Ani DiFranco Appreciation Club Meeting #2: Ani DiFranco Is Trying to Break Your Heart

Ani DiFranco Appreciation Club is an all-inclusive, safe space devoted to the appreciation and discussion of Ani DiFranco’s music. Meetings are open to anyone with a love of Ani DiFranco; new members welcome. Please sign the attendance sheet in the comments. We also encourage everyone to buy Ani’s music and not download it illegally, please.

Ani DiFranco is trying to break your heart. Actually, she’s probably already succeeded a bunch of times, which is why you’re here. Because that’s what’s so special about Ani’s music: although she’s never been popular in the mainstream or gained much radio play, she’s cultivated legions of fans through the raw power of her lyrics and her ability to write something so heart-wrenchingly true to your own experience that it makes you feel like SHE KNOWS YOU.

It’s that deep connection, that feeling of relating so completely that makes our love for her so deep and red.

This is what we’ve determined, anyhow. While cultivating this meeting’s thematic list — her most close-to-the-heart-devastating tracks — we came to the conclusion that Ani DiFranco is better at describing your feelings than any other living musician of all time forever infinity plus one. That’s right — YOUR feelings.

When Ani detracts from singing about “you” to sing about a specific man/woman/person — which she rarely does — it’s necessary for the story but it’s not contained within her. We’re not on the outside hearing stories about her life. We’re sitting in a drum circle (lesbians love feelings and drum circles) where the details are inconsequential compared to the feelings they provoke: feelings that are too fucking honest for anyone to NOT relate. Ani herself can bare her raw, pulsing, bleeding soul all over her guitar and still remain a total mystery. THAT’S fucking artistry.

Which brings us to today’s topical list of Ani’s most personally-meaningful-for-us / devastating songs. At our first meeting, we discussed some of Ani’s more “classic,” well-known songs. In our opinion, her best songs are not necessarily the most popular, they’re the ones that tear you up. Everyone has a few Ani songs that speak SO LOUDLY to a specific experience/time/relationship/drama of yours that you feel it viscerally. Those songs are different for everyone.

Most of the songs we (riese & bcw) have chosen to discuss are off the album Reckoning, which, we are prepared to argue, is her overall most heartbreaking album. These are songs you may not have heard before, but might just rip your heart out of your chest and feed it back to you. Or they might not. One of the best things about Ani is that just about any one of her songs has the potential to do that. Except Hat-Shaped Hat. That song is weird.


Providence (To The Teeth)

buy on itunes

bcw: You guys, PRINCE. Prince is on this song. This song is a bit of a departure musically – along with the rest of To The Teeth – and I wasn’t into it the first time I heard it. But like some of her other songs, once I can relate to it it’s all over. I think this song is a masterpiece, quite honestly. It tells a whole story in just the first line. Then it goes on and tells a hundred more stories that could be anyone’s, and spans years, and includes lines like “it’s late – much too late for us, and I’m fixing to go home / with just my conscience and a bitter sense of irony as my chaperone.

Riese: Ani has a few different voices (at least in my head), and this is the voice she uses for songs about ‘accidental/irresistible (maybe doomed, maybe not) romance.’ Sometimes my head contains only two things: 1. Providence, 2. “Is a new episode of The Office up yet?”


Grey (Reckoning)

Buy this song

Riese: For this –> “As bad as I am / I’m proud of the fact / that I’m worse than I seem.” It’s the hollowed-out urgent despair that follows ‘losing a thing you love.’ When you feel proud of yourself the first day you make it through work without crying in the bathroom.

bcw:I’m proud of the fact that I’m worse than I seem” is maybe the best way of describing that feeling of . . . you know, I’ve been sitting here for ten minutes trying to think of a way to describe that feeling and I just realized that Ani’s way is already the best way. Maybe the only way.

Riese: …as my (above) attempt to describe that feeling suggests!

As Is (Little Plastic Castle)

buy on itunes

bcw: This song will always remind me of this time when I like 14-15. It was my first bigger-than-anything-has-ever-felt crazy girldrama: we like-liked each other but she was scared to be gay so she’d just write me really intense letters. “Just give up and admit you’re an asshole” meant a lot to me at that time.

Riese: This song is all over the place for me. Pieces of it apply here and there — how you lied to my face about your relationship with the lifeguard, how I knew what I was getting into when I kissed you, how you came damaged and I said ‘I’ll take it as is.’ It’s about me because I never look in the right places and I trip over things. “What scares me/ is while you’re telling me stories / you actually / believe that they are real,” is about everyone’s brick wall.

I write because I’m often convinced I feel the thing behind the thing you’re saying to me, even when you don’t see it yourself AND IT’S YOUR THING. I could be wrong, but that’s irrelevant really. It’s about being a psychic/writer. Her voice is self-righteously playful. She knows how you feel and you don’t know how you feel. If you did, you would understand that this is good enough. It’s so good that it’s ridiculous, really.

Reckoning (Reckoning)

Buy this song

Riese: Someone needed to write these words: “You can doubt anything if you think about it long enough / because what happened always adjusts to fit what happened after that.” So Ani DiFranco wrote them.

bcw:But win or lose, just that you choose this little war is what kills you.” Fuck if that line doesn’t say everything.

Riese: Also, Nothing is as it appears / in the fun house mirrors of your fears/ on the roller coaster of all these years / with your hands above your head.

Revelling (Reckoning)

Buy this song

bcw: I’ve always understood this song to be about being in a relationship with someone who’s more into it than you are.

