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A Grimly Lilting Ode to Loneliness

In its opening moments, The Everybodyfields' "Lonely Anywhere" sounds as sweetly unassuming as ballads get: As a gently plucked acoustic guitar sets the scene, Jill Andrews slowly and tentatively offers a sweet-sounding apology. But Andrews travels another direction before she's even finished her first sentence: "I'm sorry you're angry / Goodnight and goodbye."

Not surprisingly, a sense of resignation envelops "Lonely Anywhere" like a fog, but the song is no mere downer. A sort of grimly lilting epic, the song builds incrementally, at a pace that seems almost glacial. As Andrews and partner Sam Quinn introduce more lovely and dramatic elements — a piano, a slide guitar, some unobtrusive strings, Quinn's vocal harmonies — "Lonely Anywhere" swells into an affecting rumination on the ways a bad relationship is worse than no relationship at all.

Andrews may be matter-of-fact about love's bitter end — "I can be lonely here / I can be lonely anywhere" — but "Lonely Anywhere" doesn't sugarcoat the emotional weight of a relationship gone toxic. Instead, it slowly piles on all the melancholy the song can bear, one subtly tear-jerking ingredient at a time.

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Stephen Thompson is a writer, editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he speaks into any microphone that will have him and appears as a frequent panelist on All Songs Considered. Since 2010, Thompson has been a fixture on the NPR roundtable podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which he created and developed with NPR correspondent Linda Holmes. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the NPR Music video series Tiny Desk Concerts, in which musicians perform at Boilen's desk. (To be more specific, Thompson had the idea, which took seconds, while Boilen created the series, which took years. Thompson will insist upon equal billing until the day he dies.)