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Neko Case – Maybe Sparrow Lyrics 1 year ago
This song seems like an allegory about trying to warn a young person about the pitfalls of life. The sparrow represents a young, talented but inexperienced person, and the sparrow's song is their passion in life, perhaps musical ability. The hawks are people who are predatory, who take advantage of vulnerable people. The sparrow doesn't listen to the singer's warning and is figuratively killed by the hawks. Later, the singer hears an airplane overhead that seems to be echoing the sparrow's song, symbolizing that that their art lives on after them.

Peter, Paul and Mary – No Other Name Lyrics 3 years ago
Some further reflections on this song...

The song seems to be playing with the connection between speech and truth, name and identity. The narrator seems to mistrust speech, which can easily lie -- for example, girls who say "I love you" or swear they'll die for love. Instead of a name, the narrator is known in other ways throughout the song: first by firelight, a bed, and a night together, then later by the wind on the hill after she leaves, and finally by a stone on her grave.

Names are related to social identity, as a name connects someone to family, cultural heritage, past history, etc. The narrator's lack of a name thus symbolizes her disconnection from her past, her roots, and society in general. But through this disconnection the narrator gains freedom from traditional social and gender roles, as highlighted by the comparisons to more materialistic and domestic women in the second and fourth verses.

It's clear the narrator feels disconnected from society but there is some ambivalence in her attitude about it. Although she seems to lament her fate in the last verse, she doesn't seem to envy the other women she mentions. Does she intentionally reject society, has this disconnection occurred inadvertently due to her innate character, or has she been unwillingly cut off from society by others? Perhaps some combination of all three.

Peter, Paul and Mary – No Other Name Lyrics 3 years ago
There are two main characters in this song, the narrator "me" and the listener "you". The first verse establishes a relationship between the two. The lyrics play on the word "know", which has a double meaning of interpersonal knowledge and "carnal knowledge", i.e. sex. The verse suggests that the listener can spend the night with the narrator, but she is unwilling or unable to form a more permanent connection.

The next two verses are somewhat ambiguous but seem to be contrasting the narrator with other women. Other women may bring riches, loving words, family -- the narrator will only bring pain. This almost seems like the narrator is warning the listener about herself. She will come into his life and then leave him with only the wind on the hill to remember her. He may find other women who look like her, but they won't be the same.

The last two verses seem to concern the narrator's fate. Again, she places herself in context with other women: Some will die for money, some will die as rich or poor as they were born. Some will claim to be willing to die for love, although the implication seems to be that this may not be true when put to the test. Some women "die every morn", perhaps referring to the metaphorical death of lovers who must separate in the morning. The narrator feels that she'll die alone, among strangers, and buried in a nameless grave.

Overall the narrator seems to be a woman who feels alienated or outcast from society. She offers the listener a chance of brief intimacy but warns him that she will ultimately bring him heartache, because she is fated to remain alone, unknown, and unnamed.

Iron & Wine – Arms of a Thief Lyrics 3 years ago
@[gotexas:24200] In each verse Mr. Henry gives her something that seems valuable but turns out to be useless: shoes when there was no room to stand, gold when it was falling from the sky everywhere, advice in a language she couldn't understand.

Creedence Clearwater Revival – Who'll Stop the Rain? Lyrics 3 years ago
Let's suppose the rain is a metaphor for war.

Long as I remember the rain been comin' down
Clouds of mystery pourin' confusion on the ground.

Wars have happened throughout history, leaving chaos in their wake.

Good men through the ages tryin' to find the sun.
And I wonder still I wonder who'll stop the rain.

For ages people have been trying to find "the sun" -- peace, enlightenment, utopia -- but who will stop the violence that always seems to emerge?

I went down Virginia seekin' shelter from the storm

The narrator goes to Washington, D.C. (adjacent to Virginia) looking for solutions to war, but instead gets caught up in "fables" while watching the "tower" of government grow further from the people.

Five year plans and new deals wrapped in golden chains.
And I wonder still I wonder who'll stop the rain.

The "five year plans" were a series of Soviet development programs laid out by Stalin, while the "New Deal" was a set of federal programs and reforms enacted by FDR. But the promises of peace and prosperity were "wrapped in golden chains", suggesting that they had hidden costs to freedom.

Heard the singers playin', how we cheered for more.
The crowd had rushed together tryin' to keep warm.
Still the rain kept pourin', fallin' on my ears
And I wonder, still I wonder who'll stop the rain.

This is a description of a scene at Woodstock that inspired the song. The overall image is of a large number of people coming together with shared ideals of peace and freedom. But despite the songs and cheering crowd, the Vietnam War continued unabated in the background, leaving the singer wondering who would be able to truly bring an end to war.

Eagles – Desperado Lyrics 3 years ago
@[richgirl90:19771] I think parts of the song are more general but some parts are specifically about relationships.

- The verse about the Queen of Diamonds versus the Queen of Hearts is saying that one shouldn't stake one's life on money and material things, but instead focus on love and relationships.

