View Full Version : SOTW: Only Skin

12-13-2010, 08:23 AM
DISCLAIMER: This is a disaster. I am almost embarrassed to admit that I wrote this over the course of three days. It was a very difficult song to write about. It's very stream-of-consciousness. I haven't really proofread it at all. Anyway, here goes!

More than any other song by anyone, "Only Skin" affects me on a really profound emotional level. It's a very vague, somewhat unfocused song, for lack of a more flattering way of putting it, and I would imagine it is very easy for many people relate to because of that vagueness. Rather than being esoteric, it manages to allow the listener to find his or her own (multiple) meanings in different parts of the song. Also, because it is so incredibly long, complex, and lyrically dense, clocking in at 17 minutes with, cumulatively, what is surely less than a minute that contains no lyrics, it also allows the listener to find something new in the song each time he or she listens.

My interpretation of the song is that there are multiple narrators throughout, all relating the same story from their point of view. In my mind, the story is that of a man with an illness, I view it as a depression/addiction problem, who is loved by more than one woman.

In the beginning of the song, the man has had a terrible, apocalyptic fever dream that he awakens from and attempts to relate to the narrator. The imagery here is so mind-blowing, as it is throughout the song. The dark, cloudy sky like soaking bread, ready to fall apart, raining hell upon the world, is one of the strangest metaphors I can think of, but somehow it works, if only because of its creativity. As an aside, I always want to go, "You talkin' crazy talk!" after the line, "What is this craziness? This crazy talking?"

Following this, the narrator sets out to get whatever it is that will make the man she loves feel better, represented here by a rare "bitter herb." This is one of the first clues that, to me, indicate a addiction problem. I don't even think I can get into the different musical movements in the song, the first major one appearing in this section.

Later comes the first mention of fire. "A lazy cinder smoking." The last remains of an extinguished fire. But all it takes is a cinder, under the right conditions, to start a raging fire burning again. And then the first of the repeated "fire moves away," sections, which are so affecting and heartbreaking.

Later there is the mention of the narrator cutting the man's hair. Here, as in other parts of the song before and after this, she takes on a mothering caregiver role (notice that she even goes so far as to refer to him as "son" throughout the song). This seems to further imply that the man is unwell and has trouble caring for himself. Meanwhile, the narrator, comfortable in role as enabler and motherer, is the "happiest woman among all women" to be doing such tasks.

The middle section, beginning with "...and the shallow water," also puts the narrator in the role of the caregiver, keeping watch until the night is over. She goes to the "edge of town," to bring back "candy" for her lover, though she is condemned by the "common-folk" for doing so.

It is here that his response to the addiction is addressed. He is compared to Sisyphus, forced to roll a boulder up a hill until it inevitably rolls back down again and he has to start all over. This, to me, appears to be symbolic of the struggle of the addict, making great leaps forward (or upward, in this case) only to have it all undone in a single moment of poor judgment. And even as he's doing so, he's trying to find any scrap of his vice left over in his own pocket linings.

The section on the spiders being washed down the drain was addressed in a recent thread here much better than I could, so I'm going to leave it alone.

I love the imagery in the next section, which seems to illustrate staying put amidst chaos and danger. There's a lot of ocean imagery here (waves, tide, atoll, sea-cow, shore), a reference to the Ys myth and alluding to the destructive power of water.

Next, we get a hint of suicidal ideation on the part of the man in the song. But she begs him to lay the gun down, as there is "nowhere to go save up." He can get any lower than he is now, so it stands to reason, things can only get better. There is also a baby mentioned here, and I'm not sure if it is a reference to a real baby, or if she is once again referring to the man in the song as childlike.

The section about the brown finch that hits the window is one that I've never been quite clear on the meaning of. I have some ideas, but I'd love to hear other opinions on that section.

Next, we have a section where the man is referred to in the third person and another where he is referred to as "you." This is one of the things that led me to the impression that there are perhaps at least two narrators, and that the man in the song is unfaithful. The overwhelmed sort of emotion in her voice on the lines, "The crops are all coming/we have everything," tends to get me a little choked up. And then there is the section that begins, "You stopped by," and ends with, "I can't with certainty say we survived," which is probably my favorite bit on the whole record. She realizes it isn't going to work out and leaves to save herself, but in the end, she isn't sure that she was saved after all.

There's a sense in the next section that perhaps this story is being narrated after the death of someone. I always took it to be the man in the song, but, depending on how autobiographical the song is, I could be wrong since I know she lost a friend around this time. "You endless sleeper," and, "Sleep through the things that couldn't have been if you hadn't have been," always put me in mind of someone who has passed on though.

The next section is the climax of the record, for me at least, as the music builds and the instrumentation changes to something much more confrontational and direct, the lyrics almost sounding like an old nursery rhyme. It's a call and response between the man and the narrator, and it seems to sum up everything that the narrator has done for the man and his returned lack of appreciation and demand for more.

Then after a chilling moment of stark and frenetic harp figures, the "fire moves away" refrain slowly meanders back, followed by the frantic demand of, "Clear the room! There's a fire, a fire, a fire!" The lazy cinder at the beginning of the song is now a raging, deadly fire. The last line, "And if the love a woman or two, dear, couldn't move you to such heights, then all I can do is do, my darling, right by you," always seemed to insinuate two theories that I had about the song: one, that the song takes place after the man's death, and two, that the man was unfaithful to the narrator (and that perhaps there was more than one narrator).

Really, all I've learned from trying to write about this song is that I have no idea how to write about this song. There is so much to dissect and try to understand, and what it all boils down to for me is that this is one of those songs where it doesn't matter what exactly it means, the only thing that matters is the effect it has on you. And there is no other song out there that has the profound effect on me that this one does.


and there was a booming above you
that night, black airplanes flew over the sea
and they were lowing and shifting like
beached whales
shelled snails
as you strained and you squinted to see
the retreat of their hairless and blind cavalry

you froze in your sand shoal
prayed for your poor soul
sky was a bread roll, soaking in a milk-bowl
and when the bread broke, fell in bricks of wet smoke
my sleeping heart woke, and my waking heart spoke

then there was a silence you took to mean something:
mean, run, sing
for alive you will evermore be
and the plague of the greasy black engines a-skulkin'
has gone east
while you're left to explain them to me
released from their hairless and blind cavalry

with your hands in your pockets, stubbily running
to where I'm unfresh, undressed and yawning
well, what is this craziness? this crazy talking?
you caught some small death when you were sleepwalking

it was a dark dream, darlin', it's over
the firebreather is beneath the clover
beneath his breathing there is cold clay, forever
a toothless hound-dog choking on a feather

but I took my fishingpole (fearing your fever)
down to the swimminghole, where there grows bitter herb
that blooms but one day a year by the riverside - I'd bring it here:
apply it gently
to the love you've lent me

while the river was twisting and braiding, the bait bobbed
and the string sobbed, as it cut through the hustling breeze
and I watched how the water was kneading so neatly
gone treacly
nearly slowed to a stop in this heat
- frenzy coiling flush along the muscles beneath

press on me: we are restless things
webs of seaweed are swaddling
you call upon the dusk
of the musk of a squid
shot full of ink, until you sink into your crib

rowing along, among the reeds, among the rushes
I heard your song, before my heart had time to hush it!
smell of a stone fruit being cut and being opened
smell of a low and of a lazy cinder smoking

and when the fire moves away
fire moves away, son
why would you say
I was the last one?

scrape your knee; it is only skin
makes the sound of violins
when you cut my hair, and leave the birds the trimmings
I am the happiest woman among all women

and the shallow
stretches as far as I can see
knee-deep, trudging along
a seagull weeps; "so long"

I'm humming a threshing song
until the night is over
hold on!
hold on!
hold your horses back from the fickle dawn

I have got some business out at the edge of town
candy weighing both of my pockets down
'til I can hardly stay afloat, from the weight of them
(and knowing how the common-folk condemn
what it is I do, to you, to keep you warm
being a woman, being a woman)

but always up the mountainside you're clambering
groping blindly, hungry for anything:
picking through your pocket linings - well, what is this?
scrap of sassafras, eh Sisyphus?

I see the blossoms broke and wet after the rain
little sister, he will be back again
I have washed a thousand spiders down the drain
spiders ghosts hang soaked and dangelin'
silently from all the blooming cherry trees
in tiny nooses, safe from everyone
- nothing but a nuisance; gone now, dead and done
be a woman, be a woman!

though we felt the spray of the waves
we decided to stay 'til the tide rose too far
we weren't afraid, 'cause we know what you are
and you know that we know what you are

awful atoll
- o, incalculable indiscreetness and sorrow!
bawl, bellow:
Sibyl sea-cow, all done up in a bow

toddle and roll;
teeth an impalpable bit of leather
while yarrow, heather and hollyhock
awkwardly molt along the shore

are you mine?
my heart?
mine anymore?

stay with me for awhile
that's an awfully real gun
I know life will lay you down
as the lightning has lately done

failing this, failing this,
follow me, my sweetest friend
to see what you anointed in pointing your gun there

lay it down! nice and slow!
there is nowhere to go, save up
up where the light, undiluted, is weaving in a drunk dream
at the sight of my baby, out back:
back on the patio watching the bats bring night in
- while, elsewhere, estuaries of wax-white
wend, endlessly, towards seashores unmapped

last week our picture window produced a half-word
heavy and hollow, hit by a brown bird
we stood and watched her gape like a rattlesnake
and pant and labour over every intake

I said a sort of prayer for some sort of rare grace
then thought I ought to take her to a higher place
said: "dog nor vulture nor cat shall toy with you
and though you die, bird, you will have a fine view"

then in my hot hand
she slumped her sick weight
we tramped through the poison oak
heartbroke and inchoate

the dogs were snapping
so you cuffed their collars
while I climbed the tree-house
then how I hollered!
cause she'd lain, as still as a stone, in my palm, for a lifetime or two

then, saw the treetops, cocked her head and up and flew
(while, back in the world that moves, often
according to the hoarding of these clues
dogs still run roughly around
little tufts of finch-down)

the cities we passed were a flickering wasteland
but his hand in my hand made them hale and harmless
while down in the lowlands the crops are all coming;
we have everything
life is thundering blissful towards death
in a stampede of his fumbling green gentleness

you stopped by, I was all alive
in my doorway, we shucked and jived
and when you wept, I was gone:
see, I got gone when I got wise
but I can't with certainty say we survived

then down, and down
and down, and down
and down, and deeper
stoke without sound
the blameless flames
you endless sleeper

through fire below, and fire above, and fire within
sleeped through the things that couldn't have been if you hadn't have been

and when the fire moves away
fire moves away, son
why would you say
I was the last one?

all my bones they are gone, gone, gone
take my bones, I don't need none
cold, cold cupboard, Lord, nothing to chew on!
suck all day on a cherry stone

dig a little hole, not three inches round
spit your pit in the hole in the ground
weep upon the spot for the starving of me!
till up grow a fine young cherry tree

well when the bough breaks, what'll you make for me?
a little willow cabin to rest on your knee
what'll I do with a trinket such as this?
think of your woman, who's gone to the west

but I'm starving and freezing in my measly old bed!
then I'll crawl across the salt flats to stroke your sweet head
come across the desert with no shoes on!
I love you truly, or I love no-one


fire moves away, son
why would you say
I was the last one?

clear the room! there's a fire, a fire, a fire
get going, and I'm going to be right behind you
and if the love of a woman or two, dear,
couldn't move you to such heights, then all I can do
is do, my darling, right by you

12-13-2010, 10:39 AM
As complex as Only Skin is, it basically boils down to loving someone who is damaged and who for various reasons can't respond in the same way and constantly, but loving them nonetheless.

12-14-2010, 02:40 PM
Great interpretations Matty and Kari. I feel like SOTW was made for Only Skin! I'm interested to hear all interpretations and opinions, it's a song that sort of demands analysis. Don't be embarrassed to do big long analyses, I'm keen to read them!

I'm going to listen to Ys again and post some thoughts.

12-16-2010, 12:31 AM
Any recommended live versions?

She hasn't played it on this tour, has she? I think it's a wonder she remembers the whole thing!

12-16-2010, 05:54 AM
Kari, you've just beautifully explained one of the most gorgeous lyrical passages ever put to tape. You've also made me cry. Screw you. ;)

12-16-2010, 06:11 AM
Just wanted to add that I think the earlier line " toothless hound-dog choking on a feather" clearly links to the bird passage. I see it as her telling him it was only a bad dream, that life or their circumstance isn't as bad as it seems. The dogs may rip apart the bird, but they're toothless. She is telling herself all this to remain ok in the relationship until later, she gets "gone when she gets wise". She finally realizes that she can't save him. But just like the bird in the song, death or destruction will come. Not by the violence of a dog's teeth, but by the horrible, sad mistake of flying into a window. His destruction will be his mistake and just like the bird, an accident. In fact, I always see his fate ( or hers...possibly her friend?) as an accidental overdose.

12-16-2010, 07:05 PM
Just off the thought of me head, not so much laziness, more that you've all written so much excellent stuff that I couldn't more readily verbalize from the best love song in existence.

Yes, the best love song, as much as I adore Sufjan, The Impossible Soul must come second and I think the sheer quaintness of Only Skin has something to do with it, and that quaintness in return lends a sort of timelessness to the song. I mean, so much of Nature is in the song, so much of Mother Earth. Yet there're words like black airplanes, gun, cities, shucked and jived that seem more grounded in modern time references, and this leads me as a listener IMO to interpret the song as having two timelines or two narratives, one metaphorical and the other literal (kinda like what happens to Lyta Hall in Sandman: The Kindly Ones. The parts on fishing, rowing, shallow water, threshing song, edge of town, Sisyphus, wave sprays, and all my bones would IMO be metaphorical, with the two timelines merging around the cities we passed verse, if one must be exact about it:

the cities we passed were a flickering wasteland
but his hand in my hand made them hale and harmless
while down in the lowlands the crops are all coming;
we have everything
life is thundering blissful towards death
in a stampede of his fumbling green gentleness

And the references to black airplanes, engines and gun bring up images of a war going on in the song, no? Which sets the song amidst some unrest, maybe the beloved's a soldier or wants to be one (I always imagine the first bit to be about "you" gazing longingly at the airplanes disappearing,wanting to be part of the cavalry, and then explaining his excitement [fever of cavalry!] to the half-awake "me") but is unable to, and when "I" ask "you" to lay the gun down it's so "you" won't take up the call to arms, which would separate the two of them.

There's also this alternation between mobility and stasis that I hope can be taken to symbolize the flight-or-stay interpretation we've all arrived at for the song: there's the black airplanes, "you" running, but "I" just waking up from a sleep; "I" fishing; then "I" rowing; then back to more stationary action, "I" cutting "your" hair (she likes cutting hair doesn't she?); then "I" washing all the spiders down the drain (expecting his return?); "I" seem to be "doing" more stationary stuff, is all I'm saying haha. Sorry for long-windedness.

Love the music, when the bones are gone part kicks in, it's like the burst of emotion that breaks down a long-drawn suppression for catharsis, a technique IMO that's also put to wonderful effect in HOOM. It's not like we've not heard it before, foreshadowed by the "press on me" melody line, but this time the emotion breaks through by having a different, higher melody line answer the already familiar one. Sorry, limited music vocabulary and knowledge, pardon if I write out of turn.

I thought the line in the last verse's "Could move you to such heights"? Love love love her ambiguity in the concluding lines: ... then all I can do is do, my darling, right by you

It could mean All I can do is do the right thing by you, which is...? or All I can do is do right beside you. Adjectival or adverbial, or both? Hope I made sense and thanks for reading :)

12-20-2010, 03:38 PM
The lyrics in this song are superb.

"while the river was twisting and braiding, the bait bobbed
and the string sobbed, as it cut through the hustling breeze
and I watched how the water was kneading so neatly
gone treacly
nearly slowed to a stop in this heat
- frenzy coiling flush along the muscles beneath"

"while, elsewhere, estuaries of wax-white
wend, endlessly, towards seashores unmapped"

These are song lyrics!

12-20-2010, 06:16 PM
This is easily my favorite song of hers. Though I'm ashamed to say I've never read the lyrics until now. I must say they are quite potent.