Riese: I’ve always understood this song to be about losing a best friend to a relationship — not an ordinary best friend, but the kind you’re so close to you feel like you’re in love sometimes.

bcw: But with you down on bended knee, always looking up at me, that feeling of standing up together is gone” is the line that made me think it was about her relationship. When I first heard it, I remember thinking that I’d never heard someone sing about love that way; about such a complicated, disquieting feeling about the person you love or an imbalance in a relationship – like she loved the person but they weren’t on the same page. I really admired how she was expressing it honestly, even though it was probably hard to say. This song made me re-evaluate the way I processed my own emotions.

Riese: When I first heard it, I remember thinking that I’d never heard someone sing about  friendships that way. I was projecting. It was the winter of 2005, when my roommate/best friend/’sister’ and I were fighting all the time and eventually decided to move out of our Harlem apartment. She’d move in with her boyfriend in Park Slope and I’d move to Williamsburg with a straight girl I was hooking up with. (If you know NY neighborhoods that says it all). Your twenties are a weird time to be friends. People keep changing and also never changing. Sometimes they’re on Cloud Nine, and you’re obsessed with your own revelling. It didn’t feel like second place until I heard this song. This song changed my own story.

Independence Day (Little Plastic Castle)

Buy this song

Riese: Have you ever heard “Blood and Fire” by the Indigo Girls? It’s pretty fucking raw, like Amy Ray’s letting her heart bleed all over the stage. This is like that. But it’s Ani, so it’s even better!  These are the worst parts of being left: how I stopped eating when he stopped calling me, (I’ve always appreciated that she used ‘stopped eating’ instead of ‘started starving’, it’s perfect), how she can’t leave me here ’cause I had her back and she’s gotta have mine.

bcw: When Ani hurts she fucking HURTS. “Did I ever tell you that I stopped eating when you stopped calling me” needs no expansion. She will use the phrase “shitting rivers” in a song if she wants to because that’s what fucking time it is.

Marrow (Revelling)

Buy this song

Riese: The song starts after those first two lines (up there) for me. I’ve whittled this song down to what I consider a feeling you have the moment you transition from kissing someone consciously to kissing someone involuntarily, when your body takes over and you lose your mind: I’m a good kisser, and you’re a fast learner, and that kind of thing could float us for a pretty long time.

bcw: This song is so intense, lyrically, that’s it’s taken me years to wrap my head around it.

The answer came like a shot in the back while you were running from your lesson

Which might explain why years later all you could remember was the terror of the question.

I got tossed out the window of love’s El Camino

And I shattered into a shower of sparks on the curb

You were smoking me, weren’t you, between your yellow fingers

You just inhaled and exhaled without saying a word.

Where was your conscience? Where was your consciousness?



So What (Reckoning)

Buy this song

bcw: This one kills me because it feels like she’s singing to me, like I’m the ‘you.’ I feel like she can see me. Like she’s saying, “you know what, asshole? You fucked it up. And you’re still fucking it up. Get your shit together.” I usually can’t listen to it all the way through. “I loved you so / I loved you, so what.” God. LIKE A KNIFE.

Riese: This is about how no matter how much I love you and how hard I try to prevent the moment of your forehead on the steering wheel, it will never match up to your favorite fantasy which doesn’t even have me in it. This song breaks my heart. Not because reality outpaced expectation, but because we’re all unfortunately, unmistakably human. And therefore; so what. WHAT IS LOVE IN THE FACE OF ALL THAT. GOD.

Sick of Me (Reckoning)

Buy this song

bcw: THIS song makes me think of the first girl I ever loved; we were on-off for several years even though it wasn’t really fair to her. We’re still friends ten years later by some miracle. It was 2001, I was 18, this album had just come out and it was the soundtrack of my summer. Which is intense when I think about how many songs from that album are on this list.

Riese: I think, how sick of me must you be by now? at least once in every serious relationship I’ve ever had. Their responses were always the same, though. I first heard “Sick of Me” when I was dating a ridiculously sane future police officer and it hit HOME HARDCORE. Ani said it better than he did though: “I say I’m sorry I’m so crazy, I am astounded by your patience, and you say, believe it or not baby, the joy you bring me still outweighs it”  I never believed him but I could have. It was true. A few years later I was throwing books at the wall, looking at Alex and thinking, “how sick of me must you be by now.”

Shrug (Evolve)

Buy this song

Riese: When she says “dirty drug” I think “mental illness.” I don’t know what “carpet-bombed” means but it seems like a thing that happened with us and I know your Mom didn’t know about it. Whatever it means, I’m pretty sure it’s true.

bcw: An ex sent me this song right after our breakup. HOOOOOOO. It’s a doozie, lemme tell you.

Sorry I Am (Not a Pretty Girl)

Buy this song

Riese: This is about how hard it is to break somebody else’s heart. I thought we were a thing and then it turned out that we weren’t except that you still think we are. She sounds tired in the song, not sad. I’d listen to this in my Bravada driving away from the condo I shared with my now-ex-boyfriend into a different life. I was sorry, but only because he was so sad; not because I still cared. That devastated me by proxy. Because I suddenly cared so much less, all of a sudden. And it’s not you, seriously, it’s me. It’s definitely me.

School Night (Reckoning)

Buy this song

We both agree that “I’m looking for my door key/but you are my porch light” only makes semi-sense with the rest of this song. Also the part about choosing between the children is a bit over the top.

bcw: I don’t know if I can talk about this song, Rachel B. It’s just too much. Maybe someday, in a therapy session or something, I’ll finally be like “I NEED TO TALK ABOUT THIS SONG CALLED SCHOOL NIGHT BY ANI DIFRANCO.” But that day is not today.

Riese: This song addresses the phenomenon of you being a party/me being a school night and you never knowing how much I loved you (because I never showed you) OH HOLY MOTHER OF CHRIST. I actually don’t think I can talk about this song either, Rachel B. Not today. Maybe not any day. Maybe I just did. But I actually really didn’t. I mean there’s so much moar where that came from.


