One of the greatest Australian albums revisited, a decade on - because grief and joy and loss and memories, like this record, are timeless.
Morning In the Bowl Of Night (Raoul/Inertia)
These things I know to be true: sad songs make you cry; yearning songs can remind you what it feels like to hurt; loss is universally understood and never disappears.
And there are always plenty of ballad-heavy albums around which can fulfil the desire to feel or share those emotions. Lord knows I've wallowed in them many a time and will again.
But the great albums of heartbreak are the ones which invoke a wider and much more complex range of emotions: incorporating sadness, yearning and loss but also the shared pleasure of memory, the anger of regret, the celebration of minutiae (for what are our lives but accumulated minutiae?) and the tentative steps into the future.
Good albums do that in the songs; great albums do that at a deeper level, in something beyond words and music. They simultaneously open up an ache and soothe it. That is what Lisa Miller's Morning In the Bowl Of Night does.
This is in one sense an album drawn from, infused with, the death of her mother. But there is so much more to it than that. It's also about adulthood, responsibility and memory, about faith and its substitutes, about laughter and joy. About living.
And it's all done with such grace and simplicity, with such intimacy and honesty - lyrical and musical - that it insinuates itself into your life completely.
There are moments of quiet excellence. Such A Find, so airy and delicate, with its 1950s strings and Miller in angelic mode; Lucky Dip Roses, with its mandolin and swaying rhythm underneath Miller's front-of-the-picture vocals; Amused & Confused, with its wry observations of a certain type of pop star appropriately matched with wry banjo.
There are songs which are, without even a hint of excess, utterly devastating. Motherless prises your heart open with exquisite gentleness; the lightly skipping Snowman detonates in you hours later. And then there's the willowy Point Ormond, the album's centrepiece.
It begins "it's been six months of a life sentence/and it just keeps getting harder/harder to mention your name" and later tears you up with "I wear your old shirt/shampoo bottle in the shower/kept your last crossword/word of the day was overpowered".
But it packs the most velvet gloved punch in the understated chorus where Miller sings oh so gently, "why don't you get off the bus/why don't you just come back home to us".
This record is the finest thing Lisa Miller has done. It will keep speaking to you, moving you, long beyond this year. It's why it is unquestionably a great album.
LISA MILLER – MORNING IN THE BOWL OF NIGHT ON SPOTIFY
LISA MILLER – MORNING IN THE BOWL OF NIGHT ON APPLE MUSIC