- The verse about freedom also seems to be about romantic commitment -- "freedom, well that's just some people talking" refers to how married people sometimes talk about freedom they had when single, but the song says that being alone is the real prison.

- The last verse directly states that the subject should "let somebody love you before it's too late"

Simon and Garfunkel – Slip Slidin' Away Lyrics 3 years ago

1) This could definitely be interpreted as the story of a single family. Initially we see a passion romantic relationship, although there are hints of pain as well -- passion is compared to a "thorny crown", the woman's name "Dolores" translates to "sorrows", and the man expresses fear of losing himself in love. They get married but as time passes his wife starts feeling depressed and wondering "what might have been" if she had made other choices. The relationship falls apart and the man leaves his wife and son. Later, he returns, intending to explain to his son why he left, but in the end he just kisses the boy and leaves without waking him up. The last verse reflects on the bigger picture about how we go about our day to day lives without realizing that life may be slipping away from us.

2) Paul Simon wrote this song in 1975, when he had just divorced Peggy Harper after a 5-year marriage. They had a 3-year-old son at the time. So it's likely that this song was inspired at least in part by autobiographical events.

Gordon Lightfoot – If You Could Read My Mind Lyrics 3 years ago
@[Audiophile65:19365] It sounds like you are projecting your own experiences onto the song. If you approach the song without a preconceived interpretation there's nothing to suggest that sexual incompatibility is the specific reason for the relationship ending.

Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here Lyrics 3 years ago
@[john785:18931] I think you have it backwards, it's more about being able to see past illusions (seeing that a smile may sometimes be a "veil" hiding something else), not about accepting comforting surface appearances. In the second verse, the narrator feels that as the subject has changed his values, he has lost something of himself in the process. The implication is that it is better to be playing a minor part in real life, than to give up your freedom for a meaningless "lead role" in a limited world.

The Traveling Wilburys – Cool Dry Place Lyrics 4 years ago
I think this song is just a joke on the listener. It sounds like there's some kind of elaborate metaphor being set up but as you listen closer you realize that it's really just about putting stuff in storage.

The Traveling Wilburys – Inside Out Lyrics 4 years ago
This song seems like it has political overtones, about how people look away from problems in the world... Yellow grass, yellow sky could refer to pollution and environmental degradation. "Be careful where you're walking / You might step in something rough" -- poverty, crime. "There's some things they're not saying / 'Bout what's happening out there", the media doesn't cover some things going on in the world, society wants to gloss over its problems. "Look into the future / With your mystic crystal ball / See if it ain't yellow / See if it's there at all." The future is metaphorically "yellow", sick or maybe there's no future for some. The chorus seems to say that people are feeling mixed up, "inside out", and sarcastically asks, "Don't it make you wanna twist and shout?", referring to how people seek entertainment as a distraction from reality and it's problems.

Okkervil River – U.F.O. (Jim Sullivan cover) Lyrics 4 years ago
This song seems to be about an extraterrestrial Jesus.

The first verse sets the tone. The narrator is shaking with excitement or fear as he looks at the sky through a telescope ("glassy eye") wondering whether Jesus came from outer space ("Did he come by U.F.O.?").

The second verse references Biblical miracles ("A lot of tricks were pulled in the book I read"), Jesus's resurrection ("Only man I know that got up from the dead") and Christianity ("Lot of people living by the words that he said").

The third verse speculates about the Second Coming, wondering if perhaps it has already occurred or how Jesus would fit into the modern world ("Too much goodness is a sin today").

The last verse suggests that a change is occurring ("something happening that isn't too clear") and that a big event is approaching ("happiness is getting very near"), perhaps some kind of apocalypse or rapture.

The Decemberists – The Gymnast, High Above the Ground Lyrics 4 years ago
@[kyle171:16316] Tarlatan is actually a type of fabric similar to cheesecloth used in intaglio printing.

Iron & Wine – The Night Descending Lyrics 4 years ago
This is a story about young people, sex, and love, told in an oblique way. The narrative point of view shifts at times, giving the impression of an account told by multiple different sources. The upbeat, almost jaunty music parallels the action of the song, with the driving rhythm mirroring the way the characters are swept along by the events of the story. The lyrics use a parallel structure, a common feature of Beam's writing, which lends unity to the song and also induces comparisons between the verses as the song progresses.

Black hair, the night descending
Baby never puts her trust in
Tight black tie, too quick to laughter
Ain't no telling what he's after

This first verse sets the scene in a very compact way. The young woman is going out with a young man whom she doesn't fully trust. The young man is nicely dressed but "too quick to laughter", suggesting artificiality and hidden motives. The phrase "the night descending" can be interpreted in a double sense, both indicating the literal time of day, evening, but also suggesting the approach of oblivion and reckless abandon.

Found a friend without religion
Riding on a stolen engine
Far too fast to pacify you
Ain't no telling what he's up to

This verse continues the story. The friend "without religion" is someone unbound by social rules and morals. This could refer to the young man from the first verse, but I think in this case it is another man who gives them a ride in his car (the "stolen engine"). He drives "far too fast to pacify you" (the young woman?), suggesting a headlong rush into the events that follow.

