Monday, November 26, 2012

Favorite Songs Ever, Part 5: "Good Intentions Paving Company" - Joanna Newsom




I’ve been talking about this song a lot lately and I will more than likely continue talking about it because I am OBSESSED. It is almost impossible for me to listen to it just once in one sitting.

I picked up Joanna Newsom’s massive triple album Have One On Me about a year ago. It’s a very delicate album and very very long. Most of the songs easily break the 7 minute mark. And with the – mostly – same instrumentation throughout, it’s easy to get lost in which song is playing. They can be difficult to distinguish.


Still there are tracks that jump out. “On a Bad Day” and “Jackrabbits” are two that  come to mind.

And, of course, “Good Intentions Paving Company”:

This is one of those songs that crept into my ear via my iPod. I ended up just throwing the whole album onto the iPod and letting it shuffle in and out of my day with the rest of my music instead of just sitting down with the whole thing and digging it. It is a triple album after all. That task was too daunting.

At some point, this song just kept jumping out at me. In the beginning of the song, when all instruments are in and it’s just bopping along, I would find myself bopping along, too. I couldn’t understand what she was saying at first, but I just liked it.

Then each time it would come on, I found myself turning it up and really starting to listen. To listen to all of it. The words, the instruments weaving in and out. It’s just so cool.

The words and the story they tell – a couple on a road trip to a show having a discussion about their relationship that is going both good and bad – is just so simple yet she tells it so differently. And half way through, when the majority of the instruments drop out and it’s just her and her piano – just gives me chills. It’s like the whole world gets put on pause for that moment and I find myself just sinking into the song completely.

By far my favorite moment in this song is right after the line “and I know you meant to show the extent to which you gave a goddang”. At this point in the song it’s just been Joanna and the piano for a little bit, but right after this line, the drums come in – but only for a second – and it’s just perfect.

I wish I wrote this song.

I want to write this song.

This is the song Bruce Springsteen never wrote. It has that Bruce Springsteen quality: Sprawling road trip song with a breakdown somewhere towards the end.

This song has everything I love in music: female vocalist, good percussion, lyrics that seem to ramble and meander but yet make so much sense, lyrics that actually do rhyme but you don’t think about that as you are listening, surprises and new things to discover upon each listen, and it even has those unexpected horns that I love at the end.

And it’s fun to sing along to.

This song puts me in such a good mood.

Thanks for writing it, Joanna.

(I've posted the lyrics here because she can be hard to understand and the lyrics are so awesome)

Twenty miles left to the show
Hello, my old country, hello
Stars are just beginning to appear
And I have never in my life before been here

And it's my heart, not me, who cannot drive

At which conclusion you arrived
Watching me sit here bolt upright and cry
For no good reason at the Eastering sky

And the tilt of this strange nation

And the will to remain for the duration
Waving the flag
Feeling it drag

Like a bump on a bump on a log, baby

Like I'm in a fist fight with a fog, baby
Step-ball-change and a pirouette
And I regret, I regret

How I said to you, "honey, just open your heart"

When I've got trouble even opening a honey jar
And that right there is where we are...

And I been 'fessing double fast

Addressing questions nobody asked
I'll get this joy off of my chest at last
And I will love you 'til the noise has long since passed

And I did not mean to shout, just drive

Just get us out, dead or alive
A road too long to mention, lord, it's something to see!
Laid down by the good intentions paving company

All the way to the thing we've been playing at, darlin'

I can see that you're wearing your staying hat, darlin'
For the time being all is well
Won't you love me a spell?

This is blindness beyond all conceiving

Well, behind us the road is leaving, yeah, leaving
And falling back
Like a rope gone slack

Well, I saw straight away that the lay was steep

But I fell for you, honey, as easy as falling asleep
And that right there is the course I keep...

And no amount of talking

Is going to soften the fall
But, like after the rain, step out
Of the overhang, that's all

It had a nice a ring to it

When the ol' opry house rang
So with a solemn auld lang
Signed, sealed, delivered, I sang

And there is hesitation

And it always remains
Concerning you, me,
And the rest of the gang

And in our quiet hour

I feel I see everything
And am in love with the hook
Upon which everyone hangs

And I know you meant to show the extent

To which you gave a goddang
You ranged real hot and real cold but I'm sold
I am home on that range

And I do hate to fold

Right here at the top of my game
When I've been trying with my whole heart and soul
To stay right here in the right lane

But it can make you feel over and old

Lord, you know it's a shame
When I only want for you to pull over and hold me
'Til I can't remember my own name


2 comments:

Tomas said...

If you like HOOM, Joanna Newsom's Ys will blow your mind.

Niki said...

It's on my list of albums to get!