Richard Yates called one of his heartbreaking short-story collections Eleven Kinds of Loneliness, and Tara Jane O’Neil’s latest album, A Ways Away, is nearly as mournful and plaintive and could bear the subtitle Ten Kinds of Distance. With her songs, O’Neil has distilled a lyrical, musical, and mythical approach to living and maybe dying in hard times, her protagonists reaching out for a human connection. From the title on down, O’Neil invokes space and silence, guiding you through more sonic and emotional emptiness than you might think possible in 37 minutes. Steadfastly skilled at using the recording studio to her full advantage, O’Neil uses multiple layers of strategically placed sound to chart a confident course through narratives about loneliness and longing. Bells rattle offbeat on “A New Binding,” like a baby ghost who hasn’t quite learned how to spook people with its chains. A few tracks later, that same spirit chimes back in, this time more menacing and in perfect rhythm. The lyrics here feature at least one beast and folks who howl to say hello and goodbye, and by the album’s grand finale, “The Drowning Electric,” O’Neil shrugs off her singing voice entirely, weaving one electronic hissing sound coil after another into a sonic snake pit. Her topics sometimes unnerve, and she insists, rightly and eerily, that as much cold space exists between two people as between two stars. But a star’s light reaches a receptive surface sooner or later. And she’s nothing if not patient.
- Slant is reaching more readers than ever before, but advertising revenue across the Internet is falling fast, hitting independently owned and operated publications like ours the hardest. We’ve watched many of our fellow media sites fall by the way side in recent years, but we’re determined to stick around.
We’ve never asked our readers for financial support before, and we’re committed to keeping our content free and accessible—meaning no paywalls or subscription fees. If you like what we do, however, please consider becoming a Slant patron.
You can also make a one-time donation via PayPal: