View Full Version : SOTW: Peach, Plum, Pear

folderol and
11-22-2010, 12:24 PM

We speak in the store
I'm a sensitive bore
and you're markedly more
and I'm oozing surprise.

But it's late in the day
and you're well on your way
what was golden went gray
and I'm suddenly shy.

And the gathering floozies
afford to be choosy
and all sneezing darkly
in the dimming divide.

I have read the right books
to interpret your looks
you were knocking me down
with the palm of your eye.

This was unlike the story
it was written to be
I was riding its back
when it used to ride me.

We were galloping manic
to the mouth of the source
we were swallowing panic
in the face of its force.

I was blue and unwell,
made me bolt like a horse.

Now it's done.
Watch it go.
You've changed some.
Water run from the snow.

Am I so dear?
Do I run rare?
You've changed some:
peach, plum, pear.
i got Ys sometime in 2007, and found that i couldn't get into it. three years later, this past spring, i by chance came across the "sprout and the bean" video on youtube, and promptly went out and bought the milk-eyed mender. i put it on and marvelled throughout at the greatness and beauty of the music. then, nine tracks in, "peach, plum, pear" started. vaguely remembering that i had heard it somewhere before (i have a friend who likes joanna's music), my body pulsated, jerked awake, and i was mesmerized. i love it when a song becomes a favourite upon first listen.

months later, "peach, plum, pear" still has a hold on me. it's so incredibly infectious. it's such a well-crafted song, from that totally catchy yet wistful chord progression to that affecting vocal melody to the emotive, evocative lyrics. so much is happening in this song, especially in the lyrics, with their tight, internal rhymes ("do i run rare? / you've changed some / peach, plum, pear / peach, plum") and incredibly profound and moving lines ("you were knocking me down with the palm of your eye"). this is some of the most beautiful poetry ever. it hits you hard with its beauty, yes, but moreso with its sheer emotional force.

i love the mood of this song. sometimes i feel it contains so much pain, so much tension and truly a feeling of running or galloping -- the musical equivalent of the narrator "bolting like a horse." i feel the song is chronicling the moment when it hits you that someone who you once knew through and through is now a completely different person -- which may be way after the actual devolution of the relationship. it seems like the narrator has run into the subject of the song by chance ("we speak in the store [...] and i'm oozing surprise / but it's late in the day / and you're well on your way") and has had the wind knocked out of her as memories appear to be flooding back in droves after the first "na na na na" interlude.

there is also a sense of bewilderment at the devolution of the relationship (songs like this always hit me the hardest), most apparent in the line "this is unlike the story it was written to be." the subject of the song still has a hold on the narrator ("suddenly shy", "knocking me down..."), and she is dizzied by all the memories and feelings and experiences associated with this one person whom she no longer really recognizes. by the end, she's asking if she even means anything to him anymore, if any of these lingering feelings she has towards him are reciprocated. and in a display of wry humour and wordplay particular to joanna, she compares his transformation to the differentiation between three different fruits. and the only thing that the fruits have in common (besides all being fruits) are their beginning letters, a surface detail, just as the only similarity that can be discerned between the person the narrator once knew and the person he is now is only on the surface, physical, tactile -- everything inside him has changed.

other times i feel like the wisdom of the world is contained in this song, as if it is viewing the entire breadth of the world from a great distance. it sounds almost relaxed, taken at a leisurely tempo, and the narrator is looking back, affected by this experience, but also interpreting it sagely.

i think, in the end, it's a bit of both. on walnut whales, this song sounds like a fresh wound, and some of the verb tenses which are in the past on MEM are in the present on WW. it's the same experience looked upon from two different points in time -- and on MEM especially, you can feel both sides, both emotional reactions -- one immediate, one reflective -- of the experience recounted in the song.

and this is the beauty of "peach, plum, pear" for me: it makes me feel so many different things, it is absolutely overflowing with emotion. the lyrics are in equal parts abstract and specific enough for you to feel a palpable emotional impact from its narrative, yet still draw your own personal interpretations. it's probably my favourite song. it's been weaving in and out of my consciousness ever since i first listened to MEM. every now and then, i'll feel like its hold on me has finally wavered, and that maybe i'll get back into it in a few months, and a week or two later it sounds as fresh as ever. thank the lord. i hope i never tire of it.

the words in this song combined with its poignant chord progression, particular tone of interwoven wisdom and despair, and her voice, completely uninhibited, emotionally bare -- it is a beauty which moves me deeply.

what do you guys think?

some PPP goodies:
piano version @ Queen Elizabeth Hall, April 2, 2005 (I have the whole show if anyone would like me to upload it):

2010 tour reincarnation, from Dublin this past September (always intense and joyous to hear):

and lastly, a classic performance in Seattle c. 2004:


11-24-2010, 03:10 PM
I love it. She played it when I saw her in September and seemed completely lost in the emotion of it.

11-29-2010, 09:42 AM
I wrote a blog post on PPP a few months back, I've cut/pasted it below for anyone who's interested.

