View Full Version : SOTW: Soft as Chalk

04-04-2011, 04:38 PM
Hi JN forum, I saved my SOTW on a different computer than the one I'm using and completely forgot to put it on my flash drive. I'll be able to post my interpretation of Soft as Chalk tomorrow. <3

04-04-2011, 10:37 PM
Eagerly awaiting your interpretation here! This is one of my favourite Joanna tracks!

arsonist samael
04-05-2011, 09:59 AM
One of my favs. This part:

In the last week
Of the last year I was aware
I took a blind shot, across the creek
At the black bear
When he roused me in the night
And left me cowering with my light
Calling out
Who is there
Who's there
Who is there

always brings a smile to my face, smile that stands for 'i've just heard perfection. again.' :)

04-05-2011, 06:21 PM
Okay, sorry guys, here's my interpretation. Please note that I'm not trying to wank off about Joanna a la Fast Horse, and this is just my personal interpretation of the song. I did a thesis for my creative writing class on women in music, and I chose to devote special attention to Soft as Chalk:

There are very few albums that can transcend the triteness and redundancy of the “breakup album” moniker, since very few artists can pull this off successfully. Joanna Newsom is one of them. With Have One On Me, she tackles the loss of a lover from unexpected angles, often breaking through the love song template and revealing intricate nuances and grand gestures that pertain to not just love, but human nature. She frequently throws a twist into the traditional love song format, thrusting the listener into a world chock-full of vivid imagery where our emotions are both upfront, palpable and within reason, and beneath the surface, ambiguous and utterly mystifying.

In “Soft as Chalk”, Joanna explores familiar themes of nature and love, but delves into entirely uncharted territory as well, exploring a theme that usually does not appear as explicitly in her songwriting: self-discovery. The song deals with the demise of love, and the process of discovering oneself when stripped of the sheltered identity and co-dependency of a serious relationship. She likens this relationship to a suburban, mundane lifestyle, characterized by enclosure, cleanliness, refinement, and the solidarity and comfort of manicured “houses and lawns”. However, the strength and solace she found in this relationship has been yanked out from under her feet like a painstakingly vacuumed carpet, and she is left “coatless”, lost and alone, “roam(ing) around the tidy grounds of (her) dappled sanatorium” aimlessly, desperately trying to piece herself together.

Somewhere there is a realization that the narrator cannot exist in that world anymore, so she travels out, far beyond the fences and carefully cultivated gardens, into the vast wilderness, a world unfettered by schedules and society, a land of where she has “all the time in the world” to recover and gain her bearings. It is foreign, awe-inducing, and frightening, and it “leaves her cowering” in the wake of its visceral “lawlessness”. However, she mostly fears the solitude, the dark nights alone with herself, the thought of which she cannot bear or fathom. She frantically calls out into the blackness, hoping for another voice to echo back at her. “Who is there?” she asks, but it is only her own voice she hears thundering through the darkness. She calls out again, “in a sadness beyond anger and beyond fear”, defiantly casting off the last remnants of the lover’s skin that had swaddled and blinded her.

With this realization of self, wizened, she looks back at the petty lifestyle she forfeited herself to “so long ago”, a life that now seems like a ridiculous and unworthy endeavor, and “glares and nods” at her former lover with both derision and acceptance. She is "God" now, queen of her own kingdom; her life is in her hands.

I really like the arrangement in this performance, and she's so cute at the beginning:


04-08-2011, 02:49 AM
This is one of my favourite songs by Joanna. I found it one of the most accessible songs on HOOM, and it was one of the first that I had on repeat. I love the piano, and the lyrics, especially:

I watched you sleep
repeating my prayer
Give love a little shove
and it becomes terror
Now I am calling
in a sadness beyond anger
and beyond fear
Who is there? Who's there?
Who is there?

04-08-2011, 08:09 AM
A fantastic track that my whole family loves and always asks me to play.

My favourite part is the time change at 4:49. It's an oddly satisfying little moment.

09-11-2011, 09:22 PM
That Helsinki performance is so good; her piano playing is awesome in it, and I love her face at the end - she knew it was a good one.