View Full Version : SOTW: Baby Birch

12-06-2010, 01:43 PM
Lyrics to start off with:

This is the song for Baby Birch.
I will never know you.
And at the back of what we've done,
there is that knowledge of you.

I wish we could take every path.
I could spend a hundred years
adoring you.
Yes, I wish we could take every path,
because I hated to close
the door on you.

Do you remember staring,
up at the stars,
so far away in their bulletproof cars?
We heard the rushing, slow intake
of the dark, dark water,
and the engine breaks,
and I said,

How about them engine breaks?
And, if I should die before I wake,
will you keep an eye on Baby Birch?
Because I'd hate to see her
make the same mistakes.

When it was dark,
I called and you came.
When it was dark, I saw shapes.
When I see stars, I feel, in your hand,
and I see stars,
and I reel, again.

Well mercy me. I'll be goddamned.
It's been a long, long time
since I last saw you.
And I have never known the plan.
It's been a long, long time.
How are you?
Your eyes are green. Your hair is gold.
Your hair is black. Your eyes are blue.
I closed the ranks, and I doubled back--
but, you know, I hated to close
the door on you.

We take a walk along the dirty lake.
Hear the goose,
cussing at me over her eggs.
You poor little cousin.
I don't want your dregs
(A little baby fussing all over my legs).

There is a blacksmith,
and there is a shepherd,
and there is a butcher-boy,
and there is a barber, who's cutting
and cutting away at my only joy.
I saw a rabbit,
as slick as a knife,
and as pale as a candlestick,
and I had thought it'd be harder to do,
but I caught her, and skinned her quick:
held her there,
kicking and mewling,
upended, unspooling, unsung and blue;
told her "wherever you go,
little runaway bunny,
I will find you."
And then she ran,
as they're liable to do.

Be at peace, baby, and begone.

I can't even begin to articulate what this song means to me. It is, without a doubt, my favorite song from HOOM and perhaps my favorite Joanna song period.

I've always thought of this song as musically reflecting grief patterns. It starts in a place of calm devastation and ends with a somewhat restrained but extremely emotional climax. I think anyone who has ever suffered a loss can identify with this. The song begins in a place where the shock is so fresh that it seems all the narrator (Joanna?) can do is sit in quiet contemplation of what has happened. Eventually, the outpouring of emotion comes when the narrator confronts the loss.

As for lyrical interpretation, this song is, obviously, about some kind of loss. The abortion interp is quite popular, but I think I disagree with it in the context of the album's narrative. HOOM chronicles a romantic relationship from beginning to end and Baby Birch comes in at the end when everything is disintegrating. The narrator is mourning the loss of a relationship that she had emotionally invested in, to the point where she started thinking about children(something that is implied in this song's themes and expanded upon in On a Good Day). The only way I could see the abortion angle working is if she "aborts" the idea of the child she was to have with her partner or it could simply be an abortion of the relationship itself. I think the lyrics are pretty open to interpretation and I'd love to hear what others think.

My favorite performance of Baby Birch(the most emotional performance I've seen from Joanna):


12-06-2010, 05:52 PM
I love how this song grows, and grows. It's so sparse at times, which just re-enforces the fragility of the emotional content of the lyrics. Even the lilting melody rises and falls so delicately that you instantly start to feel protective of it lest it falter and break.

12-06-2010, 06:03 PM
One of the most amazing things about this wonderful song, for me, is how it feels all sleepy and dreamy and very much a lullaby in the main "this is a song for baby birch..." melody but is contrasted with some really violent and harrowing images. I know people have said they think the build-up is too slow but I think Joanna builds it perfectly. I feel like it needs that length. I don't have the credits to hand right now, but the instruments used at the song's climax are perfect.

I also find it interesting that Joanna wrote it on piano (video from summer 2008)


12-06-2010, 06:04 PM
I love how this song grows, and grows. It's so sparse at times, which just re-enforces the fragility of the emotional content of the lyrics. Even the lilting melody rises and falls so delicately that you instantly start to feel protective of it lest it falter and break.
I definitely agree with this. I was thinking along the same lines in my interpretation.

And Menju, I'm really glad we have that version of Baby Birch for comparison. It was always a strong composition, but it reached incredible new heights with its recorded versions and live performances from the tour.

12-06-2010, 08:32 PM
I had never noticed the Amazing Grace similarity, not consciously anyway. Interesting points. This song conveys so many different emotions.

12-07-2010, 12:37 AM
This song went from being "Meh" to being one of my absolute favorite JW songs ever. I seriously don't know how the album could exist without Baby Birch. The song has such a beautiful ramping rhythm where it lulls off and then comes back like an ocean tide. The song plays out just like a standard story arch with growing tension and a massive climax and then finally a dwindling conclusion.

I love Kari's interpretation of the final lines. That's my favorite part of the whole album.

12-07-2010, 12:17 PM
Wow, that was a really beautiful interpretation Kari. I too never noticed the musical similarities to Amazing Grace until now.

I rarely listen to this song because when I do I'm reduced to quasi-hysterical sobs.