There are certain parts that have always stuck out to me, though. Specifically "why would you say I was the last one?" I can't say I understand it in the context of the song, but it means a lot to me, no less.

The thing about Ys as an album is that it takes a certain amount of patience and sensitivity. And Only Skin is the best example of this. I can remember it was Emily that made me buy the album. And the first night I liestened I fell alseep half way through. Only to awaken just as Only Skin picks up towards the end, going into the bones bit. I couldn't believe my ears. So I hit repeat. Its a long song... it drifts. But the payoff is astounding.

I'm going to go listen to it now with the lyrics.

12-20-2010, 08:36 PM
(firstly, unf-ers, I hate you all. I got lost in a musical rabbithole on this one)

Structurally, Only Skin uses a large-scale Tertiary Form, similar to Sonata form, believe it or not. In fact, I'd almost argue in favour of it being in Sonata form, with a long development section, and a coda based on one of the themes used in the exposition. But I'm a bit hesitant to use without a strong Tonic-Dominant relationship between themes and the Exposition/Recap. but that's just because I'm a traditionalist like that. Arguably, you could say that Only Skin is in Expanded Sonata form, but I'll get back to that afterwards.

I've not broken this song down too much, just a quick overview analysis of the chord structure and the individual sections. Initially, I started doing this because I knew there were some weird musical moments, and odd key changes, and I wanted to see if those moments happened at key lyrical points - perhaps using a different key to show us that we're on a tangent away from the main story, or that she's using metaphor quite heavily in this section, or whatnot. But then I got sidetracked.

Myself, personally, this is how I'd structure the song.

A Section.
From the opening lines until "apply it gently to the love you've lent me."

B Section.
From "while the river was twisting and braiding..." to "I am the happiest woman among all women". Though, the last section after "why would you say, I was the last one?" could be considered a Codetta, ending the "exposition" of the sonata form, if you like...

C Section aka Development, if you like.
From "and the shallow water..." until "lay it down, nice and slow, there is nowhere to go, save up (this one I'm not fully sure of, as there's a linking section from the end of the C section back to the A repeat that brings us back to the original key, and it's a bit fuzzy where one ends and one restarts, but this is a clear-ish point.

A1 section (the 1 indicates that it's not an exact repeat of A, but is mostly the same)
Starting from "up where the light, undiluted, is weaving..." until "little tufts of finch-down with another caveat here, because there's a linking section at the end of A1 that harkens back to the key of the C section, appropriately the lyrics starting "while, back in the world that moves...", so it's an aside, that is musically an aside also. Interesting, no?

B1 Section (1 - though honestly, I think this is an almost exact musical repeat of B structurally.. )
From "the cities we passed were a flickering wasteland" until "why would you say, I was the last one?"

Now, the bit that could have been considered a "codetta" in the of the last B Section, is definitely a Coda at this point. It's a melody and chord progression taken from the middle of the B section that is repeated and expanded upon greatly

After that we have a short repeat of the initial opening theme ("clear the room!..." until the end) that acts as a final closer, which helpfully also ties the whole thing together quite well - it's a very folk-music thing to do, repeating the opening of the song at the end to give a sense of finality yet cohesiveness.

Ok. I'm gonna break down the A and B sections in a separate post, as this was a lot of typing.

But, if anyone wants to look thematically at the content of the lyrics in each of those sections, and whether it makes any sense, please do. I'm particularly interested in the C section - as it goes into a different (unrelated?) key at that point.

12-20-2010, 09:13 PM
First up. The A Sections

Ok. I'm gonna say there's three main parts to the A section, but really there are four. I'm kinda of the opinion that the last one is a linking section bringing us into the next section. Also, because it kinda hops away into a different key - the one that the C section is in.

Overall structure: 1 | 2 | 1b | 3 (using numbers instead of small letters to avoid confusion. hopefully).

Section 1: chord progression is basically F - Am.
Section 2: Chord progression: em - D- C - Bflat.
Section 1b: is a repeat of Section 1 with an extra section added to it, with a different melody and arrangement happening over the same chords from "with your hands in your pockets" until "when you were sleepwalking". The additional chord progression is, roughly, Am - E - D - Am - C - Bflat (maybe, possibly, ish?)

