Bridges and Balloons is the first track off of Joanna Newsom’s debut Milk-Eyed Mender, one of the most beautiful albums I have ever heard. Every time time I hear the harp fade in and the opening lyrics “We sailed away on a winter’s day with fate as malleable as clay” I fall in love with the song (and the album) yet again.
The track seems to be a daydream about embarking on a journey on a boat. The imagined sailing trip is apparently a method of transportation that is risky and uncertain (“ships are fallible, I say”) but ultimately leads to enlightenment.
“Oh, my love! It was such a funny thing to be the ones to’ve seen.” Perhaps Joanna feels that she is among the privileged few who has obtained this enlightenment; to see what others can’t see.
“The site of bridges and balloons make calm canneries irritable.” Canaries are household, caged pets unable to fly up high with the liberated balloons floating alongside bridges. Bridges themselves can be seen as symbol, as they are pathway to get to another place. The canaries can represent anyone (human or animal) that can only taste freedom or understanding, and gets restless from not being able to reach it.
“Brace and buoy the living room.” The imaginary exploration appears to take place in Joanna’s mind while she is in a living room.
After painting vivid imagery by mentioning specific things like “dirigibles” (airships), “lateen” (triangular) sails, and "catenaries" (probably referring to the curves created by the cables of suspension bridges), Joanna presents her charmingly mysterious way with words when she explains that “a thimblesworth of milky moon can touch hearts larger than a thimble.”
Milk-Eyed Mender is one of my favorite albums to listen to while walking on the beach. As I walk on the shore of San Francisco on a winter’s day and track 1 begins, I like to day daydream about hopping on a ship and fading into an adventure (like all things nautical).
My favorite female, when I saw her live we all sat on the floor in total silence, in awe of her every move. She laughed at us a couple of times, but I’m almost positive that if she wanted to pull of a Jonestown that night she probably could have, we turned into gooey robots :)
there are some mornings when the sky looks like a road, there are some dragons who were built to have and hold, and some machines are dropped from great heights lovingly, and some great bellies ache with many bumblebees.