Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Mike Gentry
It's that humble gamble that we all make - that we will be something special and essential to someone else. They might not be looking for it, but then, WHAM, there we are and nothing's the same, ever again. The shine of such an occurrence wears off. It softens and becomes something more mundane than we'd like it to be. We go from the top of the mountain to somewhere out on the plains, where you could drive for miles and never see another person, where you run the risk of breaking down completely and being forgotten about entirely, where you've never felt such hollow abandonment. You find relief in the wisps of memories and you keep moving, in spite of the sadness, not knowing if that will create more or diminish what you're already harboring.
Joshua Hanson, of the Los Angeles-based group Yellow Red Sparks, prefers to stay ambivalent about the conclusions as well. It's just that nothing seems to offer the kind of clarity that we would ever hang our hats on, so we just hang on to our hats. He creates people who want the good life, but there's no sure way to arrive at it. It's a circuitous path that's going to lead them anywhere and, even with padding on the most jagged of curves, it's going to be rough going. Hanson sings, "You sharpen me quickly/You sharpen me well/You soften me quickly/You soften me well," and we're sure that such a manipulation, or such a manicuring - however you'd like to look at it, will leave a soul skeptical. He makes us understand that there's hardly any difference in wanting to "burn in your heart" and the sensation of heartburn. You get sharpened and you get softened and you're liable to get sharpened again, before you know it.
Those aren't the things that wear you down. It's that nebulous feeling of not knowing if the gamble's ever going to pay off. You could promise to make someone happy and that might not be enough. Or, it might be that you can't deliver on that. Most people can't, or they can't do it for long. You can buy someone that house up on the hill that they've always wanted, but that's just a house up on a hill. The contents of the house are going to have a greater say on happiness. As Hanson sings, "The hardest part is learning to love, when you've never been," and these songs of light despair and beautiful scenery are telling accomplices.