The Weakerthans: Sun in an Empty Room

I have already spoken at length about my admiration for The Weakerthans, but I left out a song that has really grown on me with repeated listening. Sun in an Empty Room from their Reunion Tour album is a classic example of the band’s ability to approach a story obliquely, leaving it up to the listern to decide what’s actually happening.

I can only speak to my interpretation, and it is not supported by the official music video. I hear this song, and I see a couple –once a happy couple– who took a chance and lived together, only to see their relationship fall apart. They decide to go their separate ways, and when their happy home has returned to its empty shell, this song follows, both philosphical and flippant, understanding and stubborn. The Weakerthans are a band that asks you to understand them on their own terms, and I listen to this song and beg the fates I never have to deal with this situation.

Now that the furniture’s returning to its goodwill home
With dishes and last week’s paper
Rumors and elections,
Crosswords, our unending wars
The black on our fingers smeared the ink on every door pulled shut
Now that the last month’s rent is scheming with the damage deposit

Take this moment to decide
(sun in an empty room)

If were meant it, if we tried
(sun in an empty room)

Or felt around for far too much
(sun in an empty room)

For things that accidentally touch
(sun in an empty room)

Hands that we nearly hold with pennies for the GST
The shoulders we lean our shoulders into on the subway, mutter an apology
The shins that we kick beneath the table, that reflexive cry
The faces we meet one awkward beat too long and terrified

Know the things we need to say
(sun in an empty room)

And said already anyways
(sun in an empty room)

By parallelograms of light
(sun in an empty room)

On walls that we repainted white
(sun in an empty room)

Sun in an empty room
Sun in an empty room
Sun in an empty room
Sun in an empty room
Sun in an empty room
Sun in an empty room
Sun in an empty room
Sun in an empty room

Take eight minutes and divide
(sun in an empty room)

By ninety million lonely miles
(sun in an empty room)

Watch his shadow cross the floor
(sun in an empty room)

We don’t live here anymore
(sun in an empty room)

– – –

“Know the things we need to say, And said already anyways, By parallelograms of light, on walls that we repainted white. Take eight minutes and divide By ninety million lonely miles. Watch his shadow cross the floor. We don’t live here anymore.”

That speaks to me on a level I hope to never experience in my own life. Imagine the end of a live-in relationship where the last thought that goes through your mind is that it takes eight minutes for the light from the sun to reach your abandoned home, once so full of hope and promise. What an existential thought, that those photons have wasted their long journey at unimaginable speeds across incredible distances to illuminate your failure. Visualizing that leaves me breathless.

As much as I enjoy this song, I would like to advance the notion to any pianists among my readers: This particular song is crying out for an unaccompanied piano cover. It’s in a minor key (if my untrained ears don’t deceive me), and is steeped in pathos. As it stands, the guitar is distant and respectful, and the drums are minimal and simply functional. This is a lyrically driven song, begging for someone to sit down at a piano, slow it down even further, and just bemoan the situation handed down to the singer.

This song speaks to me with a message I never want to receive personally. It further cements The Weakerthans among my favourite bands. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. It is my privilege to share it with you. Cheers.

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