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Ratsliveonnoevilstar 2003 e.p. by Annie Clark (St. Vincent)

Intrigued to find this formative effort by the one and only Annie Clark from 2003.  This would’ve preceded her time in both Sufjan Steven’s band as well as the Polyphonic Spree.  It’s not polished by any means but still there are some fantastic moments. 

 Too many of us forget that our musical heroes have had to work incredibly hard to become as fully realised as they are now.  Often there are many false starts and abandoned concepts discarded along the way towards excellence. 

 Here’s the tracklisting:

1. “Bliss”
2. “Circle”
3. “Count (revisited)”

E.,
são 3h da manhã e eu não consigo dormir há dias. eu sinto o cheiro do café que tomei às 18h e deixei a xícara jogada no chão. é sempre muito difícil respirar sabia? mas parar é muito mais.
meu quarto tá uma bagunça irritante de olhar, você surtaria se entrasse aqui, tem muita guimba esparramada e papéis, você sempre reclamou dos meus papéis. eu lembro de uma vez que brigávamos e você me jogou na cara de que eu era puta e não escritora, que meu trabalho era com o cu e não com as mãos. mas era também com as mãos. rs.
você parecia me odiar na maioria das vezes mas dentro de mim só havia amor por ti. só há. e não me importo se me odeia. eu não me importo com nada.
lena, aonde você está agora?
eu sinto sua falta, sabia?
sinto falta das tuas gritarias e do modo como me abraçava. mesmo com tanto ódio eu sentia teu amor quando pairava esses olhos negros sobre mim.
lena, eu sinto sua falta.

fique viva.

P.

Breathe: A Little Bump in the Road

This isn’t an essay (I’m still deciding what to write next) - it’s just me thinking out loud, trying to work out a potential difficulty I encountered, while doing some reading.

-

On December 5th 2007, having not blogged since 9th November, Taylor posted on MySpace that she’d written a song with Colbie Caillat:

‘And, now I want to direct your attention to my default picture (and no, I did not photoshop her in.) It’s Colbie Caillat! She was doing a show in Nashville and I just happened to be in town, so we got together and wrote a killer song. It’s really cool, and I can’t wait for you to hear it.’

I would suggest that the song-writing session must have taken place sometime between 20th and 25th November – at least these are the only dates on which they were both free during November/ early December.

Taylor had a concert in Nashville on 19th November. Her next appearance was in Lexington, KY on 29th November. (x)

Colbie performed in Cologne on 19th November. Her next appearance was at Bush Hall in London on 26th November. (x)

I can find no record of a Colbie Caillat concert in Nashville on or around those dates, but that doesn’t necessarily mean anything. (The only mention of a concert in the city relates to 20th August, when Taylor was in Rapid City, SD. And, although Taylor’s next concert was not until the 23rd in St Paul, MN, Colbie was in St Louis, MO the next day, so a meeting in Nashville seems improbable.)

I think we can reasonably assume the song in question was Breathe – certainly Taylor later wrote about its composition:

‘I was a huge fan of Colbie’s record. When it came out, I fell in love with the way she makes music. I contacted her management right away and I asked if I could write with her and sure enough, Colbie had a date coming up in Nashville where she was going to be playing a show and she had the day off.’

From, Fearless: Cut By Cut.

Breathe is, for various reasons, widely believed to be about Emily Poe, who either left or was fired from Taylor’s band. And, among other things, the writing process was described by Taylor as a catharsis for the loss of a ‘friend.’

‘It was total therapy because I came in and I was like, ‘look one of my best friends, I’m gonna have to not see anymore and it’s not gonna be part of what I do.’

From ‘The Making of Breathe’ featurette on the Fearless Target Exclusive DVD., Part II.

We might expect then that the song was written following Emily’s departure. As it turns out, however, she did not in fact ‘leave’ the band until late December, almost a month after Breathe had been written.

Although Emily is last mentioned on Taylor’s MySpace on 2nd November, she was apparently present at Taylor’s 18th Birthday party at Lot 7 on the 13th December.

