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Tom Waits – Long Way Home Lyrics 6 years ago
It's "head full of lightning", not "handful of lightning".

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The Shins – 40 Mark Strasse Lyrics 7 years ago
"she means his father's" should be "he means her father's" above. I'm so used to having an edit feature...

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The Shins – 40 Mark Strasse Lyrics 7 years ago
The girl might be a prostitute, but your interpretation of "you blow like a broken kite" is a bit of a stretch; explicitly referring to a blowjob doesn't exactly seem like Mercer's style, and even if "blow" meant "blowjob" in this case, what does a blowjob like a broken kite feel like? More likely, he means that she floats around, with no stability or place in the world; she isn't grounded, because her parents can't provide that for her, and she hasn't yet learned to make her own way.

I also think that when he refers to the bar as her father's second home, she means his father's always there (he's probably an alcoholic who wastes all his money at the bar), and when he says "I wanted something from you", I think he means something more than sex; you seem to be ignoring the next three lines, "too young to know just what it was / something more than a friend / is that you at the end?" That sounds like romantic interest. I can't really comment on "you play in the streets at night", but that's odd language for a prostitute.

Overall, I'm more inclined to think it's about a girl from a poor / broken family (who might be destined to become a prostitute, but I don't think she is yet). He's fascinated by her, even though nobody else thinks much of her.

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The Shins – It's Only Life Lyrics 7 years ago
"It's Only Life" feels like a throwback to Wincing The Night Away to me, but from the perspective of someone whose been who's been through all that. The speaker throughout Wincing The Night Away is coming to terms with a lot of existential truths: that, in the absence of God, there are no rules, and we're on our own to decide how to live, a responsibility we cannot escape until death. He tries to share those ideas with his partner, who rejects his philosophy and him along with it, making his isolation seem all the more real.

"It's Only Life" could be directed at that speaker, or to anyone who's faced those thoughts. The first verse sets it up, when he says "you've died in the world" -- not a literal death, but maturity; the point of rejecting a youthful naivete. The object would like to return to a simple, carefree life, but he can't ignore that everything will eventually fall apart, "time will wash every tower to the sea". "Who would be born must first destroy a world," but first we must reject the world, a process which often manifests as nihilism, when we destroy what we mistook for meaning, before we've replaced it with our own.

If you're skeptical of this interpretation, I don't blame you: it's odd, and usually inaccurate, to read so much philosophy into song lyrics, but it's hard to deny Mercer's familiarity with these concepts, considering lines like "Some uberman I'd make, I'm barely a vapor", from "A Comet Appears", which references both Nietzsche's concept of the superman and possibly Sartre's recurring use of lightness as a lack of responsibility (Orestes complains of feeling too light and is grounded by murdering his mother's husband). In context, "you used to be such a lion" could be a reference to another one of Nietzsche's concepts: in his three metamorphoses, the Lion overcomes "thou shalt" to leave room for his own code of laws, but the Lion does not exist as a whole: he can only destroy.

So the object is trapped between the Lion and the Child, the Sacred Yes that builds new meaning. He's torn down everything he believed, and he doesn't know how to rebuild his world. In the chorus, the speaker sympathizes, "I've been down the very road you're walking now", and he wants the person to know that it's still okay to seek help from outside. Even if the speaker cannot tell this person what to believe, he can at least provide support and guidance.

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The New Pornographers – Letter from an Occupant Lyrics 7 years ago
I actually prefer the idea somebody presented earlier about it being somewhat anti-feminism, if anything. "Where the hell have the 70's brought me" could be a reference to the height of second wave feminism and, in context, the lyrics could be lamenting how complicated it's made things, because roles have become less clearly defined. Before that, it would go without saying that the man would pick up the bill at the restaurant, but now there's a conflict over who should pay. If the eventual downfall [of their relationship] was a bill at a restaurant, then the more complicated modern social dynamic indirectly caused their fall.

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The New Pornographers – Letter from an Occupant Lyrics 7 years ago
When people try to make NP songs political on SongMeanings, are they just trolling? I'm sure you could make the argument, but neither the New Pornographers nor any of their individual side projects have ever been political, and this song is pretty clearly about a breakup.

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The New Pornographers – The Slow Descent Into Alcoholism Lyrics 7 years ago
I've noticed some conflict on the comments as to whether it's a happy song. I think the key is this in these lines: "My slow descent / Into alcohol, it went / Something like this song". Alcoholism is a sad, destructive disorder, but not everyone's predisposed to it, and you don't know whether you are until you find yourself hooked. When you see a bunch of 20-somethings partying, there's always this underlying darkness where yeah, they're drinking to have fun right now, but for at least one of them, the pastime could develop into something very dangerous.

Furthermore, we tend to glorify alcoholism (as long as we don't call it that). From the outside, it's easy to see the libertine lifestyle, guys like Jim Morrison and Hunter Thompson and all the other famous artists who were known to do a lot of drugs, and see it as something desirable, because from the outside, you don't see the damage it does, because it isn't real to you. I think that's what Carl means by "it went / To my head, where I really need it / With the views that remain untreated". This goes back to the previous track on the album, where Carl sings "And when you see the bruises on my legs from kicking pills / Then you see how recklessly the pages got filled", about how the struggles that are evident in most great weren't aren't merely sources of inspirations for the artists -- they're very really and sometimes fatal.

I may be overanalyzing, since most of the Pornographers (with the possible of Case) never focused too much on writing comprehensible lyrics, but I think it is worth noting how the tension between the music and the song's content reflects the tension inherent in the use of alcohol.

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The National – Cardinal Song Lyrics 8 years ago
There might be a hint of irony, but for the most part, I think he actually means what he says. It's good advice. I'm sure your conclusion is exactly what a lot of people want to hear, but the only way you can tell a girl you love her without turning her off immediately, is if she's said it first. This might not be true 100%, but I'd say no less than 95%.

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The National – Pay for Me Lyrics 8 years ago
Seconding 'this Concord doesn't turn around.' 'Cockpit' would make sense, but I don't hear a 'p' or a 't' in his pronunciation.

Also, fairly certain this is about visiting someone he used to date, and that disappointed expectation that some of their old chemistry would remain. She hasn't just moved on from him though -- she's moved on from the whole life in which they knew one another. He seems a little envious, but it's not his world, so he gets smashed during his flight home.

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The National – The Geese of Beverly Road Lyrics 8 years ago
Correction above: Should read "I don't think Berninger uses lemon as 'bitter".

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The National – The Geese of Beverly Road Lyrics 8 years ago
I think you guys mostly have it , but I do want to comment and agree with Seike -- Berninger uses lemon as bitter; I think he more refers to the way it's bright and yellow and reminiscent of Summer. See also, from Lemonworld: "You and your sister live in a lemonworld I want to sit in an die." What's bitter here about the lemon isn't the lemon itself, but that it's fleeting.

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TV on the Radio – Crying Lyrics 8 years ago
There's a certain irony to the way he sings the chorus -- "crying" doesn't come off as emo or indulgent, but sarcastic. I feel like he's saying, "yeah, things have gotten pretty bad, so what are you going to do about it? Because all your crying isn't going to help."

The message seems especially clear in:
"And the blood on the cradle
And the ashes you wade through
Got you callin' God's name in vain
Leaved the damned to damn it all!"

Wading through the destruction and injustice in the world, we've got to do more than just call out for some unseen hero or deity to fix it for us.

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Sara Bareilles – Love Song Lyrics 8 years ago
At first, I assumed she was writing this to a guy, and I heard it on pop radio at work, and just thought "boring. Another female vocalist writing a love song / breakup song." The market is already saturated with those, and I became extremely frustrated that female artists refuse to write anything else.

And then I heard "King Of Anything" and revisited this one, and it all made sense. Ok, so that's two different songs telling her label to f_ off, and the irony isn't lost on me, but it's definitely better than two love songs.

Thank you, Sara Bareilles, for proving that girls CAN vary their subject matter.