Okay, you hot messes, it’s your turn to share with the group. Do these songs make you feel feelings, too? Do you have your own, personally devastating Ani songs? Let’s talk about them.

Before you go! Autostraddle runs on the reader support of our AF+ Members. If this article meant something to you today — if it informed you or made you smile or feel seen, will you consider joining AF and supporting the people who make this queer media site possible?

Join AF+!


bcw has written 15 articles for us.


  1. Well, if nothing else, this list makes me realize I have to go back and listen to Reckoning again.

    One that always gets to me, but isn’t actually all that devastating, is “Pulse,” the last track off of Little Plastic Castle. It’s fourteen minutes of amazing. I think it’s the perfect end to that album, which has some of her most accessible material, so of course she should put a fourteen minute long trippy thing at the end, just to throw people off.

    I just remember sitting in my room, listening to this song on repeat. which is nothing, compared to the light

    “which seeps from me while you’re sleeping beautiful
    and grotesque resting caconed in my room
    that night we got kicked out of two bars
    and laughed our way home
    and i held you there thinking
    i would offer you my pulse
    i would give you my breath
    i would offer you my pulse”

      • i actually wrote those words i would offer you my pulse, if i thought it would be useful, i would give you my breath, i would offer you my pulse in my journal like a few days ago as they are always SO RELEVANT to various shifting things in my life. it’s such an accurate feeling sometimes. it’s always in my head. those lines. just those lines.

        • I think that’s why the song is so great, because it can be applied to so many different circumstances and emotions, which can be said for a lot of Ani’s songs, but for this one I think it particularly holds true.

          • i always think of it when i am with a friend who is in some sort of major meltdown, especially if it involves drinking, throwing up, and crying. i sit in the wedge of space between the toilet and the wall, holding their hair, thinking how the hell can i give you my pulse. i need to just give you my pulse right now. can someone tell me how to give you my pulse.

          • I want to eat that song every time I hear it. I feel like then I would understand how to give someone my pulse.

          • This song was one of the first songs I connected to when I started dating my girlfriend (who is also my first same-sex relationship). I remember thinking how this song, every part about it, describes how I would give my life for her if I thought it would help her in any way.

    • Morbid Moment of the Day: After I heard that song, I decided I wanted it played at my funeral.

      I don’t know if it’s because it would be ironic, it’s long, or that I actually liked it that much.

    • That entire album is solid but “Pulse” always stood out.

      bluffing your way into my mouth
      behind my teeth, reaching for my scars…

  2. Can I just say how much I am enjoying these club meetings?! And about ‘Pulse’ – oh man so true. I have sat with my girlfriend (at the time) and just listened to that song and stared at her staring at me. God, Ani makes us do strange things.

  3. Gah! I always forget how much I love Ani DiFranco! Gonna go be all super gay and listen to Little Plastic Castle again just now – and have vivid memories of being 18

  4. God, so many great selections again!

    I’m defnitely going to need to dig up my copy of Revelling/Reckoning and give it a listen. It’s been a long time.

    I’ll add one more songs to the heartbreak list — Soft Shoulder (from To the Teeth). Always reminds me of those near-misses you have in relationships with certain people, when the timing is just never right and you can’t both manage to get your respective shit together at the same time.

    “and they had barely said hello and it was time to say goodbye.”

    • YES re soft shoulder. i totally agree with you about its meaning but riese seems to think it’s about someone who dies. either way it gets me every time.

      • Always reminds me of those near-misses you have in relationships with certain people, when the timing is just never right and THEN SOMEONE DIES

  5. Lesbian Confession:
    I don’t think I’ve ever heard an Ani Difranco (DiFranco?) song in my life. However, what I lack in knowledge and experience I make up for in enthusiasm to learn.
    Any suggestions for a starting point?
    Love always,

    • Mindy,
      It’s hard to pick just one song! So, I’d recommend “Living in Clip” – it’s a live album thats got lots of the really great songs. Have a listen to ‘Both Hands’ on there – it has a beautiful arrangement on the intro

      • Agreed on Living in Clip as a good starting point. It’s the album that got me hooked. In addition to Both Hands, I remember falling completely in love with Shy, Shameless, Overlap, Fire Door … you know what? Nevermind. I’m going to end up listing pretty much the whole album. Just listen to it.

    • good suggestions, all. also you could check out Canon, it’s a more recent compilation, or peruse our first AA Club Meeting post from last week. welcome to the club!

    • I always think the beginning is a good place to start. Some of the early stuff off the first album is the most raw imo. And listening to her evolve as an artist is awesome.

    • An Ani newbie?

      I once made a multi-CD set called “A Neophyte’s Guide to Ani DiFranco” complete with a lyrics booklet where I picked my favorite songs from each album and handed out to people who never heard her music before.

      So where should you start? It depends on what type of music you normally listen to. For instance, I come from a soul/jazz/hip hop background so while I love ALL of her music, my favorite stuff is from from the mid-’90’s. Roughly “Little Plastic Castle” to “Evolve”. One of my favorite songs from this era is her cover of Prince’s “When You Were Mine” with Maceo Parker on sax.

      If you’re already into the acoustic stuff, start from the beginning. “Fixing Her Hair” is one of my favorite songs from this period because I have had more than my share of straight friends with shitty boyfriends and husbands.

      I could go on and on but really just start anywhere . . . except maybe for “Educated Guess”. I thinks you already have to love Ani to follow her down the rabbit hole with that one.

  6. Riese… bcw… It is okay. I can never talk about School Night either and just how much it feels like having my guts ripped out and shoved in my face. It was a good eight years ago. The situation, it doesn’t hurt anymore – I never even think about it or miss it. But that song.. that song never stops hurting. It’s also so romantic, you know. Romanticising the hurt. It’s dark and I’m fumbling but fuck, I can’t see without you.

  7. So many feelings about all of these songs. To start, though:

    But first let’s toast to the lists
    That we hold in our fists
    Of the things that we promise to do
    Differently next time

    To me, Marrow was written exclusively to build to this musical moment.

    • And the feeling I affiliate with this is frustration – cause I remember sitting around the dorms freshman year with my friend Sean trying to make him understand why this song/album was musically perfect, and he 100 percent did not get it.

        • I so know what you mean. I showed my mom a clip of her playing something live once that gave me goosebumps and she looked at me with this blank expression. I wanted to yell “How can you not get her awesome power?? She’s like ethereal and amazing what’s wrong with you?” But I didn’t because it’s not nice to yell at your mother.

  8. Let me tell you bitches something.

    I have had a playlist entitled, “DiFranco Depression” since I was about 14 and have just kept adding to it year, after year. (Actually it stopped after she started jazzercising on her albums) …and I think almost all of these songs are on there.

    Garden of Simple makes an appearance on the playlist because it has some girl tragedy associated with it, but then again don’t almost all of these songs? :/

    Hour Follows Hour. All I have to say is this: “Maybe we are both good people who’ve done some bad things.”

    Sometimes Ani makes me want to lie in bed all day and cry and dwell on every life hiccup.



      • Wait.

        Would Ani stuff sausage into her pockets? Does she eat sausage? Is the sausage for the dog? Is this a metaphor? Also, would she really leave a dog in the car? I feel like Ani is a better person than that.

        • i have a playlist called “seasonal affective disorder” which is ani heavy and is played in all seasons

          • Ani makes me a victim of seasonal affective disorder every season that I listen to her. Biggest culprits: School Night, You Had Time, Overlap. Honorable mention: Rock Paper Scissors. Slash all of the songs on this page.

  9. besides the incredible lyrics, ani has such a solid rep as one of the most amazing guitarists out there. i love ‘knuckle down’ because she brings back some of those crazy chord changes she started showing off in ‘puddle dive’, but the songs are a little more mature, a little deeper and of course, have a few more battle scars.

    favorite from that album has to be ‘lag time’ – when you know things are not working in a relationship, you’re moving further away from each other and farther into dysfunction… but your heart and your head take forever to realize it.

    your consonants were buzzing
    around your head like flies
    your true colors were showing
    and your shape and your size
    you were drinking your way though it
    i was shrinking right there inside of my clothes
    my eventual twenty/twenty
    arms crossed
    tapping her toe

    i gotta tighten down on the lag time

    • can you please tell me what a “twenty/twenty” should represent? I never understood that line.

      Also, since the beggining of mankind I’ve had a ginourmous doubt: what do you think the “stripes” mean in this bit ofIn or Out:

      she looks me up and down
      like she thinks that i’ll mature
      like she’s got my number
      like it belongs to her
      she says,
      call me, ms. difranco
      if there’s anything i can do
      i say, i’ve got spots
      i’ve got stripes, too

      • in the first case, i think twenty/twenty is referring to 20/20 vision, like ‘hindsight is 20/20,’ etc.

        and the spots and stripes line is about being a big ol’ BISEXUAL. or perhaps the more general idea of embodying dualities, complexities, etc. not wanting to be reduced to one thing.

        • i had to google that :) i’m not american and i didn’t know that you had the expression “20/20 vision”. thanks :)

          regarding In or Out, I know it’s about bisexuality. But I’m still waiting for someone to give me a good interpretation of the metaphors of “dots” and “stripes” in these particular case. My best attempt at an interpretation is that “i’ve got spots” = “i’ve got soft spots (for certain people, etc)”; “i’ve got stripes too” = “i can run (from other people i don’t like) too”….that is, free will. does that sound stupid?

          • i think spots/stripes are just incidental but also a reference to how we label things/people — in grade school you sort of categorize animals by whether or not they have “spots” or “stripes” — as if it could be so simple.

            it’s defo about bisexuality, i’ve always loved it for that

  10. I bought the Reckoning album my last year of high school (at Walmart!) on my way to a dance with a boy who was also gay (because absolutely all of us were closet cases) and now it’s been like, what, ten years since that album came out? I’ve barely listened to it since then, because every single song is still attached to a feeling and gets stuck in my head when I feel things. And that album is really long. That’s a lot of feelings. It’s like getting stuck with the hiccups for too long but all husky and languid and steeped in tragedy.

  11. oh hello hi how the hell is everyone is this thing on? riese/bcw: i love you and ani and your club so much thank you for it/you/everything BUT listen… “im looking for my door key/ but you are my porch light” just happen to be my favoritttttttte lines from one of my most beloved ani songs, you guys!

    in defense of my favorite line. please tell me if i sound like an asshole. i just might, but keep in mind i love you and it might break my heart: that line does more for me than any other line in the song (probs bc i am with you on the whole “mothers in burning buildings and children with potentially life-threatening fire-related injuries being a bit over the top/too tragic for me). it captures that feeling of desperately and fundamentally needing something that you have this complicated relationship with and would rather just be free of. consider the porch light for a moment: its this thing that while you are frantically searching for it you are simultaneously cursing its very existence. WHERE IS THE FUCKING SWITCH FOR THE FUCKING PORCH LIGHT FOR CHRIST SAKE I JUST NEED MY KEYYYY EXCLAMATION POINT ALL CAPS. wouldnt life be so much easier/better if you could just see??? by yourself??? through your eyeballs?? but you cant…you need it, it is so dark, the world is scary, you cant get your bearings. you want to just go inside make a sandwich move on with your life etc…but you need that goddamn porch light just to move through the door. and you cant just cast it off, be rid of it completely. the world is just too dark without it.

