Nathan Jolly

200 Sad Songs: #166 Holly Throsby – When? (2011)

Image: Nathan Jolly

Holly Throsby’s When? is a song is about an important aspect of love: looking forward to when you’re over the ex, and the landscape is bright once more.




When? is a striking, simple song tucked away at the end of Holly Throsby’s fourth record, Team – one of the most overlooked Australian albums of recent times, buried in no small part by the success of her Seeker Lover Keeper project, released a mere four months after this. The good thing about records, though, is that they still work outside of the year they happened to be released in – and often sound even better when freed from the nonsense that surrounds your standard album launch. This, of course, doesn’t apply to Cup of Life – that was very much a “then” thing.

Team is a slender collection of ten tunes, all deeply personal despite the inclusive title. By the time we get to When?, Throsby is heartbroken and impatient. The song pleas for a time in which she will be over a departed lover, and can finally stop acting as if she is, and simply be. “When will I see you, and feel none of anything?” she asks, before peeling off a sterling run of metaphors which I won’t unpack as they speak very beautifully for themselves.

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Much like Don Walker’s lyrics for Flame Trees – in which the static nature of his small town only compounds the fact his ex is no longer around – nature’s unflagging march sharpens Throsby’s loss while rendering it insignificant. If only that felt true, though. She is at the centre of this world of hurt, waiting for her ships to come in, for the bluebirds to leave her chest. All she wants is to reach a point when everything else is so unrecognisable that her feelings may become that way too – and she can stop pretending.


Nathan Jolly

Nathan is a Sydney-based journalist who has written for numerous publications over the years, including Junkee, This Recording, New York Post, The BRAG, SBS, Triple J Mag, Channel [V], and He used to be pretty good at hitting three-pointers, and can still cartwheel, although he never learnt to swim, drive, or manage money.

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