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Neko Case – Lion's Jaws Lyrics 8 years ago
That the speaker is suffering the loss of a lover is fairly obvious from the opening verse, the lover implied by "when your hand was in my pocket", and how the trees appear to have lost their life. Nature plays an integral role in Case's lyrics, and here reflects how she sees the world -- everything is still and dead, in contrast to when they were together. "Now the meddling sky and my snowy eye / Sees a different light" continue this theme, showing how radically she feels her life has changed.

What exactly she means by "the lion's jaws" is difficult to decipher with any certainty, but the line "to my regret and your delight" indicates that she must have given in to something, which may be sex, or love, or both. Much of the album seems to be about the cycle of hesitation to follow our desires, then confirmation of our concerns. "Lion's Jaw" might follow "That Teenage Feeling", wherein the speaker wishes she could love someone, but her heart has grown "green as weeds", hard from past experiences. Here, she finally allows herself to embrace those feelings, but she knows how delicate romance is -- "the haze I wish you'd never break / And to never contemplate", how love can be ineffable.

The closing lines, in repetition, seem a sort of resignation: the pleasure she once felt is gone, and now she's living just to live.

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Arcade Fire – Deep Blue Lyrics 8 years ago
At the risk of sounding nitpicky, Kasparov actually won the match against Deep Blue in 1996 -- I believe the final score was 4-2 in Kasparov's favor; an upgraded Deep Blue won the rematch in 1997. However, the computer did beat Kasparov in the first round of the '96 match, and the fact that it beat a grandmaster at all may be enough for Arcade Fire's point.

I think the song is about how much the world has changed in just two decades, and how by accepting all the little changes we do, brought on by technology and social institutions, we're accepting a new way of life and that we can never go back. Arcade Fire lyrics often favor the natural over artificial ("I pray that I won't live to see the death of everything that's wild"), and portray characters trying to escape, but finding this impossible.

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Neko Case – That Teenage Feeling Lyrics 8 years ago
I feel like what she's saying is that, with every disappointed love, those feelings become increasingly rare. Our hearts become tougher, to withstand abuse, but the downside of not feeling as much pain is not feeling as much in general. She remembers when she was a teenager, and every experience with love was pure and consuming, and even when we've grown beyond our teenage years, sometimes that feeling returns, and it's just like being in high school again. Meanwhile, everyone around her is buckling under pressure to get married to the next acceptable option, so she takes comfort in the words of her friend, who would rather be alone than settle.

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The Shins – Sleeping Lessons Lyrics 8 years ago
I agree that it has nothing to do with Iraq. People seem to want to make every song political, when the Shins have never been a political band. Most aren't.

Along the same lines, James Mercer has never, to the best of my knowledge, written a straight up love song with the Shins. The speaker in this song definitely has some attraction, but it's not really a love song. It's about breaking with tradition and dogma so we can forge our own paths.

I don't know where you got your interpretation of the "bright blood" line. Read it:
"If the Old Guard still offend,
They've got nothing left on which we depend,
So enlist every ounce of your bright blood,
and off with their heads.
Jump from the hook.
You're not obliged to swallow anything you despise."

The Old Guard typically refers to a conservative faction. The speaker is saying that the old traditions and religious dogma that tries to tell us how to live has become outdated -- it's no longer relevant, spiritually or pragmatically, so he's imploring her to cast it aside and experience life.

If you're trying to summarize the song in a word or two, it's more of a 'carpe diem' number than a love song.

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The Shins – Sleeping Lessons Lyrics 8 years ago
You're projecting.

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The Shins – Sleeping Lessons Lyrics 8 years ago
You're projecting.

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The Shins – Split Needles Lyrics 8 years ago
How do you people manage to turn everything political?
When have the Shins EVER been a political band?

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The Shins – Split Needles Lyrics 8 years ago
If you had bothered to scroll up, there's almost a full page of comments making exactly that correction.

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The Shins – Split Needles Lyrics 8 years ago
I'm afraid I don't hear Linkin Park in this. At all. The tempo's too far off, for one.

