Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Patrick Stolley
It seems that one of the biggest complaints or concerns about the winter months happens to be how desolate they make everything feel. It's the starkness of the scenery, the blinding whiteness of a snow-covered countryside, ice-packed sidewalks and air that knocks your air out of you in an exhalation of gaseous cotton that could be sliced up like turkey, that drags happy people into the doldrums and off to some kind of stir crazy madness. The lightest of animals tramping across the ground makes a grinding crunch upon the snow cover and the sound, the movements - all tense and huddled, bound together tautness and a sacred hatred for it - steals away a piece of our equilibrium and soul. We wish for a time that will be rid of such awful cold and depression-inducing weather. We're always on the lookout for an escape, to somewhere and a state more inviting.
Suzannah Johannes, a singer and songwriter from Lawrence, Kansas, crafts winters and these black holes, pits of coldness that cannot be fought. They can't be rewritten or cast in a more favorable light. They are just these barren, but rich examples of what it means to be caught up in such emotions that tend to leave you feeling as if your skin was burning in the wrong way, stinging from the fingers of a deep chill. They tend to leave you feeling as if you can't see anything but what's directly in front of you, but even that's washed out a little. Johannes and her gorgeous and plaintive voice of such tender sadness and beauty, makes minor dramas sound as if they could knock the planet off its axis - the seriousness of the matters being so weighty and debilitating. She sings, "The coolness of your breath warms deep in my chest," on the heartbreaking newer song "I Kept The Life That You Left," a song about the aftereffects of a relationship going down the tubes and what the person on the shorter end of the stick is stuck holding. It's mostly just a fist - her own curled in fingers and nails, holding only onto the heat that they alone can generate.
There's no longer an option and the life that involved two people just involves one now - the half that's worse off, that's reeling from emptiness. And yet Johannes has a remarkable way of making that emptiness feel like a thousand bucks. It's not like that emptiness will ever feel like a million bucks, but it's not feeling like ten bucks and for that, the wounded lover could be thankful for. It feels like a situation that has a modestly hopeful twist to it, one that depends on the fragrant flowers and the future of rosy cheeks with dimples on them and possible laugh lines. Johannes makes the most of such drafty scenarios - those that leave behind such invisible wreakage.