Wednesday, December 31, 2008

One More Great 2008 Song

"White Winter Hymnal" by The Fleet Foxes surely deserves to make the list.

I have to thank Dave and Raina for collectively pointing me toward this song. As you may know, I don't generally pay a lot of attention to lyrics. It's just not how I listen to music. But these are really amazing:

I was following the pack
all swallowed in their coats
with scarves of red tied ’round their throats
to keep their little heads
from fallin’ in the snow
and I turned ’round and there you go
and Michael you will fall
and turn the white snow red as strawberries in summertime.

Raina commented that "It’s an Imagist poem or a Russian fairytale. I’m not sure which. Maybe both." But here's my interpretation.

The song tells two different stories, depending on how you read it. If you read it as you would read prose, following the words as they spell out a narrative, you get a simple tableaux of contemporary suburban winter. A nervous soccer mom is taking her turn walking the neighborhood children to elementary school. She keeps a close eye on them, making sure they walk in a steady, single file, but when she turns her back for a moment, perhaps to say good morning to the crossing guard, one of the more rambunctious boys begins horseplaying on the icey sidewalk, and she hollers, perhaps a little too harshly, a warning: "Michael, you're going to fall down and bust your head open!"

But if you read it as you would poetry, taking each word or phrase for the images it contains and adding them all up, there is another story underneath, one of children (or at least people) being killed by wolves. It's short on specifics, but that ancient fear of wolves that our medieval European ancestors passed down to us through fairytales is potent enough to be conjured through a few words or images.

I like that video, too. It reinforces the feeling of ancient myth without breaking any of the song's mystery, and I'm always a sucker for stop-motion animation.


Blogger Sandman said...

I know this was their most popular song, but "He Doesn't Know Why" was a million times better to me. The whole album was pretty amazing, though.

12/31/2008 11:18 PM  

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