Exploring Heartbreak on Chris Pureka's New Album

It’s been six years since Chris Pureka released her last record. Those intervening years have been a whirlwind marked by plenty of ups and downs. Her sixth album, Back in the Ring, is partly about getting back into the music scene and partly about being resilient in the face of conflict. 

“There’s a lot of feelings in it,” says Pureka, succinctly. “I hope people connect  to the music in a visceral way.”

Pureka has been playing music since she was 16 but won a devoted following in 2006 with her album Driving North. While she has performed with outspoken artists like Ani Difranco and Dar Williams, Pureka, who is genderqueer and uses she/her pronouns, doesn’t often delve into politics or social commentary in her music. Instead, she focuses on the vast realm of intimate emotions. The thread that runs through Back in the Ring chronicles a breakup, though the story of that relationship is never spelled out in a literal way. Her lyrics could be printed up as books of poetry, evoking images, moods, and indescribable feelings more clearly than any straight-forward narrative.  

“I definitely have an emphasis on lyrics, I spend as much time on that as I do on the music part,” says Pureka. “Other records I’ve made are more run of the mill breakup records. This one is still a breakup record, but with more of an emphasis on conflict and darkness.”

Back in the Ring aches with the hard-to-decipher pain of heartbreak. On the song  “Crossfire I: The Matador,” she paints the scene of a thunderstorm coming and going across the landscape:  

“Oh here comes the summer storm, black sky blue, and it tears us open, drowning in the flash flood… And oh, it’s only a  matter of time, ‘cause I can’t turn it off, and I can’t slow it down, even to better myself…”

On another of my favorite songs on the album, Midwest, her voice rings with loneliness as she sings a lyric that evokes a motel room far away from someone you love: “If I call you sometime, from the Midwest, will you keep my pulse between your thumb and your forefinger.” 

Writing the album helped process the wounds of heartbreak, says Pureka, and she’s excited to release it into the world this month as she hits the road once again on a national tour. 

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by Sarah Mirk
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Sarah Mirk is the former host of Bitch Media’s podcast Popaganda. She’s interested in gender, history, comics, and talking to strangers. You can follow her on Twitter

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