    • mmmm?? no!? you’re making me confused, because i’ve always interpreted those lyrics in the opposite way. she’s saying she’s looking for something the other person can’t give her: “you are also a stiff drink and i am on call” – therefore, similarly – “im looking for my door key/ but you are my porch light”: you can have all the light you want, but without the key you can’t get in. ie. the person she’s in the relationship in is awesome, but for some reason it’s not who she need/is looking for.

    • LMNOP: hi how are you lovely to meet you, thanks for being part of the club! i knew someone was going to comment about the porch light thing and actually, i’m kinda with you. i think that line stands out as incongruous with the rest of it because she’s just listed all these reasons why she and the other person just can’t work, and then she says something that implies that the person is a guiding, supportive, helpful force. so it ‘doesn’t fit’ in the sense that it’s a departure from what she’s saying with the rest of the verse, but LIKE YOU SAID, i think it’s actually a line that speaks to how these types of situations are complicated and full of confusion and conflicting emotions. obviously she’s in love with that person, too. i mean, the first line in that first chorus is ‘you are a miracle, but that is not all.’ so i’m with you. is what i’m saying in too many words.

    • lmnop

      ok i think i get what you’re saying — and as i was writing this comment i totally agreed/deferred to you and then doubled back and realized that we’re both right–

      the porch light protects and guides her. she can’t get in the door or find her key but the light lets her do so. the porch light is safe and reliable.

      but then also, if you’re a party and i’m a school night — that’s the opposite. you’re the one who has fun all the time and i’m the one who wants to stay in and read books. you’re not the person who can guide me home, you’re the person at the party

      actually i just realized while typing this that a person can be the party and the porch light and the stiff drink. what the fuck. i just dated this person (hi!). ani is right, it wasn’t just for rhyming — as bcw said, ‘these types of situations are complicated and full of confusion and conflicting emotions.’ in a way it’s consistent insofar as ani is the complicated/distracted/emo writer/artist person, and the person she sings to is socially functional (party!), able to help her get in the door when she can’t find her door-key, and a to-the-point beverage when she’s just sort of crawling there cheaply.

      thank you everyone for reading me think ‘out loud’

      • Okay this song has PLAGUED me for years.

        I’m on board with what everyone is saying.

        But I also have had new thoughts.

        What if the porch light, party, and drink are all things she needs? (this is similar to what Riese was putting down.)

        We’ve either been or known the girl who puts her life on paper. The girl who needs the achievements. The girl who IS school or IS her job. The girl who is always the school night or on call. So maybe this other person is her porch light, showing her there’s more than just the professional insulation she’s surrounded herself with. She knows this person is what she needs to make herself fully happy (looking for the key), but can’t commit because ultimately it impedes her professional progress. School/ Work/ Whatever is the “love that came before you”.

        I don’t know. This song. This goddamn song.

        • I thought that “School Night” was about being married/committed to someone and having feelings for someone else. “You are a party/and I am a school night” (I am committed to someone, but I’m drawn to the excitement of you) “and I’m looking for my door key/but you are my porch light” (I’m trying to go “home” to this relationship I’m invested in, but I can’t quite get in or be present there because I’m thinking about you.) Just a thought…

          • I agree with Nicole, and I also think a helpful comparison is You Had Time, particularly this part:
            “You are a china shop
            I am a bull
            You are really good food
            And I am full”
            I think School Night is a very similar song in the sense that it is turning a situation of being ambivalent/unable to commit to someone/trying to end a relationship (though for different reasons – in School Night because she already has someone) into an elaborate string of metaphors. And I see School Night as being like that – “You are a miracle, but that it not all” – I want you so much but you’re not what I need/what is good for me/I can’t have you. But also I can’t do without you – you are my porch light. It is just one of her truths, and there are so many. So many reasons she loves him/her, and so many reasons why she can’t. PS this thread forever.

  12. When I was younger (early 90’s maybe?) I had heard of Ani, but I also knew that I hadn’t lived enough to be able to appreciate her the way she deserved. So I waited.
    A couple of years ago she came up in casual conversation, and I thought to myself, “Ok, I think I’m ready now.” I probably still haven’t lived that much, but I am so glad I waited.
    Canon was my starting point and every song is forever attached to a feeling/person/situation.
    Long story short, I’m really excited you guys are doing this.

    …Now I have to go make a youtube playlist of these songs and sit in the dark and feel some feelings.

    • in the 90s my “feelings” band was Pearl Jam. hahaha. also sitting in the dark now making a playlist of the songs listed here on Grooveshark.

      • Guuuurl do i hear you. My “feelings” band in the ole y2k was Tonic. Thankfully I found Ani in college, and when Evolve was released it changed my life. What can I say, this retired band girl loves sax. :)

  13. I totally agree with Riese about Revelling. For me right now, its about losing my best friend to a relationship and it hurts and Ani just summed up everything I feel about that situation. And Independence Day. Wow.
    I don’t think I could talk about School Night either. There is just too much to say.


        I’M RIGHT

        actually the reason we posted our different viewpoints was to illustrate how ani’s songs can be interpreted sometimes in such different ways, but hugely meaningful ones all the same. there’s no wrong way to understand her music.

  14. You guys, I just set my gazillion Ani songs on iTunes shuffle and then suddenly I was crying. Sometimes I totally forget how crazy intense she is. Ugh.

    Riese and bcw – thanks for today’s write up! I freaking love the Ani Fan Club. Also Marrow & School Night are my fav Ani heartbreak songs, but I’d never heard Revelling…maybe I’ll be adding that to my list.

