1878

Introduction

Moving into the latter half of the Act, 1878 is full of foreshadowing events to come. It’s the longest song on the album, but due to it’s excellent pacing you wouldn’t even know (the album is also pretty short, so that helps too). Even when things pick up during the chorus, it feels like this song is floating by, nothing too drastic, while always moving forward. In the last song we saw Ms. Terri and Hunter living in their cabin away from society, until Ms. Terri reluctantly had to return to the Dime to make ends meet.


Into The Lyrics

Lyrics

We got a way we got away and survived
Stunned by the shock and fearing what's behind
Everything you thought you'd live and die for
Every reason leading you to hear
All of the sounds that trickle past your introspective ear
An attempt to discover what's behind

Branches twisting reaching for the sky
Hands extending reaching for the...

Fell in another hole
(For the knife, for the knife)
Loss of control
(For the knife, for the knife)
I'm in another hole
(For the knife, for the knife)
Bleed myself dry
(Save my life, save my life)

The river
The lake
The river
The lake

Fell in another hole
(For the knife, for the knife)
Loss of control
(For the knife, for the knife)

Hands conflicting clearly point their way
Stunned by the sign and fearing what it says

Everything you thought you'd live and die for
Every reason leading you to hear
All of the sounds that trickle past your introspective ear
An attempt to discover what's…

Fell in another hole
(For the knife, for the knife)
Loss of control
(For the knife, for the knife)
I'm in another hole
(For the knife, for the knife)
Bleed myself dry
(Save my life, save my life)

The river
The lake
The river
The lake

Fell in another hole
(For the knife, for the knife)
Loss of control
(For the knife, for the knife)

Analysis

Ms. Terri and Hunter have been living away from the City for a while now. While they’ve been safe, Ms. Terri is still afraid of her past catching up to her and her son. Hunter is curious about his mothers past, but never questions it.

One day while he is out hunting, Hunter decides he needs to climb a tree for some reason. While reaching for his knife, he loses his grip and falls, landing in a hole in the woods with no one around. Injured, he lays there for a while, wondering if he’ll ever make it out.

The rest of the lyrics are mostly repeated from then on, with one exception. “Hands conflicting clearly point their way; Stunned by the sign and fearing what it says”. These exact lines appear in the Act II CD booklet, alongside a graphic depicting directional signs. One reads “To Town” and the other “To Country”, and are located at a train station. The second half of the line is a reference to the earlier line in the song, “Stunned by the shock and fearing what's behind”. Both of these lines are simply foreshadowing the events of Hunter eventually leaving to the City.

On another note, separate from the lyrics, the title of the song is referencing when the Church was built. Thanks to u/BastyDaVida for pointing this out since I couldn’t find a source originally.


Into The Music

 Note how the highest note happens on the same beats in the first measure, then goes back and forth in the second. This repeats any time the two acoustics are playing in this song.

Note how the highest note happens on the same beats in the first measure, then goes back and forth in the second. This repeats any time the two acoustics are playing in this song.

Key of C, 7/4 time signature. There’s two acoustic guitars, with one playing a rhythm that matches up to every beat, and the other matching up to each measure. This leads to both of them playing off of each other in a way so that every other measure has them either synced up, or going back and forth with the pulse. The guitars outline C and Am chords for most of the intro and verses.

There’s also a Rhodes style piano playing an arpeggio with a few melody notes every few measures, with drums and bass to help support the 7/4 timing. After a couple repeats Casey joins in to start singing. The guitars change the chords at one point to a 7/8 feel, moving down the scale with the same intervals and patterns from before. After the first verse, the backing vocals make a return in this song to lead us into the prechorus.

At this point the timing changes to 6/4. The prechorus has the guitars drop out, giving the bass and piano more emphasis. The bass plays eighths on A for a measure, then G, then F, then during the final measure moves up the scale from A to D. Casey slowly ascends the scale with his vocals through this entire time.

Coming back down to a C/F, the chorus bring in more energy with electric guitars while Casey stays in his upper register. The chords used add a lot of space to this section, moving to Dmadd9/A, Fmaj7/Bb, Bb(b5), and Fmaj9/A. All of these chords keep the high E string open, giving them stability while moving around the scale. After the chorus the piano plays a pattern from the verse again, without any other instruments playing, before the rest of them come back in after a few measures. The verse repeats into another chorus, before we get to a breakdown on the organ.

The organ solo moves into a different type of scale, and keeps tempo with piano and some percussion. This whole section is in the D diminished scale, an octatonic scale as opposed to the normal heptatonic scales. This moves into a section where the rest of the band picks up again, and the organ and guitar start to trade off for a few more measures. Before the song leaves this bridge, the bass and drums get their own section to pick up the pace, with some vocals from the chorus (The River, The Lake) coming back in over them.

The chorus plays once more before going into the ending of the song. The verse section comes back, with the backing vocals on top as well. After a few repeats everything but the acoustics and vocals drop out, until it’s just a vocal line playing.


Personal Thoughts

When I heard this song live I think Casey said it was the greatest song he’s ever written. I could be wrong about that, it’s been a while since that show. But if my memory is correct, then that’s pretty cool. I wouldn’t have guessed this to be his magnum opus, not because it’s a bad song by any means, but because it seems like a fairly calm song which contrasts a lot of his other work. I love that this song always feels like it has a forward motion, even in the slow parts you know that you’re being brought along for the next section.