Most breakup albums document the aftermath of a breakup. But Kama Vardi’s Moonticket is a different kind of breakup album, documenting her and her ex-partner’s romantic unraveling in real time over ten mesmerizing, clear-eyed indie folk songs.
“We should be just like the pouring rain / But I can’t fake it,” the Israeli singer-songwriter observes in the revelatory “Any Day Now.” The song is one of the highlights of Moonticket and a master class in relationship reassessment: “I do want to heal your aching heart / Instead I keep on breaking / Is it me or have we grown apart?” Vardi’s questions seem to contain their answers: “I wonder, can you take me as I am? / As I may always be? / And if I change, would our love be the same?” Fortunately, for Vardi, there is freedom in clarity.
“Moonticket unfolded to me as a heartbreaking fortune-tell,” Vardi tells American Songwriter over email. “When I wrote it I was in a very long, loving relationship with a beautiful man [who] gave me more than I could ever return, and I could not for the life of me admit that it just wasn’t it, that I needed something else. But the songs don’t lie.”
“Towards our end,” Vardi continues, “every time he read one of my new songs he would say, ‘It’s ok, you can write what you want, I know you love me.’ He’d say that it’s better to let it all out, and that he knows these are just songs. But it got worse, and I kept on lying. I started realising that I could not close my eyes forever. And in my hands I was holding ten songs that said all the things I never wanted to say: ‘You are dear to me, but this isn’t it, I’m not in love, I’m going to leave one of these days.’ I don’t know what I would have done if I didn’t fall in love with the man I’m with now. I might have stayed. But as it turned out, this album was my way to say goodbye.”
American Songwriter asked Vardi to break down every song on Moonticket, which includes nine originals plus a haunting cover of Nico’s “These Days,” originally written by Jackson Browne. Check out the Tel Aviv-based musician’s responses and listen to the album below.
“Whatever Will Be”
Kama Vardi: The most frustrating thing about writing songs, for me, is that you can’t control what’s coming, and if at all. So when you’re a songwriter, especially if you’re one to rely on intuition and inspiration, you are always just waiting around. It’s a horrible way to live, but it’s the only way I found to not become technical, and of course it’s absolutely worth the few moments of bliss when a song does come to you. Before I wrote “Whatever Will Be” I hadn’t written a word in three whole agonizing months, and when it came it came so fast it was dizzying; I was throwing a dinner party that night and had a million things to do, but I suddenly had it in my head, verse and chorus and all, and I just couldn’t ignore it. So I sat down and wrote the whole thing in maybe 15 minutes, and didn’t even burn my pie. That was a nice evening.
Back when I was 17 I left my home and country and joined my friend in London. Both of us came from broken homes and both were enchanted by the glorious lives we kept reading about: Hemingway, Patti Smith, Daniel Johnston. They were our dear friends and we were gonna follow their path as it was our own. My friend was an English-born, American-raised free spirit and she belonged everywhere she went, and I, a 17-year-old Jew with broken English and a patched-up culture I’ve been building in my head all from books and films, had to keep up.
I learned rather quickly, but my accent kept up to this day, getting me compared to this one singer, Nico. I guess I hated it at first, not wanting to be seen as foreign and an outcast. But after I first got my hands on Nico’s music I embraced that comparison full heartedly. So when I recorded this album, this cover seemed right. ‘These Days’ was written by Jackson Browne when he was only 16 and was first recorded by Nico in 1967 for her album Chelsea Girl.
“Any Day Now”
I can never keep a good secret, and writing songs is a great way to never have to. But some secrets you just have to keep, like, I don’t have the love you need, and I’m terrified to let you know. Or, I’m gonna cost you a lot of pain someday. This song is that.
It’s crazy for me because I’m such a hopeless romantic, but I haven’t properly fallen in love until quite late in my life. Just before I did, as I was wishing for a glimpse of that joyful blindness, I imagined it like this, in “The Gate:”
When the morning will fall
Down on that old-well-known-dream
And daylight all around it will call
Out my bluffs and out my scheme
I’ll ask then, eyes shut, pale and dirty
Standing at the gates of day
Dear heart, was it really worth it?
Yes it was, my heart will say.”
And I must say I was pretty close, as I was soon to find out.
“Under the Sun”
We recorded that song at a studio that was built in one of the neglected classrooms of an elementary school in Jaffa, and if you listen closely you can actually hear the kids playing in the background. When I was a child I used to get bullied a lot in school, and something of that experience always stays with you. So, when we started recording I’d cycle there every morning, and was unreasonably somewhat scared of getting there. It’s an odd experience, being scared of a group of eight-year-olds, but that’s how I felt. Of course I knew that from the kids’ point of view I was this cool adult with a guitar, but still I couldn’t help but feel like I’m at school again, walking quietly so as to not be noticed.
“Pitch Black to Blue”
This song takes you through the lives of one couple. From their first meeting, through a slowly fading relationship and finally to their inevitable end, seven years later.
It starts with the faint hope that this is it, this is the one that’s going to save me from all my demons, my anger, fear, and hate. But right under this hope there is the simple knowledge, it’s not what you think, and you’re gonna pay for your naivety.
“The first time we met
I couldn’t stop praying
At three in the morning the whole world seems brand new
The first time we met
I knew one day we’ll pay for it
As the sky turned from pitch-black to blue
I’ve been full of hate, I know
I’ve been crazy
I thought I’ll never find it
But it’s you I was seeking and it’s you that I found.”
I never really take that side in songs—the strong women, Beyonce/Nina Simone-ish side. This is the closest I ever got.
“After LemonSun Blues”
This song is the very end, the last moment. She’s standing out with the man she wants to keep loving but can’t, and she just knows nothing in the world is out of sight, but the moon is growing. Her longing will not fade.
“I said as we stood in the light
All my devils are out tonight
Nothing in the world is out of sight
But the moon is growing
Shining above our heads bright
That rock doesn’t care if we curse and fight
Yes nothing in the world is out of sight
But I just don’t know.”
This song starts with a clear promise: “our days will be handsome, our evenings will be bright.” A promise that quickly shatters to pieces, as the truth of it unfolds: while the storyteller is looking for answers from the moon, the stars, the hidden face of her lover, deep down she knows that “Knowing was my way to see your dear face finally / But also to forever close the door.” And that she does, with all the guilt, shame and heartbreak under a calm face, as if it’s only water running through her veins.
“I didnt wanna know but nonetheless,
We lost the fight.
Was it really seven years ago? Was it last night?
And when we met again and you asked,
Does it ever snow?
The mountains shook their white heads
I said no.
And I shook your hand as if you didn’t have my only heart
As if it’s only water running through my veins.”
I wrote this song about an old friend of mine who had passed away too young, the same friend I went to meet in London. She was the most amazing person and songwriter, she was the real thing. There isn’t a day I don’t think of her.
“She never told the story I was eager so to hear
At times I thought the glory of our short and stumbling years
Was nothing but a rumour
Nothing but an ache
The wind had brought to bloom here
And soon the wind will take.”