  15. o man an ani fan club…..this is exciting!

    if i made my own list of devastating/emotional/tear-my-heart-out ani songs it would definitely include Marrow, So What, and Independence Day. Here are others i would add to my list:

    Adam and Eve..!!! “tonight you stoop to my level, i’m your mangy little whore” / “don’t treat me like i am something that happened to you / “IIIII AAAAAAM…IIIIIII AAAAAM….IIIII AAAAAMMMMMMM TRULY SORRY ABOUT ALL THIS” / “I envy you, your ignorance, I hear that ti’s bliss”

    Swan Dive…this has been my favorite ani song as far back as i can remember. It can be relevant to so many different situations. And even though she says it’s about falling in love, I have always related to it in a general life empowerment sort of way: “I don’t care if they eat me alive, I’ve got better things to do than survive”. I love every single thing about this song

    Serpentine. this one just tears me apart. to the point of tears. i think its genius, the way she switches from general/political issues to personal/relationship issues, and the result is devastatingly and achingly beautiful…”and did i mention somewhere in there that i traded Babe Ruth? yeah, i traded the only player that was bigger than the game, and i can’t even tell you why cuz you’d think i’m insane, and that’s the truth” / “and the difference between you and me baby is i get fucked up when i’m alone” / “i remember my name in your mouth, and i don’t think i was done hearing it close to my ear on a whisper’s way to a moan” / “baby any way you slice i’m thinking i could just as well use the time alone”…..really the entire thing is quotable

    Recoil. “come home and my guitar has nothing to say to me, I recoil from all my friends, and then i’m in misery. been so long since i’ve been held, really since i was his, probably just need to be held, that’s probably all it is”

  16. I love this series from the bottom of my gay gay rainbow heart.

    Welcome To: is one of my favorite heartbreaking Ani songs.

    Well done with the Blood and Fire / Independence Day comparison. Both are totally raw, but I think in different ways. B&F is like screaming sorrow raw, ID is “why won’t this ever stop hurting it hurts so bad” raw. Equally important moments in the grief of having someone toss you out of love’s El Camino.

  17. The first Ani song I ever heard was “Both Hands” and it still gets to me every time. There’s something brilliant about the way she puts words together. I think “Dilate” definitely should have been included in this list, though. Talk about heart-breaking – the lyrics are sad enough, but the way she sings it, too:

    “i don’t use words like love
    ‘cuz words like that don’t matter
    but don’t look so offended
    you know, you should be flattered
    i wake up in the night
    in some big hotel bed
    my hands grope for the light
    my hands grope for my head
    the world is my oyster
    the road is my home
    and i know that i’m better
    off alone”

    Plus I love the meta-ness of this bit:

    “everyone has a skeleton
    and a closet to keep it in
    and you’re mine
    every song has a you
    a you that the singer sings to
    and you’re it this time
    baby, you’re it this time”

    But thank you ever so much for the Appreciation Club – I have literally spent the last hour reading Ani lyrics.

  18. Yeah… I can’t talk about school night either. Ug.

    Loving this recap/dialogue about ani and her music though!

  19. this is why ani difranco is magic and everyone should love and adore her. after turning her words over and over in your head, you just come up against everything and all of it. all the stories, all the feelings, all the interpretations, all the real. somehow she fits all of our stories in there. every single one of us. and she does it all under a watchtower of punishing light and she will never quit because she loves me and you and her guitar and the world so much and she wants us to know we are found. ani.forever.

  20. I hope this comment is taken in the way it’s intended – but one of the biggest things for me about Ani is that she’s a role model for undefined fluid sexuality, and listening to her was a big part of me being ok with being not-straight/bi/whatever-the-eff-I-wana-be.

    One of the most profound things about her talent (and I hope you’ll write about this later, too) is not just her ‘You’ songs but also her ‘I’ songs – the ones where she’s singing about “herself”, but it’s really the listener going “OMFG, that’s ME TOO!!” For me, the first times I heard “In or Out” and “Shameless” it was like she knew me better than me.

    Thanks for the love. <3 me some Ani. <3 me some you guys.

  21. Wow! I am actually seeing Ani in concert tonight! She is home in Buffalo, NY at her amazing church! I have been a huge fan of hers for a long time. I thought “Untouchable Face” and “Company” should have been on the list. I loved this conversation! I had always thought of “Marrow” in only a political point of view, but opening it up has made me listen to it with new ears!

  22. sitting in my glasshouse / while your ghost is sleeping down the hall / watching the little birds fly / kamikaze missions into the walls

    this. and also every other line in every single song.

  23. This is my first comment here, I normally only lurk. :)

    And I’m going to use it for the following capslock, though I know you mentioned it in Ani post #1.


    How can I go home with nothing to say?

    You said you needed time, you had time.


    Even the piano just breaks my heart, for no reason I can readily understand.

    Like Grey, I sometimes need to just put it on and FEEL SOME FEELINGS.

    Also, though I am a massive Ani fan, I haven’t heard a few of these and am absolutely going to go listen. Thank you for posting these, they’re awesome.

    • ‘you had time’ for sure. it would’ve been on this list if it hadn’t been on our first list. it’s defo one of my favorite songs of all time

  24. Overlap. Every time I hear it my heart breaks again. “It don’t take much to tell either you don’t have the balls or you don’t feel the same.” Every time. It’s that ex who just never stepped up and I’ll never know if she just didn’t have the ovaries to do so or she just didn’t feel the same. Every time Ani, you break my heart. And I love you for it.

  25. I have nothing to add to this right now, but I NEED THIS CLUB IT MAKES ME HAPPY EVERYTIME. There is a group at my university that started a Lady Gaga fan club, and I thought, what would you do at any kind of fan club every week? But I would totally attend an Ani DiFranco fan club every week…

  26. “Cause when I look down
    I just miss all the good stuff
    When I look up
    I just trip over things”

    I feel like this most days of my life. I love that she said it outloud.