In time, the night may soften
Trust that I'm still hoping, darling
Wooden coin, he called my daughter
No good knowing what came after

The first line, "In time, the night may soften" seems to refer to the young woman becoming more relaxed and letting her guard down as the evening goes on (recall that in the first verse, she doesn't fully trust the young man). The young man is "still hoping" for this to happen. The next line refers to a "wooden coin", a fake or substitute for something of value. I'm a little unclear as to exactly what significance the coin has — did the young man use the coin to call the daughter from a pay phone? Perhaps this is emphasizing that the date is founded on deception from the very beginning. The use of the phrase "my daughter" suggests that this part is from the perspective of the young woman's father.

Met a man with missing fingers
Shaking hands with shaded strangers
Far too strong to pacify you
Ain't no telling what they're up to

At this point the plot becomes a bit hard to follow. There are some menacing characters being introduced — missing fingers suggests past violence or perhaps a connection to organized crime, and the "shaded strangers" are obviously ominous figures. But there is no explicit connection made between these figures and the other characters. My theory is that the man with missing fingers is a sketchy private investigator hired by the young woman's father to follow the couple. His overly tight handshake fails to reassure the father, who is still agitated about what the young people may be "up to".

Late night, the cock crows shortly
Morning through the open doorway
All us servants beg the master
Ain't no knowing what he's after

By this point, is very late, almost morning, and the young people still have not returned. Perhaps they have run away together. The father is now nearly out of his head with concern for his daughter and fury directed at the young man, as the servants try to calm him down.

In a year of fallen angels
Broken hands and boys in danger
Pray the lord might pacify you
Ain't no telling what he's up to

"Fallen angels" refers to sin and loss of holiness, alluding to the daughter's loss of virginity. But it may also refer to a loss of faith or a change in one's perceptions -- perhaps the father's angelic conception of his daughter has become detached from reality, and now that image has fallen away. "Broken hands and boys in danger" may refer to the man from the fourth verse, along with the young suitor who is now in danger of the father's wrath. Hands are symbolic of power and agency so the "broken hands" may also symbolize the father's loss of control over his daughter. The song admonishes the father to "Pray the Lord might pacify you" because there "Ain't no telling what he's up to". This puts an interesting twist on the song, suggesting that perhaps the chaotic events leading up to this point are all part of God's plan and that there may be some greater good in what the father perceives as catastrophe. There's an interesting progression in the last lines of the even verses -- initially the father distrusts the young man, then both members of the couple, but finally must resign himself to the hope that perhaps things will turn out for the best. The song ends on this ambiguous note.

Iron & Wine – Postcard Lyrics 4 years ago
Overall this has a feel of vision or prophecy, lots of half-seen images, religious allusions and contrasting opposites. It seems to be a reflection on the dual nature of good and evil and how these are passed on from generation to generation.

The song introduces itself as a reflection on history, like a postcard that "tells you where we've been". This starts out with an image of "dirty dreams of pious men" showing that even those considered most pure and moral are susceptible to sin and lust. These men "wake in fear but sleep again" -- despite the feelings of conscience, the animal need for sleep wins out in the end. This also could be depicting the way that people find justifications for what they've done so that they can preserve their sense of self and continue living.

The next stanza describes a prophetic vision, depicting humans at both extremes of low ("our serpent bellies on the ground") and high ("all the ladies singing loud / alleluia"). This could be pointing to the hypocrisy of some religious practices, or could just be presenting a picture of two sides of religious existence, sin and piety.

The chorus depicts an image of "meadow birds" finding "the bones of righteous men" and finally settling on them and eating them. The bones are presented in two different lights, as worthless junk ("like ragged clothes") and priceless treasure ("like precious stones") and their former owners as both "evil" and "righteous"/"perfect" men. I think the bones represent the writings and traditions of one's ancestors and past religious leaders, while the birds symbolize a new generation that discovers the past anew and incorporates it into the mindset of the times.

In the next stanza Beam seems to be using the word "knuckle" in its archaic sense meaning "kneel", so the overall meaning of the first two lines is that some people turn to faith after being "broken" by life's hardships, whereas for others hardships pull them away from religion. The "callous whisper" of "patience, boy" could be the awareness that everyone dies in the end.

The next stanza is reflecting on the concept of inheritance and the relationships of fathers and sons. The children have received their surname from their father's father, and likewise have inherited both his good and bad characteristics ("his evil and his love remain / inside you boy"). The "flame" represents passions which can warm but also cause harm if uncontrolled -- the subject tries to protect his children from getting burned but knows that they might succumb to the same temptations and weaknesses that he has.

After another repetition of the chorus, the last two stanzas seem to present a vision of the afterlife, looking back over life and measuring up the "time for love" that was lost or wasted. In the end a feeling of universal love remains for all humans, saint and sinner alike, despite their flaws.

Smash Mouth – All Star Lyrics 5 years ago
@[mino321:7749] It's a misquotation of an old, old saying, "all that glitters is *not* gold", i.e. appearances can be deceiving.