Section 3: is in a different key, and could arguable be a bridging/linking section between A and B, as is often found in Sonata Form. Lyrics form "But I took my fishing pole..." to "to the love you've lent me".

Now, some chord interps online have put this in F#m, and although it could be written as Gflatminor, I'm gonna go with the former, merely because of the presence of the D major in the chord progression, but it's just a weird ass chord progression overall, and then the fact that the chords in this section link to the chords in the C Section bothers me more.
Essentially it's like: F#m - C#m - F#m - D (repeat), F#m - A - D.
Then a keychange to: Gminor - F - C - Bflat - Dmin. (which is nicely transitioning back to the home key of F again)

When this A section comes back later as A1, the main change is in the Section 1b, which comes back without the repeat of the Section 1 - it just comes right back into the second part of the section with the lyrics "I said a sort of prayer..". Hence we'll call it Section 1b* ;)

And the "linking" Section 3 is different again. It starts off the same, but is expanded on. It's the other interesting difference that marks out A1 as not being just a repeat of the initial section. This time the bridge/linking theme has this chord progression (roughly)

F#m - C#m - F#m - D (repeat).
F#m - D - F#m - A. (repeat) - which is an additional progression not in the first version. lyrics" "the dogs were snapping..." until "then how I hollered"

F#m - C#m - F#m - A - D - Gm - the same key change sequence again.
F - C - Bflat - Dm - again, the same.

But then we have this:

F#m - C#m - F#m - A - D - Gm - same key change progression all over again. "while back in the world that moves"
Em - D - C - Bflat. - the progression from the Section 2, and the melody from it too, stated just once. "dogs still run roughly around..."

So, all in all, a different, longer version of Section 3, although mostly quite similar.

So, overall the structure of Section A1 would be:

Overall structure: 1 | 2 | 1b* | 3b

Ta da! Them be the rough ideas of the A sections and the different sections, or themes within each one.

12-20-2010, 09:41 PM
^ Interesting (and complicated!) stuff!

Found a couple of quotes about Only Skin

Arthur, 2006

“Only Skin” is the longest, most obscure, and least shapely of the album’s songs, the one that detractors will most readily point to as evidence of Newsom’s art-rock self-indulgence. I’ve listened to it tons, and it’s grown on me, and the peaks are worth the valleys. It was the last song she wrote, and the one where, perhaps foolishly, she attempted to weave together all the various threads and “ghost characters” in her tale. “It was an attempt to encapsulate everything, and to find some measure of grace.”

Pitchfork, 2006

There were four very big things that happened in my life in this particular year, and so four of the songs are about these things. The fifth song, "Only Skin", was an effort to talk about the connections between the events.



12-20-2010, 09:50 PM
Onto the B sections.

The first B section introduces the rest of the main themes, aside from that whole C section development thingie mess that I'm refusing to look at just yet.

Overall Structure: 1 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 4*

This section starts off with a repeat of the initial theme, Section 1 from the song, which we're now hearing for the third time. Then we're into

Section 4: this becomes the most important part of the song. Chords: Am - C - Em - G. So, we're away from the key of F and into Cmajor-ish , which is the dominant of F, which was the basis for most of the A section (ish). Lyrics: from "press on me.." to "until you sink into your crib"

Section 5: I think is still based around Cmajor, mostly: Dm - F - C - Em - D - F - C - Am (repeated), and leads into

Section 6: which is also in C: C - F - C - Am - G - F (repeated). Lyrics: "when teh fire moves away.." until "I was the last one".

Then, interestingly, we have a repeat of Section 4, which I consider a Codetta at this point, but perhaps not. Lyrics "scrape your knee" to "happiest woman among all women".

Perhaps the most interesting reason for it, is that that section finishes on the chord of G, and the next section - the C Section, opens with C#m / dflat minor (depending on your choice of key for that section), which is as far away as you can get musically. It's a tritone - diminished 5th/augemented 4th - know as the "devil in music" and is the main interval of dissonance in classical harmony. It's as far away from the starting note as you can get, which is why it's intriguing that she jumps to that chord for the start of the next section. It's a very clear jump away.