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The Shins – Black Wave Lyrics 8 years ago
well, his name is "plzch0k3y0urs3lf" -- do we have any good reason to imagine he's laid back?

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The Shins – Black Wave Lyrics 8 years ago
The relationship, in the context of the album, is definitely not bullshit. "Sea Legs" was about reluctantly getting involved in a relationship, "Red Rabbits" was about things beginning to sour, "Turn On Me" was the moment of conflict, and this is where it finally ends. In keeping with his philosophy, he's trying to remind himself that life moves on, and that the end of the relationship is an opportunity to experience more, but this provides little emotional comfort, he finds.

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The Shins – Red Rabbits Lyrics 8 years ago
And your protest would be more convincing if a) you had bothered to spell and punctuate correctly, and b) if it were relevant to anything.

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The Shins – Red Rabbits Lyrics 8 years ago
Except, whose mass producing rabbit?

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The Shins – Red Rabbits Lyrics 8 years ago
By far the most interesting interpretation I've heard so far, and although I have my doubts about James Mercer actually writing a song about rabbits, you make a couple of really good points.

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The Shins – Red Rabbits Lyrics 8 years ago
I don't know that the speaker in the song is James Mercer. Actually, I think the speaker is a girl in this one. In any case, I would refrain from assuming that any song or poem is autobiographical, unless the author explicitly says so.

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The Shins – Red Rabbits Lyrics 8 years ago
I doubt it.

"Just give the old dark side a try" is a more obvious reference to many things, the least of which being Star Wars, although I think that'd also be a stretch. More likely, the speaker is referring to the topic of freedom. If you view the album as a story, the boy has been talking a lot about philosophy, and how we have a lot more individual freedom than society leads us to believe, and I think by this point, the girl has been hearing a lot of it, and it's beginning to cause her some confusion (hence, "I can't go into this no more / It puts too many thorns on my mind" )

Besides, who writes songs about Donnie Darko? Mercer's understanding of existential philosophy, as implied by his writing from throughout the last decade, is far advanced compared to what's presented in Donnie Darko.

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The Shins – Red Rabbits Lyrics 8 years ago
Interesting, but highly unlikely. Aside from Phantom Limb, it's a concept album -- a boy struggles with the many-faceted nature of the human spirit, initially intriguing a girl with his intellect, but eventually driving the couple apart. Given what follows, this is probably the couple's last outing together, and while they seem to have tender feelings for each other, her resentment toward him has been growing for what his philosophy has done to the state of his psyche ( "I can't go into this no more / It puts too many thorns on my mind" ).

Although your interpretation of the desert references are interesting, I would take another look at this verse:

Born on a desert floor, you've the deepest thirst,
And you came to my sweet shore to indulge it,
With the wan and drilling eyes of an orphan,
But there was not enough,
There is not enough.

For all of the boy's lofty pursuits, he still craves the simple warmth and pleasure of human affection. The girl would like to provide that for him, but finds that he's never content, which sours the relationship.

Generally, you can find political themes in music, if you look. You can find whatever you want in music, if you look, but few modern bands really delve into politics, since it's typically not personal for them. When you consider the kind of songs that Mercer writes, and the kind of philosophy this implies, the boy's struggle throughout the album might be autobiographical -- this is more commonly the subject of art.

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The New Pornographers – My Shepherd Lyrics 9 years ago
Definitely a pretty weird song when you really try to figure it out, but that's typical for the New Pornographers, especially when Dan Bejar's writing. I'm not even going to venture a guess, but I would like to correct "It's a pal of the French we took" -- I believe it should be, "Used up all of the French we took".

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Broken Bells – Your Head Is on Fire Lyrics 9 years ago
Every lyrics site seems to list,

"To turn away from the night,
Allowing the light a low,
He's surely fooling yourself..."

But I hear,

"To turn away from the night,
Allowing the light alone,
Is surely fooling yourself..."