(I can’t find the pictures - the Dora the Explorer cake, I think, belongs to an earlier birthday and, perhaps, not even Taylor’s - but the name ‘Emily’ appears on Taylor’s birthday ‘wall.’)

More convincingly, Emily herself told Southern Indiana Livin’ in an interview before her 2011 wedding (entitled a Southern Indiana LOVE STORY) that:

‘The last week I was working for [Taylor], Our Song was number one.’

Our Song reached Number One on the Billboard Hot Country Songs on Taylor’s birthday and she blogged her excitement on the 17th December.

This would mean that Emily left Taylor’s employment, at the earliest, on the 14th December (and at the latest the 22nd December.)

What conclusions can we draw?

1) Breathe, is not about Emily. As much as I’d prefer this not to be the case, I have to admit that, despite the mysterious circumstances of Emily’s departure, it has always been a possibility.

The question begs however, if it isn’t about her, who on earth is it about?

It seems too much of a coincidence for Taylor to have lost two close ‘friends’ in such a short period of time and there don’t appear to be any other obvious candidates.

  Or,

2) Breathe is about Emily, only it articulates an anticipatory NOT retrospective regret.

According to the VH1 Pop-up video, Emily was fired for undisclosed reasons. Rumour suggests it was because her romantic involvement with Taylor threatened her image.

Interestingly, roughly about the same time, Taylor also parted ways with her manager, Rick Barker. He was replaced by Robert Allen, with whom she established 13 Management. This might suggest that a new marketing strategy was being devised (which was judged incompatible with a same-sex relationship) – i.e. Taylor was being preparing to embrace the title ‘America’s Sweetheart.’

Barker formally abdicated his duties after the Grammys on the 10th February 2008.

Emily, herself offers a slightly different interpretation of affairs (which doesn’t rule out the possibility that she was ‘let go,’ but implies that she was complicit in the decision):

‘[Taylor] had just started and I lived on the bus with her and her mom, and I was watching, you know deals come through. She got this deal with Verizon and instead of – you know I loved music – but I would sit there and read the contracts. I thought I really want to do this. So, when I came off the road, I pretty much went straight to law school. I love contracts.’

From the same interview as before.

I would suggest that the truth may lie somewhere in the middle – Emily wasn’t fired in so many words, but she was encouraged to pursue other interests; it was decided that it would be beneficial for both parties, if she tendered her notice or her contract was not renewed, in light of certain personal issues. Thus there was no colourful or dramatic dénouement, only a rather sad bureaucratic arrangement. (A further condition of which may well have been that she did not communicate with Taylor again.)

The advantage of this solution is that it enables Taylor to be heart-broken about Emily’s departure weeks before it finally transpired. It might also go some way towards explaining the curious language Taylor used to describe the nature of the ‘fallout’ between herself and her friend.

‘One of my best friends, I’m gonna have to not see anymore and it’s not gonna be part of what I do.’

And,

‘Because sometimes the hardest goodbye is when it’s nobody’s fault. It just has to stop.’

The tense (I’m gonna) as with the lyric ‘nothing we say is gonna save us from the fallout’ might plausibly reference something that has not yet happened, but nevertheless cannot be avoided.

It hardly sounds like an ordinary quarrel, at any rate. And, indeed, most of the other statements Taylor has made about Breathe imply that the parting was not a voluntary one.

See:

‘It’s a song about having to say goodbye to somebody. But, it never blames anybody. Sometimes that’s the most difficult part -when it’s nobody’s fault.’

From ‘Fearless: Cut by Cut’ as before.

And,

[These songs tell the story] ‘about saying goodbye to someone when you don’t want to, because you can’t breathe without them.’ (x)

-

In summary - the dates complicate things, but they don’t absolutely preclude the song from being about Emily (maybe they even go some way towards offering a truer understanding of the situation.)

Watch on amateurhourarts-blog.tumblr.com

Ryan Andrew Newson kindly donated some of his songs to my senior thesis film at Temple University.  This song closed the film and set the tone for the ending.