Iron & Wine – Judgement Lyrics 5 years ago
This one's not too hard to interpret. The narrator is lying awake at night thinking of a past love and regretting leaving her.

The Decemberists – Mistral Lyrics 5 years ago
@[Cyberghost:6554] "We're eking out"

The Decemberists – Easy Come, Easy Go Lyrics 5 years ago
This is basically about how death comes to everyone, sometimes unpredictably. This first verse shows two vignettes of sudden death. In the first scene, Jack is sleeping in a ship's rigging (?) when it comes loose and he falls onto his back. In the second, an unnamed woman is looking at herself in the mirror and misses a turn in the road, crashing her car. In the second verse a serial killer is going to murder a prostitute, but in an ironic twist he only finds her dead body after she'd gone missing several weeks before. All of this serves to emphasize that "you never really know when the whistle's gonna blow", i.e. when you're going to die.

Iron & Wine – Sing Song Bird Lyrics 5 years ago
@[okayjoy:4848] Yeah, like half the songs from "Archive Series Vol. 1" have completely garbled lyrics... I wonder why.

Iron & Wine – Freckled Girl Lyrics 5 years ago
Straightforward song about a long-distance relationship. The narrator, possibly in the military, wishes his partner well and asks her to wait for him.

Iron & Wine – Two Hungry Blackbirds Lyrics 5 years ago
@[wanderlove:4827] It was recently released on iTunes in Archive Series Volume 1.

Iron & Wine – Eden Lyrics 5 years ago
This song seems to be playing on the Adam and Eve myth. In the Biblical narrative, Eve is tempted by a serpent to eat the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil (commonly depicted as an apple) and shares some with Adam. They subsequently become aware of their nakedness and make clothing to cover themselves. For eating the forbidden fruit, they are expelled from the Garden of Eden.

In Beam's version, the narrator (Adam) compliments his wife (Eve) on her "apple pie invention" (the fruit from the tree of knowledge) and invites her to share "every wicked vision that you carry" with him. The narrator remarks that he is different since he found her, using the phrase "as God will be my judge", a play on the expression "as God is my witness", referring to God's impending judgment for their transgression. The narrator tenderly suggests to his wife that they buy clothing to prepare for their expulsion from the garden.

Iron & Wine – Woman King Lyrics 5 years ago
To me, this song suggests the narrator is driving through the rural South, catching glimpses of the scenery and envisioning a mythical female figure who will revitalize the land.

The first verse depicts a farmyard at sunset, with a perching blackbird, a raven circling overhead, and a shirt on a clothesline flapping in the breeze. The images of black birds and an empty shirt evoke a feeling of hollowness and foreboding. In the next verse, the narrator casts his mind forward to a possible future in which time slows as a "woman king" falls asleep, emphasizing the power of the figure and her deep connection to the land. Unlike the desolate loneliness of the first verse, the second verse presents a more peaceful nightfall in which the land and its ruler are in harmony.

The next verse depicts a series of insects -- a horsefly, red ants, a "garden worm" -- along with cigarette ash on a windowsill. Compared with the landscape of the first verse, this verse is much closer and more intimate, focusing on the minute details of the scene. These images suggest slow decay and disintegration. By contrast, the following verse depicts the woman king actively battling evil. The implication is that rather than suffering gradual decline at the hands of pests, the woman king bravely faces evil directly.

The fifth verse depicts a broken-legged horse and someone's "eye on the shotgun shell", perhaps contemplating whether to shoot the horse. The verse also mentions a hornet nest in a church bell, signifying the bell is seldom used and forewarning of the fury that will ensue if the bell is rung now. The last verse depicts the woman king "thumb down" and weeping, a reference to Roman gladiatorial combats in which a thumb down from the ruler supposedly meant that the defeated man should die. As before, the woman king is depicted as a decisive, active figure who empathizes with her subjects but nevertheless does what must be done.

This song serves as a perfect opening to the EP, which explores the idea of femininity through depictions of several mythic female figures, seen from the perspective of male narrators. Like the other women in the album, the woman king is vulnerable despite her power: she fights evil but bleeds for it, she sentences a man to death but weeps as she does so. Yet this vulnerability, this receptiveness to the world even as she imposes her will on it, is not seen as a weakness but rather an integral and positive part of the woman king's essence. Even the phrase "woman king" hints at this: she is both a powerful ruler -- a king -- and a woman with human characteristics, able to feel compassion and empathy. This approach to femininity is further developed with the rest of the album.

Iron & Wine – A History of Lovers Lyrics 5 years ago
@[bearhug:4574] Great analysis. One thing though - Sam Beam tends to use the ocean as a symbol for death, so the phrase "bound like us all for the ocean" refers to the singer's rival who is about to die.

U2 – Running To Stand Still Lyrics 5 years ago
@[sharkycharming:4088] Imagine a song about some other disease - say hypertension. Yes, people who have high blood pressure might find it interesting, but it's totally boring to everyone else.

