Wow, That’s A Good Song: Darren Hanlon, “Folk Insomnia”

I’ve been a big Darren Hanlon fan for the last five years, ever since I saw him open for the Magnetic Fields at the Variety Playhouse in Atlanta, and it’s been an ongoing source of wistfulness that I haven’t seen him since. His tours in the United States are rare. Hanlon is Australian, and my understanding is that while he’s moderately well known there, he’s stayed mostly under the radar here.

Fortunately for those of us in the US, Hanlon is now working with Yep Roc on this side of the world, and his fourth studio album, I Will Love You At All, was released on September 21. Hanlon’s music is the kind that requires attention — his great strength is his imagery and wordplay, and he’s very skilled at creating a sense of frank, unadorned intimacy that’s elegant because it’s simple. Some of my favorite songs of his include “Punk’s Not Dead” (about a housemate with whom he didn’t have much in common), “The Unmade Bed” (about learning to be a grownup), “Eli Wallach” (about the lessons we can learn from Tuco in The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly), and “A to Z” (about courtship, from beginning to end).

As for the new album, though — I like it. My favorite song on it is easily “Folk Insomnia”. Conveniently, Australia’s Triple J radio station filmed his studio appearance of the song and were kind enough to put it up on YouTube.

And just when you need them most
Some of your friends have disappeared
And others started acting weird
And you’re left on your bed with an awful feeling
Till you’ve learned by heart all the cracks in the ceiling
And you think ‘Oh god, I just related to that awful love song I always hated’
And the past it all becomes distorted like it was broke before you bought it
Remember, you’re the one who paid
Pull the pin out of the hand grenade
It’s up to you to leave your room
But don’t forget to bring your spade

A little like Shel Silverstein in the wordplay, and a little like the Folksmen from A Mighty Wind in his gentle send-up of the form, but mostly like himself. Darren Hanlon is currently touring around the United States for the next month at least — although, sadly, mostly in the Midwest and East Coast so I’m SOL here in Denver. If you live in the vicinity, go. He’s a delight.

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