Here's the performance I talk about:


This is one of my favorite Joanna Newsom songs, and although it’s a fan favorite, I think its genius is often overlooked because, at least in studio form, it’s lacking some of the musical complexity of her later work, and like most of “The Milk-Eyed Mender” album, the vocals are painful to listen to. Luckily, the most recent live performances of the song showcase a much-improved vocal performance and a powerful new arrangement. The drums kicking in at :45 propel the song forward even more than Joanna’s nimble and skilled harp playing, while the strings and trumpet* provide a beauty and sadness that matches with the lyrics and serves as a nice counterpoint to the pound of the drums. The 2-minute instrumental that concludes the song allows Joanna’s stunning harp skills to take center stage and ending this song on such a quiet and delicate note after building the sound up for much of the song is an unusual choice but one that is entirely fitting.

Lyrically, I find this much easier to interpret than most of Joanna’s songs. At its core, it’s about a relationship gone wrong and reflecting on how and why that happened. The first two verses are fairly self-explanatory: She runs into an old flame in a store, and finds them oddly attractive again initially, but the guy gives her the brush-off (you’re well on your way) and it makes her self-conscious and upset. I’m less certain about my reading of the third verse:
And the gathering floozies
Afford to be choosy
And all sneezing darkly
In the dimming divide
But I can picture the scene she describes in the first two verses, and then add in some friend(s) of the man coming up, looking at her disdainfully (although that attitude is shared, as evidenced by the floozies line) and sneezing to get his attention and break up the conversation, even as he’s trying to get away from the situation. The next verse is my favorite, with simple but stunning lyrics:

And I have read the right books
To interpret your looks
You were knocking me down
With the palm of your eye

She’s smart, she knows he’s trying to get out of this encounter and to push her away and down, but just because she knows that’s what he’s doing doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt or work. What an evocative and poetic way to express something simple. These lines are some of the most relatable and emotionally charged in the song, and that comes through in Joanna’s delivery.
The next verse begins her reflection on the relationship and what went wrong in earnest, using an extended metaphor comparing the two characters to horses. She lost control of her feelings and the relationship, unexpectedly going from wild horse to rider (I was riding its back when it used to ride me) and things began to get away from them as they rushed towards love or a deeper relationship (galloping manic to the mouth of the source) even as that freaked both of them out (swallowing panic in the face of its force)
As the song moves toward its conclusion, Joanna disarms the listener with lines (And I was blue, I am blue and unwell) that are completely direct, which are moving precisely because of that directness and simplicity. The following line made me bolt like a horse concludes the metaphor from earlier (although its actually a simile at this point) and reveals that it was she that ran away from the relationship after her issues got the better of her. In the next verse, she accepts that the relationship is finished though and gives up on the reignited hope she had upon seeing the man again (Now it’s done, watch it go), and acknowledges that he’s different now than he was then. The final verse is the one that carries the most weight in the song though, and serves as a melancholy conclusion to the entire story:

Am I so dear?
Do I run rare?
And you’ve changed so
Peach, plum, pear
Peach, plum

She questions herself, wondering if she’s as special as she thinks she is and if she’ll always be running away from intimacy or if it was just with that person. The repetition of you’ve changed so in this verse represents the narrator talking about herself, not the other person, and acts as a reassuring answer to the questions. Peach, plum, pear represents the stages of her sexual life and the relationship that’s the subject of the song. A peach is often used as a metaphor for a young, beautiful woman (Don’t tell me you’ve never heard some old man refer to a girl as “a peach” before.) and they’re juicy and fresh like a new relationship. Saying something is plum (a plum job, for example) is saying something is good, but doesn’t carry the same connotations of newness and innocence. She’s older and more mature, but still desirable, and the relationship was still good as it moved out of that initial phase where everything is exciting. Ultimately though we end up at pear, since everything’s gone pear-shaped, or awful. Pear-shaped is not a descriptor you want applied to you, and ending on pear shows that she feels used up and unattractive, but the repetition of the line that ends on plum reveals that she hasn’t hit that point yet and can regain the confidence lost in this encounter. There’s always hope for the future, even if that relationship is finished.

12-05-2010, 12:53 AM
^ Fantastic write-ups, both. I never really noticed the internal rhymes before. It's deceptive; a lot of her "simpler"-looking songs still have a lot going on and this is no different. I find myself fascinated with how she constructs sentences and makes use of language. Even in an early song like this, what she's doing is quite remarkable.

Melodically it's one of her catchiest and would do well in an introduction list of songs for a new listener.

Mr. Fox
12-05-2010, 03:22 AM
and lastly, a classic performance in Seattle c. 2004:


Is there an available recording of this show anywhere?

arsonist samael
01-12-2011, 02:43 PM
We speak in the store
I'm a sensitive bore
You seem markedly more
And I'm oozing surprise
part could be the best Joanna opener bar none.

I love this little song. If you're trying to convert anybody into a Joanna fan, this should def be on the compilation.

There's a lot of desperation, cynicism and disappointment mixed intermittently in this one.

It's interesting that she changed the lyrics. She hasn't done that to any other song in her catalogue.

And this part:
Am I so dear
Do I run rare
You've changed so
Peach, plum, pear
Peach, plum
always gets me. :(

other pete
08-15-2012, 08:50 AM
Having loved Sprout and the Bean when I first heard it, this was the next song that really made me realise Joanna was truly a force to be reckoned with. It blew me away with the internalised ferocity of the performance and the rapid fire imagery of the lyrics.

And yet it was only today that I heard of this for the first time:
http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/067088278X?ie=UTF8&force-full-site=1&ref_=aw_bottom_links !