Your Life is a Record
After two exceptional albums that mastered the art of observational storytelling, Brandy Clark reaches new heights as an artist and a songwriter by turning her gifts inward. Your Life is a Record is a deeply personal album that explores the aftermath of a relationship that has ended, with a revealing intimacy rarely seen today in mainstream country music.
The opening track establishes the album’s central conceit that a life can be contextualized as a record, with the album’s heartbreak established as the breakup tune on “I’ll Be the Sad Song.” Clark laments that she “couldn’t be your happy song but at least we had a song, so I’ll be the sad song you sing.” The most emotional moments on the album are in the same vein, providing fresh perspectives on the nature of a breakup. On “Can We Be Strangers,” Clark notes that they’ve struck out as lovers and friends, and that the only way back to peace of mind would be for them to somehow become strangers again.
The immediacy of Clark’s songwriting cuts through the treacle, with a refreshing candidness that is more about self-flagellation than pointed accusation. On “Apologies,” she acknowledges that “I broke your heart, and it breaks mine that you won’t even take my apologies…If you could forgive me, maybe I could forgive me.” She’s even more direct on “Who Broke Whose Heart,” where a balancing of the scales ends with the blunt observation that “all I know is that I loved you, so fuck the rest.”
The album ventures beyond heartbreak on occasion, and is just as successful in those endeavors. She eviscerates a gossiping neighbor on “Long Walk,” and makes a powerful appeal for national unity on the sardonic “Bigger Boat,” which features a glorious guest vocal from Randy Newman. Clark’s ability to weave a tale around the simplest of objects surfaces on “Pawn Shop,” which tells the story of a wedding ring and a guitar that have each been hocked by their respective owners. And on “Bad Car,” which was previously recorded by Terri Clark, a big chunk of a woman’s adult life is captured in details as small as the juice stains on the interior.
But the biggest reason to revisit Your Life is a Record is for the tale of love gone wrong, and Clark’s stunning insights into why and what happens next. The album closes with one of its best tracks, “The Past is the Past,” an appeal to moving on that doesn’t discount what’s been lost and gained: “This is where the past is the past, where the meant to be’s ain’t meant to last. Where maybe we can work it out turns into maybe we can’t. This is where the memories we made start catching dust in a picture frame. Where the hoping turns to knowing that there ain’t no going back.”
Relationships end, despite all of the best intentions, and you need to fully grieve them before you can move on. Your Life is a Record is an ideal companion for that journey, and the best album yet from the most remarkable singer-songwriter to emerge in the past decade.