Now, you could argue that the Section 1 I've included in the B section could be simply the final theme of the Section A - and I guess you could be right. I'm a bit torn over that one myself to be honest, as then we'd have three new themes in the B section that are all based around Cmajor, the dominant, and that might even be neater again. It'd leave the A section with a sort of Rondo form: 1 | 2 | 1b | 3 | 1 - which would be quite balanced. But this is where I should be paying more attention to the lyrics. Thoughts?

Anyways, the repeat of the B1 section is pretty much exactly the same. The only difference is that the repeated Section 4 becomes the long Coda that we all love.

So that B1 Section's structure is: 1 | 4 | 5 | 6

Followed by:

Coda: 4 (developed and repeated a lot) | 1

12-20-2010, 09:59 PM
heh. I'm already re-thinking my own thoughts on the matter.

The interesting thing about the C section, are the points when the chords / keys / music change: after "be a woman, be a woman!" the texture become richer, the tempo faster, and melody changes drastically. the whole mood changes here.

Ditto at "stay with me for a while" where we've moved from a lot of Fminor chords back to an Fmajor one - interesting because that was our opening key. and we continue to change - back to Fminor for "failing this and we start to move back to the original key again which we're definitely back into between "follow me my sweetest friend" until "there is nowhere to go, save up", which ends that section and brings us back to the repeated A and B sections.

It's interesting to note that the key changes back to the original key after the lyrics point out that there's nowhere else to go save up - we've hit rock bottom and things can't get worse, so they slowly start to get better again.

06-09-2011, 08:36 AM
I think this may be my favorite song by anyone, EVER. and this is what I love about Joanna. and what I love about Tori. Boys for Pele Tori. that you can totally own this song. and interpret it any way. I could tatoo this song on this one boy's fucking forehead. and say this is my song to you. the whole mood and melody and words to this song just sums up you. and how it just wraps you up and spins you around. and it's kind of sad. because all the great songs are always attached to the shitty boys in my life. well. past life. isn't it weird that your most favorite song by anyone, EVER is associated with probably your least favorite person, EVER. sorry. i'm tipsy and incoherent.

06-11-2011, 07:32 PM
I really suck at interpretation but thought I'd add a few bits.

Opening to scenes of a current war and no longer able to take part in something that has destroyed him, no longer giving him a purpose to life, condemned to live. Taking drugs as a result to ease pain that muddles dream from reality.

you froze in your sand shoal
prayed for your poor soul
sky was a bread roll, soaking in a milk-bowl
and when the bread broke, fell in bricks of wet smoke

This gives me the feeling that he was in something like a scene from Normandy, reliving it in his dream.

you call upon the dusk
of the musk of a squid
shot full of ink, until you sink into your crib

drug reference.

though we felt the spray of the waves
we decided to stay 'til the tide rose too far
we weren't afraid, 'cause we know what you are
and you know that we know what you are

Love this part, I feel like I'm in the waves with her as it's rising and she's singing this and the wind is starting to blow fierce. I like what someone said about multiple narrators. This would be where the two women are looking at him and saying this. Maybe they even knew each other and talked about it? Or maybe they're just both very parallel in their thought processes. There probly weren't a lot of men around at the time if there's a war going on.

you stopped by, I was all alive
in my doorway, we shucked and jived
and when you wept, I was gone:
see, I got gone when I got wise
but I can't with certainty say we survived

He's gripping onto her arms begging her to stay as she's about to go through the doorway. Having mutliple women in his life, he saw them as drugs too. Like salves to his deep pain. They too seeing him as a way to salve some kind of pain they were also feeling in their life. Everything sounds like it's terribly bleak during the war, and they were not immune to its consequences.

Mr. Fox
09-26-2011, 12:13 AM
I'm not really sure if this is at all worth mentioning, but does anyone think Joanna is alluding to Virgil's Aeneid with references to Sisyphus, a war (the Trojan War for Aeneas), the (golden) bough, and the sibyl? It's a bit of a stretch, but it's rather interesting that Joanna could be drawing parallels between Aeneas' descent into the underworld and her relationship; it adds another layer to the song for me, at least.