David Bowie – Black Country Rock Lyrics 5 years ago
@[mebrengunner2:2362] Apparently the vibrato in the last verse was a Bolan impression.

Simon and Garfunkel – America Lyrics 5 years ago
@[georgeporter:2340] Not sure you're right but it's a really interesting interpretation!

Iron & Wine – The Devil Never Sleeps Lyrics 6 years ago
I think this is about the effect of war on the families of soldiers.

The song starts off with ominous symbols of a black cloud approaching and train tracks leading to the sea (death). Images of a barking dog and a switchblade suggest disaffected youth and a hint of violence, perhaps gang activity. There is a sense of frustration and pettiness, with no one willing to lend a quarter for a phone call, nothing to listen to on the radio, everybody just hanging around and "bitching".

The next verse suggests that the narrator is a soldier's son. We see a mixture of different images here: a memory of watching a chicken being slaughtered, an image of "all of us lost at the crosswalk waiting for the other to go", and someone returning from the city where they "didn't find a friend but [...] really bought a lot". The narrator and his friends are lost at the border between youth and adulthood (symbolized by the crosswalk) without fatherly guidance. They turn to violence and materialism as a substitute for human relationships. The line, "Someone bet a dollar that my daddy wasn't coming home" is a striking example of a serious issue (the possibility of a father's death) being reduced to pettiness (a one-dollar bet), perhaps as a way of dealing with circumstances beyond one's control.

The last verse presents images of a family's disintegration. The narrator dreams of his mother standing in a garden ruined by a spring frost. It may be that the mother has just learned of her husband's death. He imagines her face like a shadow, suggesting profound alienation. The narrator's face is bloodied, perhaps having come home after a fight. In the dream, his mother delivers a warning: "No one lives forever and the devil never sleeps alone". Meaning: there's no shortage of people going to Hell, so think about what you are doing with your life. But it is unclear if this warning will do the narrator any good.

Joan Baez – Jesse Lyrics 6 years ago
Another possibility is that Jesse hasn't actually left her, but is just away for a long period, maybe traveling on business or in the army. Anyway, it's clear she misses him and wants him to come home.

Joan Baez – Jesse Lyrics 6 years ago
Jesse is a man who has left the narrator (or maybe died). She has not gotten over him and feels that he has left a hollow place in her life, as expressed in the first two verses. She says she's leaving the light on the stairs, not because she's scared living alone, but to invite him back.

In the third verse, she describes how she has kept everything intact for his return. The "blues and the greens" are the colors of the linens and so on, which are clean and ready for him to come back. She imagines that when he comes back they'll "swallow the light on the stairs", meaning that she won't be waiting for him any more, instead they'll have that light and joy inside of them.

Leonard Cohen – The Future Lyrics 7 years ago
That might be a viable interpretation, if it weren't for the entire rest of the song.

Leonard Cohen – The Stranger Song Lyrics 7 years ago
Actually, the song appeared on his debut album in 1967, four years before the movie came out. Cohen recorded additional instrumentals for the movie though.

Leonard Cohen – The Stranger Song Lyrics 7 years ago
I think the song was recorded specifically for the movie, along with "Sisters of Mercy" and "Winter Lady".

Jackson Browne – These Days Lyrics 7 years ago
This version of the song was first recorded by Nico in 1967, when Browne was 19. But he claims he wrote it when he was 16. Either way, he was pretty young at the time.

Simon and Garfunkel – America Lyrics 7 years ago
Regarding the first part, it's just about being silly and in love, being in their own little world.

Sheryl Crow – All I Wanna Do Lyrics 7 years ago
This sounds like a cheerful pop song, but listen to what the lyrics are saying:

"All I want to do is have a little fun before I die" -- don't miss the "before I die" here, time is running out, and the guy who says this looks like maybe he's never had a day of fun in his life. And what's Billy or Mac or whatever going to do about it? Sit in a bar with Sheryl Crow and drink "at noon on a Tuesday" and burn matches and tear up the labels from the bottles, while the world goes by outside.

By the way, you can read the full text of the original poem here:

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Today's Lesson Lyrics 7 years ago
You can interpret this as a literal story or as something more abstract, and I think the Cave intended a bit of both. Some other commenters have done pretty good work on the narrative, so here's what I think about the more abstract side of things.

At the start of the song we are introduced to "Little Janie" (emphasizing her youth and vulnerability) waking from a dream (childhood?). The "gun like a jawbone down the waistband of her jeans" links violence and destruction with the power of sex (note the play in words with the phrase "jawbone of an ass" later on). Contrasted with this is Mr. Sandman, who "can recite today's lesson in his sleep", suggesting the extent to which he has been shaped and taught by society. What is "today's lesson"? In the second verse we get a partial answer -- "something about the corruption of the working class"... There's a pretty clear dichotemy here, where Janie represents innocence and Mr. Sandman cynicism and corruption, and their association suggests the inevitable loss of innocence that comes with adulthood.

