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The Learning Curve of Love: Dot Allison’s “Heart-Shaped Scars”

The Learning Curve of Love: Dot Allison’s “Heart-Shaped Scars”
Hannah Remsburg June 27, 2021

For centuries people have taken to mountain hills to dance in the moonlight and in their mystical evenings would be labeled heretic or witch. The graceful scene of grassy knolls and a sun slipping behind a mountain is set using lyrical instruments in Dot Allison’s opening song, “Long Exposure.” In this opening number, she establishes the feeling of wind dancing and twirling through the series of landscapes she creates throughout her album. Her gentle voice fills the air with melodies and discordant voice cracks creating the perfect atmosphere for her song “The Haunted,” which is exactly how her voice leaves the listener feeling as she drifts from one note to the next.

Allison uses nature as her canvas to paint the atmosphere she creates; from the roots of the earth to the stars in the sky, each song captures a moment. In one such moment, “Constellations” is immediately felt in the single piano note pattern that plays at the opening of the song. Her reference to floating in a lake and stargazing over a lost love calls to the listener of Shakespeare’s Ophelia and her doomed existence. “Ghost Orchid” speaks to the desire for love, the willingness to lower oneself for a drop of nectar as though bowing at an altar. Here the listener, as the wind swirls on the background vocals until they fall like snow, signals to a failed devotion that will melt into the sun. 

In a different vein than the beginning of the album, “Forever's Not Much Time” is a reminder of mortality. Even when forever seems promised, love can disappear at the snap of a finger even if both parties do their absolute best. I miss you like a dead man recalls life adds a sense of darkness on life's sunset and adoration that perhaps sends Allison’s listeners to clutch at the promise of today. This song and others follow her brief bridge “Entanglement” from thenceforth, creating the scene of love as a twisting root system that once broken causes insurmountable damage. 

“Cue the Tears” is a tale of young lovers that ran, didn’t look back. Did we shut out the sun? As Allison describes scars, needles, and stitches that the pain of youthful infatuation leaves in its wake, also the scars that remain. She continues using nature to draw the listener in, comparing affection to a flower in “One Love”, Allison says love doesn’t bloom in the shade. Love requires work, nourishment, and care, which she clarifies as the repetitive line focus your photons of love, showing mindful dedication. 

On a different note, “Love Died In Our Arms” acts as the closing to her story. Allison titled her album “Heart-Shaped Scars,” riding the winds of infatuation, dedication, and time running out: all planted in the conservatory of affection. 

Love leaves scars no matter the type-how it ends, how long it lasts, or how old we are, “Love Died In Our Arms” is all of these wrapped into one song; the beating heart of the album. The reflecting line that repeats so this was love I can feel the pulse now is the thoughtful breath we feel across time and relationships as we move through life.

As Allison closes with “Goodbye,” she gently implies that love and relationships are like seasons and the various flowers that blossom in each one; season flowers blossom through my veins. Love blooms and fades, and with each passing season, the “Heart-Shaped Scars” plant anew upon us. 

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