Which, given the existential nature of most of Mercer's lyrics (in general) makes more sense to me -- "to live exclusively in the comforting world of the light is living a lie -- you're only seeing half of the picture". I don't know what "allowing the light a low," would mean, although he does say later, "you'll never know how low an angry high can go," so maybe, I guess.

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The Decemberists – The Kingdom of Spain Lyrics 9 years ago
I noticed you're a fanboi. How's that working out for you?

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The Decemberists – As I Rise Lyrics 9 years ago
I'm not sure why you think a literary style necessarily entails symbolism in every line. Sometimes an author or a poet intentionally injects symbolism, but I can assure you, not as often as literature professors like to imagine.

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Modest Mouse – Never Ending Math Equation Lyrics 9 years ago
Nothing about your comment was constructive, nor did it offer anything to discuss.

You're excused. You can't help being what you are.

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Fleet Foxes – White Winter Hymnal Lyrics 9 years ago
Also, I would like to point out that Michael falling and turning the white snow red does not necessarily mean he's bleeding -- probably does not, since cold doesn't cause external bleeding. The speaker already mentions that they're wearing red scarves, so the line about turning the white snow red could be the speaker noticing the scarf as it lays sprawled out on the soft white snow, and how for an instant it reminds the speaker of strawberries, and by association, of summer.

Seriously guys, consider the literal imagery before you grasp for symbolism.

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Fleet Foxes – White Winter Hymnal Lyrics 9 years ago
I've got to follow up in the vein of "stop over-analyzing". Sometimes a song or a poem may be laden with metaphor, but don't forget that anybody with an imagination can find plenty of meaning where the author had no intentions. I see no reason to take this song in any way but literally.

A discussion of why they chose the words they did might yield some interesting results. For instance, "swallowed in their coats" reminds the listener that it's cold, and that they're bundled up, but certainly the phrasing "swallowed in their coats" evokes a different emotional effect than would "all bundled up in coats". Then again, perhaps the decision was not made at all for emotional effect, but simply for rhythm.

Overall, I think it's a pretty little slice of life song, which it accomplishes well enough that it doesn't need to do anything more.

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Neko Case – Pretty Girls Lyrics 9 years ago
I like Peaches' reading of "Come chain yourself round my ankles" as the speaker offering the girls her perspective, although I would strongly caution, especially with an artist like Neko Case, to differentiate between the artist and the fictional construct which the lyrics imply.

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Spoon – The Underdog Lyrics 11 years ago
I one-hundred-percent do not think this song is at all about the Bush administration, though I think the record label interpretation seems valid. More broadly, I see it as a sort of anthem for the people who feel confined in the middle class dream. I think the line "Get free from the middleman" could read more interestingly as "Get free from the middle, man".

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Clap Your Hands Say Yeah – In This Home on Ice Lyrics 11 years ago
Easily my favorite lines in this song are:
The ravaged cabbage drifts on dark red skies
And it looks so nice
Gee it looks so nice

The lines, at least as far as I can tell, paint a beautiful if somewhat startling picture of the bombing of Baghdad, the ravaged cabbage being the dark clouds of smoke hovering over the wreckage. And we're all so terrified, so upset by this, but we can't look away because on some level we can't help being fascinated with our own power and the destruction we've caused, like a train wreck or a car crash but on a much larger scale.

Any time I like a band I have difficulty admitting that their songs express any sort of political agenda, and the redeeming factor for Is This Home On Ice, which may actually be one of my favorite songs ever, is that it says a lot about the state of society in general and how we're obsessed with forgetting our problems and other people's problems, how we crave material things and distractions to protect us from everything that we're afraid of. Those things won't go away, though, and the people we designate to protect us are no better than we are and might just hang all of us in the end.

Although we might ignore it, our home is built on a foundation of ice that is someday bound to crack.

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Modest Mouse – Never Ending Math Equation Lyrics 11 years ago
The song has been discussed quite a bit and I think here and there people have had some great thoughts on the lyrics. I would like to share a bit of my own perspective.