The bridge serves to connect the song in more ways than one. With the use of the first person plural "we", the lyrics emphasize that Little Janie and Mr. Sandman are stand-ins for the listener, personifications of aspects of the human condition. These lines emphasis the power of desire -- "we are all such a crush of want", etc. The phrase "We are violated in our sleep" perhaps alludes to emerging sexuality in dreams, and connects back to the loss of childhood innocence in the first verse. Later lines elaborate on the role society plays in this process: "we are pimped, we are bitched / we are told such monstrous lies". We are all exploited and lied to by society, literally or figuratively. Something potentially positive, sex, is transformed into something exploitative, prostitution, by the influence of greed and dishonesty.

The last verse, probably the most intense, describes the link between Mr. Sandman and Janie. Mr. Sandman likes to see Janie sleeping (innocent and vulnerable), and he "digs her pretty knees and that she is completely naked underneath all her clothes" -- again, this nakedness suggests vulnerability, as well as sexual attractiveness. These lines suggest the allure that youth and has for the older, more experienced and cynical members of society. And the result is that "Mr. Sandman the inseminator, he opens her up like a love-letter and enters her dreams". This can be understood on at least three levels. First, sexual -- "Mr. Sandman the inseminator [...] opens her up [...] and enters her" -- a direct reference to sexual intercourse. Second, societal - Mr. Sandman as the corrupting influence of society now "enters [Janie's] dreams". And finally, personal - Mr. Sandman is the force of sexual desire within Janie, which acts as the "inseminator" (think fertility, vitality) that "opens [Janie] up like a love letter" -- bringing what was formerly latent and secret out into the world -- and "enters her dreams" as adult desire and awareness.

And what is Janie's response to all this? "We're gonna have a real cool time tonight."... I'll let you draw your own conclusions.

Andrew Bird – Railroad Bill Lyrics 8 years ago
This is based on a folk song about a man named Railroad Bill. According to the Encyclopedia of Alabama, Railroad Bill was an armed African-American vagrant who was reported to be riding trains starting around 1895. After some violent encounters with law enforcement officers, Railroad Bill was the target of an increasingly intense manhunt until he was killed in 1896. In the meantime he became something of a folk hero, with stories of him being able to shapeshift into animal form and only being vulnerable to silver bullets, and so on.


Andrew Bird – Orpheo Looks Back Lyrics 8 years ago
As AutumGreenLeaf said, this is based off the Orpheus and Eurydice myth (which was also the original source for the King Orpheo story). In this song, Bird uses the story as a metaphor for the process of creativity and inspiration.

The first verse introduces this idea, stating that "There are places we must go to / To bring these hollow words on back from / We must cross a muddy river / Where love turns to, love turns to fear". In other words, creative production is like a journey to some other realm where art comes from, which is metaphorically linked to the underworld. This involves some kind of emotional vulnerability, going to a mental state where "love turns to fear" -- this might either be the love of creation turning to fear of failure, or personal experiences like love being transformed into fear of loss when examined closely.

The next verse again connects to the Orpheus/Eurydice myth. In the context of artistic expression, perhaps looking back refers to self-doubt -- creation requires you to have faith in your inspiration, or everything falls apart.

The next verse expresses how we keep trying to understand where inspiration comes from, but we can't make anything out. The imagery of "shells of empty buildings / And great columns of glass" makes me think of an abandoned city, evoking the eerie spaciousness of the underworld. Perhaps this represents memory, as we look back on past emotions and events, trying to understand what it all means. I don't know.

The last verse seems to tie back to the idea of not looking back: "They say you don't look / Or it'll drive you mad / ... / And if it drives you mad / It'll probably pass". In other words, trying to logically understand the process of creation will not only be unsuccessful, but will destroy the original source of inspiration.

The Decemberists – The Kingdom of Spain Lyrics 8 years ago
This song has an intriguing way of setting up the listener's expectations, and then changing directions.

In the first verse, we start on what seems to be a positive note: "In the Kingdom of Spain / there are such colors / they defy any name / like drab and dolor". But on further consideration, this seems suspicious -- by saying the colors defy terms like "drab" and "dolor", it seems to imply that these terms would otherwise come to mind, as though the colors are covering up some underlying sadness. The verse continues: "But oh the King and the Queen of Spain / with their long unpronounceable names / grace the table at the long-lost kingdom of Spain" The phrase "long unpronounceable names" seems to imply some kind of elaborate formality, where the names (or identities) of the royalty are so entangled in history and convention that they have lost their practical use. (In Spain and other Spanish-speaking countries, people's full surnames sometimes describe their entire genealogy several generations back.) The use of the phrase "long-lost" is interesting. After all, Spain still exists and still has a monarch. Perhaps writer is distinguishing between modern Spain and the long-lost past. Or perhaps "the long-lost kingdom of Spain" is being used more as an imagined, faraway country than any specific place. One thing is certain, that phrase adds to the air of melancholy which pervades the whole song.

