but she’s hardly delicate, and the meanings and messages she tackles on “Tigerlily” certainly resonate with me more at 28 than they did at 10 or 12; this album is so full of heartbreak and thoughtful observations about those who struggle.  This track in particular, “I May Know the Word,” looks inward, and it has a bluesy feel to match its self-reckoning.  As a girl I may moved with this these themes, seen something in them that mirrored my own little loneliness, but these words now have a weight to them that they didn’t before, and I know just how heavy it can be. But the beauty of the album that drew me in back then is just as moving, and just as mysterious.

Thanks to YouTube playlists, I’ve also been really into “Life Is Sweet” which is a wonderful, haunting song for pondering the highs and lows of life. It begins with a mournful piano and builds to close with a string symphony, and there’s exquisite details about the perils of family fortune and a call to individual action. It’s a good song for today, when the world feels unsafe and uncertain and fuzzy around the edges.

“But don’t cry
Know the tears’ll do no good
So dry your eyes

They told you life is hard
It’s misery from the start
It’s dull and slow and painful

I tell you life is sweet
In spite of the misery
There’s so much more
Be grateful.

~Life Is Sweet
Natalie Merchant, Ophelia