Sometimes – no, always – when we neglect crucial parts of ourselves, they inevitably come rushing out at some point. Those neglected traits and emotions are what Canadian singer-songwriter Janel Rae covers in her piano-studded, sweeping soundscape of a single “Sometimes” – check it out on YouTube here:
Mournful, introspective, and ultimately cathartic, “Sometimes” begins with the sound of broken glass being swept up off the floor. The sound of glass will become crucial throughout the song’s cascading narrative. ‘I spilled a jar of jam on the carpet/ And I can’t remove the stain/ Now when I look down, it reminds me of the fight we had that day,’ Rae sings.
The perspective then shifts from the narrator alone in her home to the narrator in relationship with someone else. We hear a distorted voice abstractly representative of one’s greater shadow in counter-harmony to Rae’s honeyed vocals. ‘I suppressed you for four years now/And it’s making me anxious,’ she confesses in song, explaining that it’s “what happens to the voice as it’s being suppressed and on the verge of breaking through.”
Suddenly, the song builds to a crescendo. ‘Sometimes I want to scream so loud/ People start running/ Punching beds to get it out/ Just to feel something.’ A glass breaks against a wall, and Rae repeats the line about wanting to scream so loud. The song slows again and meanders from solitude to relationship to solitude until the narrator is alone again, and we hear the sound from the beginning, the sweeping up of glass.
Written in one improvisatory gust, “Sometimes” is based on Rae’s personal experience of getting in touch with her own emotions after many years of denial. “Growing up I found myself playing the peace-keeper, the listener, too busy to engage with the other sides of myself,” she recalls. “When I moved from Kelowna to Toronto, to go to college, I met my anger for the first time and I called this period of my life ‘my wreckage’… And I enjoyed it.”
It’s a song that’s much greater than the sum of its parts. “’Sometimes’ is more than a broken love song,” Rae reveals. “It’s a mourning for my younger self, and a claiming of one’s discovered internal landscape.” Which is reflected in the wide array, as well as the cinematic nature, of the sounds that appear in “Sometimes.”
“I wanted to twist the voices, smash the glass, and bend the instruments to capture a body of anxiety hovering in the singer’s shadow,” Rae explains. “The chorus comes in with a field of voices to join the singer: these feelings are not rare; these thoughts do not live in one life. I wanted anyone to feel like they could turn this on and yell these words.”
Born in Kelowna, BC, Janel Rae has been performing and creating music since she was five. Now pursuing her passions in Toronto, after graduating with a Governor General’s award from The Randolph College for Performing Arts, Janel has released her second album, Dinner With Stranger, and continues directing music videos, acting in indie films, and teaching voice and song creation.
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