The second verse presents a moment out of some larger implied narrative: "In the Kingdom of Light / A lithe young lawyer / Tries a case for her un- / Justly arrested brother / But oh, the King and the Queen of Light / rule with unbendable might / So it's to the gallows for the long-lost Kingdom of Light". Here we see youthful energy and family loyalty come up against injustice and power -- and lose. This is interesting, considering the phrase "Kingdom of Light" would otherwise seem to imply a wise and just ("enlightened") utopia. There's some sense that the kingdom's idealism proves its weakness -- when mistakes happen, the King and Queen are forced to choose between going back on their earlier decision, or committing an unjust act. The last line is also interesting -- why is it the Kingdom of Light that is headed for the gallows? Perhaps in condemning the innocent brother, the kingdom has also condemned itself.

The third verse describes the Kingdom of Love in militaristic terms: "In the Kingdom of Love / We're all just fodder / As the cannonades drum / Our sons and daughters". This is taking the not-uncommon connection between love and warfare to a whole new level. Love is not just a conflict, it is a *mass* conflict. This makes it seem kind of purposeless -- if "We're all just fodder", what is the larger purpose of the strife? The lines "the cannonades drum / Our sons and daughters" could be interpreted in multiple ways. One interpretation is that in the war of love, children suffer the collateral damage. Or perhaps these lines mean that the noise of battle, so to speak, is also what propels each new generation onward into the fray. The verse continues: "But oh, the King and the Queen of Love / In their long, white, fingerless gloves / Bang the gavel for the long-lost Kingdom of Love". Again we seem to be coming back to the image of law and judgment, although it's unclear exactly who is being judged, and why. The image of "long, white, fingerless gloves" is an intriguing combination of elegance and (long white gloves) and practicality (fingerless gloves or gauntlets). I'm not sure what the purpose is here, other than another little contradiction or subversion of our expectations. These lines suggest that perhaps in all the strife and struggle of pursuing love, we actually lose our grasp on the possibility of attaining it (hence the "long-lost" and the finality of the gavel).

Tying this all together, it seems like the song provides the basic outline of a world of paradoxes and contradictions: by holding onto the past we lose sight of the present; by keeping to our decisions we condemn the innocent to suffer; and through our efforts to find love we sight of what we hoped to gain from the struggle. The song doesn't really offer a solution to these problems, it is simply a lament on the way things are.

Rasputina – Oh, Bring Back The Egg Unbroken Lyrics 8 years ago
Let's take a look at this song line by line.

The first verse introduces the setting as "Just one island / In an ugly string / Of prehistoric penal colonies". In fact, the song claims that this island is "the most remote inhabited spot on Earth". Right away the song introduces its themes of confinement, isolation, and the bleakness of existence. (The island being referred to is Easter Island, an island in the Pacific Ocean more than 2,000 miles to the west of South America. Pitcairn Island lies another 1,300 miles or so further west.) The next two lines of the first verse state that "Each family possesses a registered trademark / which is chipped into the trunk of a tree". Here the author draws an ironic comparison between company trademarks and the island's clan system. The irony cuts both ways -- it portrays modern business practice as nothing more than glorified tribalism, and it reduces the islander's culture to the level of brand creation and intellectual property. From this first verse we can see that the island is intended to be taken allegorically as some kind of reflection on modern life or the human condition.

The next two verses describe the basic premise of the song. The song centers around the bird-man (tangata manu) competition of Easter Island. The basic idea of the competition is that contestants would swim to a small islet called Motu Nui to collect the first Sooty Tern egg of the season. In these verses we see the set-up for the competition, the reward of glory and power, the preparations for a ritual celebration.

The next two verses describe the successful contestant braving extreme risks to become the king. And at the end of the latter of the two verses come the crucial lines: "Oh we'll be thinking of the ocean / When the king brings back unbroken / The egg of the sooty nesting tern". Clearly from the rest of the song we see that this is a day of excitement and celebration... and yet, at the back of the islander's heads lurks the awareness of the ever-present ocean that surrounds them and keeps them trapped on the island. Perhaps the very nature of the competition, which pits man against the dangers of nature, serves as a reminder of the islanders' insignificance and impotency in comparison to the massive ocean. Yes, the winner has become the king... but of what? Of a "prehistoric penal colony" out there in the middle of nowhere.

The next verse is even more grim. It describes some "Well-known lost but ancient wisdom / the point and purpose / [of] which was mysterious / or even vague". Like the previous verses, this pokes fun at the grandeur of long-held traditions and rituals. This "wisdom" has been around so long that its purpose is mysterious -- perhaps there is none. The substance of this message is this: "The truth is worse than you could possibly imagine". The world is a bleak and terrible place, and the mainland is farther than the islanders could possibly know. And perhaps things aren't any better there. And then there's the second half of the message: "We islanders will be thinking of escape". Here the word "escape" could mean many things -- a doomed attempt to leave the island, an escape into the shared fantasy of rituals and traditions, or, perhaps most likely, suicide.

In summary, this song offers a cynical, depressing view of human existence. Despite the distractions we make for ourselves, we remain trapped in our island existence, forever isolated from one another and from the higher things in life.