    And I want to live in this post. Like, forever.

  27. I am loving these Ani DiFranco Appreciation Club meetings! She’s got this way of just slicing my heart up into tiny little pieces like very few artists I’ve ever heard. My biggest heart breakers that weren’t already on the list:

    “Adam & Eve” – I spent, like, all of ’00 and a good portion of ’01 listening to this song on repeat, laying on my bed and occasionally making an anguished moaning sound. It was just the perfect description of what I was going through at the time. Urgh.

    “Two Little Girls” – It wasn’t drugs, but my closest friend all through high school was hell bent on self-destruction and this song just puts me right back in that mindset.

    “Hide and Seek” – If you’ve heard it, you know why.

  28. autostraddle, how do you always know what I want to read? also, who do the pics with the lyrics? hot and awesome.

  29. on a different note, I’m totally with you with all the crazy emotional/sad/depressing Ani love.

    but does anyone ever listen to the happier stuff? well, sort of happier any way? it’s kind of sarcastic-y, at least imo.

    my favs from to the teeth are freakshow and swing… (and carry you around). I was having a rough day yesterday, and freakshow totally gave me my swagger back. just saying.

    we live to hear the slak-jawed gasping
    we live under a halo of held breath
    and when the children raise up a giant shield
    of laughter, it’s like they’re fending off death
    and we can make something bigger
    than any one of us alone
    and then the clowns will take off their makeup
    and the people will go home

    but life on the ouside ain’t easy
    no sequins, no elephants
    no parading around
    oh the circus comes
    and the circus goes
    and they’re stuck in this fucking town

    you need a lot of love and compliance

  30. Out of Habit.

    The butter melts out of habit
    You know, the toast isn’t even warm
    And the coffee is just water dressed in brown


  31. You should never talk about School Night, if someone mentions it, just throw up your hands & shake your head. It’s like it shouldn’t be discussed because it doesn’t exist. I can remember being maybe 20-years-old & scrawling on a mirror in lipstick (yeah) the lines: “but I stand committed to a love that came before you & the fact that I adore you is but one of my truths”. This was on a mirror belonging to my ex-girlfriend who was moving out & who was waiting for her new girlfriend to come pick her up. Geez louise.

  32. I can’t tell you how happy it makes me that everyone else has the same level of so-intense-I-can’t-talk-about-it feelings about School Night. I thought we were the only ones who felt this.

  33. seriously! pulse is my cant-talk-about-it-song but school night has history to it. i fell for someone but was with someone else at the time and was like hey, this can’t happen, sorry..and i put this song on a mix cd for that person as the last track and they came to my house and we listened to it on the corner of my street sitting on the sidewalk crying before we said goodbye!!
    we ended up dating and hating each other BUT all of you reminded me of this thing. ugh, school night.
    i actually have lots of mixed/just anti-ani feelings a lot of the time but i understand this is an appreciation club so i will keep it all love. i know every single lyric ever. yeah.

    IN HERE!!

  34. Seriously guys, where was this club when I was a lost, newly out, hopelessly in love, 16 year old girl? I f-ing love Ani. If not for discovering Little Plastic Castle through my first girl crush I probably would have felt completely alone/misunderstood. EVERY FUCKING SONG off that album has some connection to some point in my early coming out years. Every album since then has had a special meaning to me throughout my life. Right now I’m stuck on repeat with ‘Wish I May’. I mean, guys, this song hurts just to read the lyrics:

    It takes a stiff upper lip
    just to hold up my face
    i gotta suck it up and savor
    the taste of my own behavior
    i am spinning with longing
    faster then a roulette wheel
    this is not who i meant to be
    this is not how i meant to feel

    Don’t think i am strong enough
    to do this much longer
    god, i wish i was stronger
    this song could never be long enough
    to express every longing
    god, i wish it was longer..

    Anyone who’s ever been in love with someone they can’t have or shouldn’t love knows what she’s talking about here. ANI KNOWS! She knows what it’s like to be reeling from so much wanting. She knows the pain of hating yourself for your weaknesses.

    Thanks for this guys. I totally want to go make an epic Ani playlist now.

  35. School Night. Oh My Jesus. I listened to that song on a loop on a bus in Mexico when my first love broke my heart and ANI KNEW ALL OF MY FEELINGS. It was uncanny.

    Riese and bcw – these posts are awesome and validating and nostalgic and wonderful. thanks :)

  36. Oh, I’m also going to see Ani perform next week in my itsy bitsy town of Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada. With my ex-girlfriend (who I bought tickets with when we were still together). Oh & my other ex-girlfriend from years & years ago, who is now my roommate. On my birthday. Write a little ditty about that one, Mr. Difranco.

  37. Imma see A.D. in concert tonight. Woot woot. You might think that deserves an exclamation mark, but I broke my ankle and imma be on crutches so I’m only 98% excited.

  38. Can we please have a discussion on “Hypnotized” from Reprieve? Please? That song means so much to me in so many different ways…

    • Such a good song! And one of my favorites off of that album, which I feel is sorely overlooked in DiFranco’s canon, perhaps because it is relatively new. I may be biased because it was the first Ani album I ever listened to.

      “so that’s how you found me
      rain falling around me
      lookin down at a worm
      with a long way to go
      and the traffic was hissing by
      and i was homesick
      and i was high”

      It’s just so fucking beautiful. Coupled with the ambient noise samples and the use of percussion. This song just makes me ache.

    • When I first heard Hypnotized the tune kind of threw me off because it’s so non-uniform. However, the more I listen to it and take in the lyrics, the more I love it. It reminds me of the first girl I really wanted to be with and how I remember thinking “Why her?” and how it didn’t matter that she wasn’t perfect; she was all I wanted right then.

