Artist: Carly Simon
Album: Playing Possum (1975)
Carly Simon’s music has always come from a moody, sentient place. Though her voice still isn’t the smoothest of the ’70s female pop collective, its throaty warmth grows on you–as does Simon’s intimate tone. Whether it’s the ex-trashing acerbity of the classic “You’re So Vain”–a biting, anti-narcissism campaign wrapped in Mick Jagger-laced, soft-rock packaging, or the delicate daydreams of more peaceable hits like “Anticipation”, the 70s songstress has always managed to bottle love-scathed percipience in song form. And while she’s nowhere near immune to heartbreak’s effects, Simon’s target of concentration is not basking in the misery–but moving on from it.
Simon’s Playing Possum album is no exception; the 1975, soft-ballad portrait certainly revolves around love…but it’s more so a cognizant, love afterthought—one that occurs with a seeming regain of clear-headedness. Tracks like “After the Storm” capture the vulnerability in a relationship (“You’re taking me to town, and you’re tossing me around/ You come on like a hurricane, I’m settling like your weathervane…”), and “Slave”—the eventual recuperation (“Gotta stop these thoughts about you, gotta learn to live without you/ Gotta find some freedom for this weary slave…”).
And while “Waterfall” is the album’s post-breakup restorative–it also concerns Simon’s momentary weakness; “You’re an old love making new contact, making those cold defenses melt/ And though lying in your arms is after the fact, once again I’m feeling like I never left”, she croons temptedly. As Simon continues to feel the pull towards her heartbreak assailant, a soft and dreamy flute (along with the soft echo of James Taylor’s ‘ah’s) trickles over the acoustic-and-drum instrumental–emanating a ‘waterfall’ feel itself.
The effect of the track is familiarity, an ode to love’s emotional twists-and-turns—but in traditional Carly Simon style—a very icy one at that.