Friday, May 28, 2010

Analyzing Joanna Newsom Songs Part 1

Joanna Newsom and I have this connection. She is a Folk GODDESS. Sure. Amazing vocals, natch.

But not everyone knows she took creative writing classes too, which definitely enhanced her lyrical skills. Some people have had trouble deciphering her complex songs. Understandable. Unless you have a Creative Writing Background, such as me, this would be difficult. This is a new segment where I will analyze Joanna Newsom's beautifully complex songs. I'm going to start with one of my favorites of hers.


Twenty miles left to the show
Hello, my old country, hello
Stars are just beginning to appear
And I have never in my life before been here

Okay, easy so far. She's twenty miles away from a show, and it's almost night time, and she's somewhere she doesn't know. Okay. Simple.

And it's my heart, not me, who cannot drive
At which conclusion you arrived
Watching me sit here, bolt upright
And cry for no good reason at the Eastering sky

Now we start getting tricky. She realizes that her heart can't drive a car, which makes sense, I guess, because it's an organ. And she's crying about it.

And the tilt of this strange nation
And the will to remain for the duration
Waving the flag
Feeling it drag

Here she's waving a flag, but it's falling on the ground.

Like a bump on a bump on a log, baby
Like I'm in a fistfight with the fog, baby
Step, ball-change, and a pirouette

I think here she's just rambling.

And I regret, I regret
How I said to you, honey, just open your heart
When I’ve got trouble even opening a honey jar
And that, right there, is where we are

Here Joanna is regretting the honey jar she left behind. Don't we all have regrets? Fucking beautiful.

And I've been 'fessing, double-fast
Addressing questions nobody asked
I'll get this joy off of my chest, at last
And I will love you till the noise has long since passed

She loves some guy with a nice chest, and she's asking him stuff.

I did not mean to shout, just drive
Just get us out, dead or alive
The road's too long to mention
Lord, it's something to see
Laid down by the Good Intentions Paving Company

Here the story takes a sharp turn, like all good stories should. She's involved in a high speed chase, her very life in the balance. What is this Good Intentions Paving Company? Some Mafia organization? Some Government Black Ops Group? Chilling.

All the way to the thing we've been playing at, darling

I can see that you're wearing your staying-hat, darling
For the time being, all is well
Won't you love me a spell

And the chase continues! Hats are blowing off in the wind! They're going to make it (darling) so can't the guy with a nice chest give her a kiss or two?

This is blindness, beyond all conceiving
While behind us, the road is leaving
And leaving, and falling back
Like a rope gone slack

Well, I saw straightaway that the lay was steep
But I fell for you, honey, easy as falling asleep
And that, right there is the course I keep

Through their escape, they have to deal with temporary blindness and ropes and the road itself falling apart, but they persevere. They stay the course and she falls asleep.

And no amount of talking
Is going to soften the fall
But, like after the rain
Step out of the overhang, that's all

His talking almost wakes her up. Don't wake Joanna!

It had a nice ring to it
When the old opry house rang
So with a solemn auld lang syne
Sealed, delivered, I sang

And there is hesitation
And it always remains
Concerning you, me
And the rest of the gang

I think...a gang is chasing them here? I don't know.

And in our quiet hour
I feel I see everything
And am in love with the hook
Upon which everyone hangs

....God, Joanna's fucking weird sometimes.

And I know you meant to show the extent
To which you gave a goddang
You ranged real hot and real cold
But I'm sold
I am at home on that range
And I do hate to fold
Right here, at the top of my game
When I've been trying with my whole heart and soul
To stay right here, in the right lane
But it can make you feel over and old
Lord, you know it's a shame
When I only want for you to pull over and hold me
Till I can't remember my own name

She gets home eventually, and the lovers embrace! Beautiful!

There you have it! Joanna Newsom: easily explained for you to enjoy! Now listen to this beautiful song!

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