Moving Through Grief with Rat Tally’s ‘In My Car’

In My Car is an album that documents the movement and geography of loneliness and grief that follow you around, regardless of where you are. There is a lingering reflection in each song, a testament to the inevitable, symbiotic relationship that transpires when you haunt a place and when that place haunts you back.

FF2 Guest Post by Yoana Tosheva

In My Car is the debut album of Rat Tally (the project of singer-songwriter Addy Harris). A Chicago native, Addy has also lived in Boston, Colorado, and LA, and all these cities hold space on this album. Each city presents a relic of a life that unfurls, that scatters about, that won’t let you forget. The album is a reflective indie rock project that does not waste any time building intimacy; it immediately invites you to fold into the train of thought that tracks its mind-maps around people and places, all located somewhere out of reach.

Within the second song of the record — “Spinning Wheel” — we get some insight into the complex relationship that grief has with home and distance. Each verse builds into the warbling crescendo of the chorus, and by the end, Addy’s voice is up against the drums as the song strains into itself with nowhere else to go. She sings, “I miss New England / the smell of summer in Boston / and living in a vacuum / where getting older was fun / and so were you.” There is an attempt to make sense of time and space here, an attempt to order time in linearity, in order to integrate the abundance of selves that we have born.

Everyone has their own New England, their own summer in Boston, and Addy adeptly pulls at these strings while illustrating her own story. 

Remembering and missing the smell of summer is always already a reminder of a sweeter time. Everyone has their own New England, their own summer in Boston, and Addy adeptly pulls at these strings while illustrating her own story. The album continues this way, making the private and personal a public occurrence. The specificity and poetically confessional nature of the lyrics unfold, and you notice another, sharper blade with each subsequent listen.

“Zombies” opens with “I get the urge to curl up in bed in Chicago / try to get back what I lost in Colorado.” The album continues to trace a map across the United States. Going back and forth, getting confused about what location you need or want, and what spaces you have outgrown is something equally scary as it is liberating. The song begins softly, as many of the songs on the record do, but continues to build up into a crescendo with the chant “I don’t wanna be here anymore,” that does not break, but rather swells before dissipating. This leaves the listener wondering if they are somehow personally responsible to do something about the admission.

The spaces in the album are all locations that Addy has occupied, but now does not, making it a puzzle, a guessing game of figuring out where she actually resides. There is a displacement, a liminal nature fabricated in the songs in this way that makes them unpinnable. Everything is a map to a home that does not exist in the current moment, a memory so real you can almost hold it. But “almost” is the operative word. In a way, this tracing of grief across spaces is integral to the act of getting older, especially for those of us that are all too familiar with being transplanted.

A violin swoons in the background and Addy finger picks her guitar, but aside from this the production is sparse, carried by her voice and its echo.

Moments of stillness on the album are rare, but when they do occur, they are equally, if not more, biting. Such is the song “Prettier,” in which Addy confesses, “I got so sad I couldn’t eat / and when you finally left / I could’ve died right there in the bedsheets.” The song itself is also perhaps the most still song on the record in terms of instrumentation and sonic landscape. A violin swoons in the background and Addy finger picks her guitar, but aside from this the production is sparse, carried by her voice and its echo. There is a cocoon that sadness creates, one that is comfortable and warm, which this song captures. The inability to move when you stop, even for a second, is gathered up in this song. It captures the difficulty of wading out of the quicksand, out of the bedsheets.

The thesis of the album is nestled throughout, but perhaps echoes loudest in the second to last song, “Mount Auburn Cemetery.” This song describes a cemetery Addy had gone to in Boston as looking like “a scene before jumping cold out of a long dream / built like a labyrinth / guilt at the center of it.” Again, the inexhaustible tracing of personal history continues, most lucidly gathered in this idea of a life “built like a labyrinth” with something rotten at the center of it.

The song is another one of the softer, quieter spaces on the record, almost a whisper, the way you inadvertently seem to revert to a quiet way of speaking in sacred spaces. She pays respect to her past selves, to these spaces she once roamed, to the person she used to be, singing “if we got lost, we’d climb the tower and look from the top / Just like how I still feel myself at twenty climbing through me / I don’t think she’s ever leaving.” Even in all this movement, there are still all the younger versions of the self, stored in the body, who remember all the bumps in the road and all the wrong turns.

The closing of the album feels like a chapter ending in the middle of the book, not like the last line of a novel. 

In all of its tracing, the album, of course, does not make its way quite to the center of the labyrinth, the root of everything. That is because this is impossible. The closing of the album feels like a chapter ending in the middle of the book, not like the last line of a novel. This is not new or original, but sometimes we forget that this is life, and nothing ever truly wraps up nicely. It just cycles back around. The medicine of the songs is not in their strain towards center, but in their attempts to archive the spaces and time that have been, in order to know a little better, perhaps, what to do at the next bend in the road.

© Yoana Tosheva (12/9/22) – Special for FF2 Media ®

LEARN MORE/DO MORE

Visit Our Culture to read an interview with Addy Harris.

Visit Bandcamp to listen to Rat Tally or to buy their music and merch.

Follow Rat Tally on Instagram and Twitter @rat_tally.

CREDITS & PERMISSIONS

Featured Photo:  Rat Tally album cover via bandcamp.

Tags: Addy Harris, chicago, Debut Album, In My Car, indie, music, Rat Tally, Yoana Tosheva

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Yoana Tosheva is an artist, a writer, and an immigrant. She graduated from Loyola University Chicago with a BA in English and Art History. Her poetry and essays have been published in Sixty Inches From Center, West Trade Review, Sunlight Press, Red Fez, Constellate Literary Journal and elsewhere. When she is not writing or painting, you can find her in the pit at a show, reading a book, starting another project she likely won't have time to finish, or oversharing. Yoana is most interested in the collective and personal archival nature of music, making this the focus of much of her work.
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