First of all, I don't think that what Isaac means when he says "I'm the same as I was when I was six years old" and so forth is that he still naively expects not to get so forth. Rather, he may be trying to express how, although it is so difficult to understand because we only ever see ourselves from our own point of view, who we are throughout our lives never changes all that much. Our speech, mannerisms, behavior, defenses and so forth change throughout our lives, but our basic needs and disposition mostly remain the same.

Those learned behaviors eventually start taking over though. We complicate our lives more or more - we need to eat to survive, we need money to buy food, we need jobs to earn money, we need to learn to play all sorts of games in order to get and keep a job, not to mention the little social roles we taken on to meet other needs, so we fill our minds with so many rules and begin to define ourselves by our place among them when ultimately, beneath all of the clutter we accumulate throughout life, we are more or less the same people we were as children.

In all of this, we begin to think of our little dramas as so important and, consequently, we take ourselves so seriously, and meanwhile the life cycle continues - things are born and die ad infinitem, and even when the life cycle ends on Earth, the rest of the universe goes on. In the scheme of infinite, one man's role is infinitely small, a realization which serves as a double edged sword: on the one hand, our drama can hardly be considered significant in the broader scheme of reality, but on the same token our lives are equally insignificant, yet we live on, often in suffering. And for what?

A key theme in the song then is loneliness - like the tiny lights, each alone in darkness from the broader perspective, each of us is alone in our struggle to find meaning. For all of the rules we learn to live by, for all of our science and all of our religion, we each stand alone in the search for meaning. Isaac's father could raise him, teach him how to speak and shave and pay taxes, but when Isaac has learned the art of survival and feels ready to understand his place in infinite, all his father can tell him is that we all live and eventually die and as for the rest, you're on your own.

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The Decemberists – As I Rise Lyrics 12 years ago
Yea I think interpreting this song too much is a little absurd - it's most likely just a nice, happy way to end the album (they do this sort of thing frequently, especially in the crane wife where the majority of the subject matter is extremely lofty) and there isn't quite enough content to really guess at the symbolism. Sure, ladybird could refer to his love but havn't you ever sat outside on a warm, sunny day and listened to the birds? It's beautiful. All that matters I think here is the tone of the song.

Most of Her Majesty was pretty obscure - I like to think of Colin's voice more as an instrument on this album.

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The Decemberists – The Kingdom of Spain Lyrics 12 years ago
a few minor corrections, line four in the first verse should be "like drab and dolor" - dullard has a completely different and unrelated meaning that i don't believe can really even be applied to a kingdom.

also, the second line on the second verse should read "a lithe young lawyer," or possibly "a live young lawyer" although i'm personally leaning toward the former. lithe implies grace or flexibility, like "a lithe ballerina" or something thereabout. the idea, i think, is to contrast ironically this graceful young lawyer - colin seems to have taken special care that we sympathize with the lawyer, something our society traditionally does not do , hence i think the use of "lithe" and "young" - who is trying to protect her unjustly arrested brother from the king and queen of light.

the theme of ironic contrast repeats throughout the song; in the the third verse, love is compared to war through the use of words and concepts like fodder, cannonades drumming and arguably fingerless gloves - again, though, the gloves are white, implying innocence. the fact that the song begins in the kingdom of spain, given the history of spain, is not at all surprising - it is, as described, a beautiful and charming land which nevertheless has a long history of well-intentioned cruelty, an excellent parallel i think for the kingdom of love.

given only the first and third verse, i might have interpreted the song merely as being about love, but the decemberists write very few songs that are solely about love, and the second verse makes me think the theme is quite broader than that - my interpretation is that the world and life itself are so beautiful but suffering is also inescapable; people are not evil exactly, and are rarely intentionally cruel to one another, but everyone is trying to get through life as best they can and just as we will inevitably suffer, we will also inevitably cause suffering. throughout all of this, however, there is still a great deal of beauty in it all (not that he ends by repeating "of love").

it's a shame that this song ended as a b-side and does not get more attention - while i love "of angels and angles" for all of its tender sentimentality, i think the kingdom of spain might have been a stronger way to end the album, although i'm sure they had reasons for the decision they made.

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