The Weakerthans mean a lot to me. They’re a Canadian band from Winnipeg, and they sound like home. I’m not even from Winnipeg, but I associate them with all of Canada, and I feel their music really deeply. Theirs are the records my boyfriend and I would play in his student house in undergrad while we sat on the old couches in his living room in our sweats (the kind of sweats that roofing contractors might wear on the job if it were chilly). And now when I play the albums, that’s what I remember. Their music evokes a deep sense of nostalgia in me, for … well, kind of for everything, somehow.
One song, especially, really gets me thinking about my undergrad and the times I had with my roommates in those houses we rented. The song’s called Sun in an Empty Room, and it’s about moving out of a place. It talks about the parallelograms of light on walls that [they] repainted white, and the image that brings up for me is simply perfect. You’ve stayed in this place, you’ve made so many memories, you’ve said so many things (or haven’t said so many things), and now you’re leaving, parting ways with those people you’ve lived with for however many years, and starting a very new ad very different life. And there you are, in that empty room, all the furniture gone, and it looks to big and white and just so, so vacant. And the only thing in there is the sunlight streaming in through the window, making shapes on the empty walls.
I don’t know whether this song is about two people breaking up and leaving the place they lived together or if it is, as I imagine it to be, about roommates going their separate ways. I guess it’s about whatever the listener wants it to be about, as long as it gets the feeling across. I think that you could argue either way, based on the lyrics. And it really is the lyrics that you need to pay attention to with The Weakerthans. The music is excellent, yes, but it’s the way that the lyrics fit into the music that always gets me.
Not only do the lyrics always match the tone of the music perfectly, but they’ll carry thoughts over from line to line, so that you really have to pay attention to what you’re hearing; you can’t expect that just because you’ve arrived at the end of a line of music, that you’ve also arrived at the end of a line of text. Their lyrics really reward the active listener. A lot of the songs on the albums are, to me, kind of about loss. Not necessarily of a person or a thing, but maybe about a time in your life. And it’s the fact that the passage of time is inevitable, and that endings are thus inevitable, that makes such losses so complicated. There are some songs on the album that have completely different meanings and come from very different places, but, as a whole, that’s what the album says to me.