  39. “Come Away From It” is filled with so much raw emotion that sometimes I have to skip over it when it comes up in the shuffle because it’s too intense.

    “Swan Dive” is my favorite song (as my name suggests) and I play it whenever I need motivation and focus.

    “Studying Stones” became my anthem the first time I ever fell really hard for a (straight) woman.

  40. Oh, goodness.
    How do I begin to explain Ani DiFranco? Ani DiFranco is flawless. I hear her guitar is insured for $10000. I hear she plays shows in Carnegie Hall. One time she met Amy Ray at a concert, and she told her she was pretty. One time her lyrics punched me in the gut…. It was awesome.

    I have a lot of really big, really colourful feelings about Ms. DiFranco, but I don’t think I’ll ever be able to describe them properly. I realise now that it’s clichéd, but as a 15 year old baby dyke who was struggling with her WHAT AM I WHY AM I LIKE THIS WHO WILL EVER UNDERSTAND ME FEELINGS FEELINGS FEELINGS crisis, Ani was basically my saviour. I look back at some of the songs that I held onto so tightly sometimes and laugh a bit, but mostly they’ve stuck with me and I crawl back to them whenever things are going wrong. Also, I’m pretty sure Ani started my feminist awareness, for which I am forever thankful.
    A couple of favourites: Itch, Swandive, Face Up and Sing, School Night (oh, god…. I just can’t.), Out of Habit, Rush Hour, Dog Coffee, Not A Pretty Girl, My IQ, Shroud, Up Up Up Up Up Up, Nicotine, Shameless, Dilate, As Is, Independence Day, You Had Time, Two Little Girls, Little Plastic Castle, Untouchable Face….. I could recite her entire discography, I think. Except maybe for the weirder jazzy numbers (‘Diner’, anyone?). Not really feeling those.

  41. it just all slips
    away so slowly
    you don’t even notice till you’ve lost a lot
    i’ve been like one of those zombies
    in vegas
    pouring quarters into a slot
    and now i’m tired
    and i am broke
    and i feel stupid and i feel used
    and i’m at the end of my little rope
    and i am swinging back and forth
    about you

    …Done Wrong anyone? I have sobbed on a train while listening to this.

  42. I just found this post while digging around in AS and thought ‘Hmm this artist sounds interesting’. So I youtubed her, clicked on one of her songs and listened to it. The first few notes sent chills down my spine, and when she sang, it felt like the world had dropped out from underneath me. I have found my new favourite artist.

  43. So glad I found this forum! While my love for Ani has definitely become more dormant, it is by no means diminished.
    Overlap is one of my favorites; surprised it wasn’t mentioned in the post. Lately I’ve been finding myself getting to know/dating people who are different because I want to taste what they are like, I want a glimpse of some one else’s life. Overlap is all about this, this draw of the unknown and the comfort of the known, and the excitement of trying to discover the real person beneath.
    Also, I love God’s Country, because it is about roadtripping (what I want to do), and about being a lone woman on the road and encountering difficulties or dangers of that. And it’s also about feeling out of place/in the wrong crowd. Also, she gives it her classic Ani spunk and attitude; and it is one of the few songs that sounds really upbeat to me. Every State Line is another good one in this same vein.
    I also love Angry Anymore- such a fucking beautiful melody. I can’t say I can relate to having had a dysfunctional family (although what family is fully functional?), but I still really love this song because it shows me a bit into her world, and it describes coming to terms with who your parents are.
    Subdivision because it shines a huge blaring spotlight on all the untalked about prejudices and racism still in this country and because it has FUCKING BALLS (which I conceed is an inherently patriarchal expression, but hell, Ani uses it so it must be okay!).
    Other favorites? Fire Door, Shy, Little Plastic Castle, Both Hands.
    Talk To Me Now is also really great. Great melody.
    Out of Range is amazing too. I think it’s particularly pertinent to the generational change and rising consciousness, with the occupy movement that started this past year.
    Make Them Apologize. Hell yes, righteous feminist anger. Served Faithfully is beautiful too, I think it’s her friendship with an old man and it just paints such an honest portrait and shows her tenderness, her forgiveness, his vulnerability and virtue. Cradle and All- confused and sad and angry and all things post-one-night-stand. Grey- achingly sad. Sorry I realized I’m just sharing all my favorites and this comment is way too long, but really, how can one pick just a few? Thank you Ani for providing me countless hours of great songs to sing anytime anywhere, and, as has already been stated countless times, knowing just how to articulate how I FEEL.

  44. I agree with like, almost everything said here but I think a really underrated song that will rip you into tiny pieces is Fixing Her Hair –

    It’s not one of her best lyrically, but it doesn’t have to be really – if you’ve had a friend you adore in an abusive or just bad relationship you know exactly what this feels like. I had a couple years where I sang this angrily in the car a lot.

    the line:
    she bends her breath/when she talks to him/I can see her features begin to blur
    kills me every time.

  45. Question I’ve harbored for years: “eyes the size of snow”??
    “I don’t know who you were expecting, probably some bitch who does not budge, with eyes the size of snow”
    Maybe the only Ani line I’ve never been able to come to an understanding about. I always figured she was referencing some wide-eyed, naive girl (who she’s adamantly insisting she’s not, of course), but how does that equate to the ‘size of snow’? I picture a wide open field with snow 3 feet high…

  46. Hi everybody – This is such a lovely celebration of Ani. In case you are interested to learn about Ani’s Texas years and her thoughts on Spotify, I interviewed her for my documentary The Shopkeeper, which is coming out on 8/28/17 at

Comments are closed.