The Shins – September Lyrics 8 years ago
If you examine the lines "A song in the tree has distracted her mind / Some other curious form of life / Has made its presence to her known", I think this is just describing birds in the trees. It's possible there's a child involved, but from the rest of the song it seems like the two have not known each other for that long.

The Shins – No Way Down Lyrics 8 years ago
The pillar of salt could be a reference to the Biblical character of Lot's wife. In Genesis 19, she and Lot are fleeing Sodom, which is being destroyed by divine forces. They are instructed by angels not to look back, but she disobeys and is turned into a pillar of salt.

The Shins – September Lyrics 8 years ago
The first verse describes a woman in mythological terms, as a "pearl" given up by Pontus (a personification of the sea). This may be a reference to Aphrodite, Greek goddess of love, who arose out of the sea foam ("aphros"). There's a sense of destiny, with "a future forming" thousands of miles away that is realized in the present moment. The next verse describes the two of them together. She projects possible futures for them, out of the love they feel together. There is a suggestion of physical as well as emotional intimacy.

In the chorus, the narrator expresses regret over his failings, but notes that the woman still loves him in spite of his flaws.

The next verse describes a scene where the woman hears birds singing in the trees, and the narrator feels overwhelmed by emotion. He explains in the following verse that although he knows there will be problems in the future, that the woman is especially important to him. The repeated chorus offers hope that love will be able to overcome everything else.

The Shins – Bait and Switch Lyrics 8 years ago
Here are the lyrics as I hear them:

I finally had all my ducks in a row
Peace and quiet, a means of subtraction
And how she got in, I'm not sure that I know
But two weeks on and my spine was in traction
My eyes in a basket

My gut in my heart and so out of phase
And that kind of girl, she ain't nobody's daughter
I'm just not used to these powerful waves
She's shining the brass and I'm taking on water
What am I to do now?

I call on a beautiful witch
With a moral compass, bait and switch

Hide from my psychic derailer
Drive this car to sea
Spend the night as high as I can in a towering hemlock

But it's no use, it can always be found
A creature of habit has no real protection
I'll tell her I'll leave if she don't settle down
Just easier to lie on closer inspection, like everyone else does

Then rub a terrible charm
Hold it smoking in my eyes
I'm just a simple man
Cursed with an honest heart
Watch me go and tear it all apart

Then rub a terrible charm
Hold it smoking in my eyes
I'm just a simple man
Cursed with an honest heart
Watch me go and tear it all apart

As for interpretation, it's very straightforward: the narrator, who was just living a simple life, meets a girl who captivates him but disrupts his safe routine in the process. He seems to conclude that he will inevitably go with the girl, despite the consequences.

Andrew Bird – Hole in the Ocean Floor Lyrics 8 years ago
The lines about a hole in the ocean floor could be about an offshore oil spill.

Andrew Bird – Lazy Projector Lyrics 8 years ago
There's a clue about this towards the end: "How it all came to this, I simply can't recall [...] I can't see the sense in us breaking up at all". At the end of a relationship, the narrator is reflecting on the unreliable nature of memory. "Who owns the master?" he wonders -- how can one verify what really happened?

There's also some reflection on the seeming inevitability of history and repeating our past mistakes, with lines like "History repeats itself [...] Come on, tell us something we don't know" and "They say all good things must come to an end", etc.

The New Pornographers – If You Can't See My Mirrors Lyrics 9 years ago
No, it's "Then I can't see you". It's usually something that is posted on trucks and large vehicles which may have blind spots that the driver can't see.

The New Pornographers – Sweet Talk, Sweet Talk Lyrics 9 years ago
I tend to interpret songs as chronicling personal relationships, and this one is no exception.

First stanza: "A mistake on the part of nature" could refer to the narrator's love interest, who is "so fabled, so fair" they don't seem to fit into everyday reality. I think "feeling Byzantine" could mean that the experience of the person visiting ("Just sit anywhere") feels like something from another time and place.

Second stanza: "Mistakes on the part of nature / The living proof of / What they're calling love / On certain sideways streets / Where things that don't match meet" - These lines may describe the unpredictable nature of attraction. Love seems to happen just by accident, as people that don't seem to match meet and are drawn together.

Third stanza: The other person seems like "a tall glass" (as in the expression "a tall drink of water"). They are "A blast from the past", which the narrator recalls fondly as being a simpler time -- although their partner is skeptical.

Chorus, part 1: "A mistake on the part of nature / It's forgiven, moved on" - Maybe the relationship didn't work out, so the narrator wants to write it off as a mistake and move forward with his or her life. However, he/she is avoiding the particular place he/she originally met the love interest in, because that would remind him/her too much of the past.

Chorus, part 2: not sure

Fifth stanza: "Amnesia becomes ambition / Ambition becomes a new sort of / Charming simplicity / Like always, Byzantine" - These lines seem to be musing on the cyclic nature of history, perhaps as applied to the narrator's personal experiences. As people forget past failures, they gain new ambitions for the future which may lead to the same problems (or maybe not).

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