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Welcome back to the Elvis Costello Song Of The Week®, our ongoing attempt to drive you ever-deeper into the catalog of the musician who most embodies the Trunkworthy mission. Elvis has spent almost 40 years using every means at his disposal to turn his fans on to the artists, songs, and genres that inspire him. For that reason (and, well, because we can’t think of another artist who has written 500 songs as good as the 500 he’s written), we’re making this our humble attempt to return the favor to an artist who’s inspired us so much for so many years.
The week’s pick: “This House Is Empty Now” from Painted From Memory (1998)
Gary Stewart: This may be one of the best songs about divorce/separation ever. The elegance of its pop arrangement is equally matched by the intensity of a truly consequential adult situation. It has all the grandeur of Sinatra and the directness of his In The Wee Small Hours. Like most of Painted From Memory, “This House Is Empty Now” is as emotionally naked as anything from the singer-songwriter confessional breakup canon à la Richard and Linda Thompson’s Shoot Out The Lights and Bob Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks. The sophisticated arrangement does nothing to blunt the painful situation the listener is experiencing with the singer. I’d love to see Adele take this on when she makes 44 (though hopefully not from personal experience).
David Gorman: The end of my first adult relationship—the kind that requires the unraveling of intertwined lives—occurred just before Painted From Memory was released, and “This House Is Empty Now” instantly rendered my trusty old stack of breakup songs childish and obsolete. Even George Jones’ “The Grand Tour,” which gorgeously covers the same square footage, now felt oddly detached to me. “Now I fill my life up with all I can to deaden this sensation.” “Were you really so unhappy there? You never said.” “Now all of our friends must choose, who they will favor, who they will lose.” It felt like relating to those lyrics at all ushered me into adulthood. Hearing them set to such a luxurious orchestration reinforced the feeling that, like it or not, I’d entered the grown-up world of consequences. Thankfully, it’s also a world where songs like this one are waiting to ease the transition.