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Music for the Morning After, and Beyond

Musicians often chronicle the anguish, adjustments and small triumphs associated with a relationship's end. But few capture the emotional rawness and suffocating isolation quite as powerfully as "Too Much Space," Lisa Germano's uncommonly sensitive look at the first lonely hours after two people part and the dust begins to settle.

A gifted session musician who spent years playing violin alongside John Mellencamp, Germano has recorded an impressive assortment of intimate solo records on the side, rarely reaching more than a small cult following in the process. In the Maybe World is the latest, and, as the title indicates, it spends a good deal of time exploring uneasy moments in transition. As "Too Much Space" builds from a fairly conventional folk-pop ballad into an almost oppressively beautiful and disorienting lament, she struggles to fill the literal and figurative emptiness — "You took a plant and put it there" — just before finding something vaguely approaching comfort in the universality of loneliness: "One of us, one of us, one of us."

The Mountain Goats' John Darnielle has a similar gift for coming by emotional rawness honestly, and his "Woke Up New" (audio) picks up where "Too Much Space" left off, but with a few days' worth of reflection hinting at brighter days ahead. After winsomely brushing past the practical details of newfound solitude — absentmindedly making too much coffee in the morning, for example — he eventually comes to tentatively revel in the moment "the world, in its cold way, started coming alive." An ideal companion piece to Germano's song, it examines the morning after the morning after from a newfound and hard-won perspective.

Listen to yesterday's 'Song of the Day.'

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Stephen Thompson
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.)