Katharina Nutthall’s Darkly Dreamlike “The Poison Tree” is an Extended Metaphor for Seeking a Path to Emotional Equilibrium

Katharina Nutthall, photo by Albin Biblom

“The Poison Tree” from Katharina Nutthall’s 2022 album The Garden engages in the mythological themes of the album with the poetic imagery found in the lyrics which seem to explore themes of losing one’s path and sense of self and rediscovering all of it on a new foundation. “The Poison Tree” finds Nutthall sounding a little ragged with the urgency of emotion as carried along by what feels like an outwardly spiraling flow of emotion. It begins and ends with the sound of a piano seeming to come apart but in the middle of the song the piano melody anchors the song even as violin accents the dramatic tension and synths, ghostly backing vocals, droning strings, rattling percussion and luminescent keyboards in its ever descending tones create a sense of dramatic confusion. “In the morning rain I found myself lost in the garden” is the first line of the song and it sets the stage for images of natural forces taking on the role of energies and situations beyond one’s control that carry you beyond the contexts you knew. But during the course of the song the narrator of this folkloric story finds herself “out of place and time” but finds solace in the garden shelter even though there’s a “poison tree where the birds flew low and the grass was green.” The metaphor of water as one’s identity that can be drunk while an excess of water drowns a “precious flower.” The aspects of ourselves that make us experience the vitality of life can also become the things that undermine our lives in excess. But the symbolism of the song is never on the nose, its more a dream logic that informs the imagery and emotional resonance and the music itself is reminiscent of the kind of energy one hears in late 80s Kate Bush where a grounded yet dreamlike quality gives some of her most pop songwriting a compelling sense of mystery. Listen to “The Poison Tree” on Spotify and connect with Katharina Nutthall at the links provided.

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Author: simianthinker

Editor, primary content provider for this blog. Former contributor to Westword and The Onion.

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