Regular readers will recognize this artist from my Girls that Ache article (here) from a year ago. Tift is back with third album Another Country, a departure musically marked by a certain resignation and loss of hope. The title reflects both her ex-pat life in France and her departure from the “country” music that’s defined her career thus far. Once a poster-girl (with Neko Case) for alt-country, she has moved to adult-contemporary fair here, which is too bad. That’s a packed category not noted for rewarding understated, smart lyrics or delicate vocals, both of which Country has in spades. What it doesn’t have is a surplus of hooks or melodies that stick with you, meaning you’ve got to work a little to get into these gems.
But some gems are there. "Keep You Happy", a follow-up to "Supposed to Make You Happy" off Ramble Rose, is a gorgeous song of heartbreaking realizations with perfect, lilting vocals. She sings, “Day breaks of loneliness. I’d weather all of this if I could find a place where I’d Keep you happy.” "Broken", an obvious bid for radio-viability (and first single), is another keeper, as is "Hopes to High" and "I Know What I’m Looking For". Still, it’s said that the great artists make us identify with their personal pain by universalizing it. Overall, Merritt is too trapped within her disappointment and pain to worry about us, and it shows. The lyrics are tight and descriptive, but after awhile she’s like Favreau’s character in Swingers. Quit whining already and either go back or move on. Hopefully Tift will find a good place before album four.