This track is just like….I’m so sorry.
From the opening keyboard, you just know that it’s going to be about something terribly sad, and it is. "Hannah Hunt" describes a failed relationship—but not just any failed relationship. One that could have been the one.
Ezra sings softly on the first verse: "A gardener told me some plants move, but I could not believe it ‘til me and Hannah Hunt saw crawling vines and weeping willows as we made our way from Providence to Phoenix." The beauty of these lyrics is their hidden meaning. Not to get all English-teacher-y, but providence, in addition to being a place, is usually seen as some sort of protective grace—whether from God or love or elsewhere. A phoenix, on the other hand, is something that rises from death, flames, and ashes. The relationship described in “Hannah Hunt” starts out as the type of relationship everyone dreams of—one of love, trust, and a sense of “you and me, we’re in this together.” By the end, though…
I have two favorite lines in this song, and one of them is in the first verse: "A man of faith said hidden eyes could see what I was thinking. I just smiled and told him that was only true of Hannah as we glided on through Waverly and Lincoln." When you think you have “the one”, they know seemingly everything about you..and there’s a distinct feeling that only they do. Warnings from people about the perils of love, or insistence that someone else might know “you” just as well are met with a knowing -“oh but how could you possibly understand” smile…You’ve got your person, and they know you like no one else does. It’s only true of Hannah, so to speak.
The song develops as though it’s some sort of dream or lost memory; the wispy keyboard, soft drums, and longing guitar evoke a scene framed by clouds or haze—ideal for the storytelling of the lyrics. This is one of those tracks where the lyrics match perfectly with the music.
Ezra continues to describe he and “Hannah’s” travels from Providence to Phoenix, and at first, nothing’s amiss. It’s another hidden line, at the end of the second verse, that tells of their ending: "I walked into town to buy some kindling for the fire; Hannah tore the New York Times into pieces." New York T/times here has a double meaning—sooo clever, Vampire Weekend—-as heard in the next line. Hannah tears the ‘New York times’ of their relationship-all the memories, trust, and love that they made on the East Coast- into pieces, and betrays her lover’s trust. What now?
The next line of the song is its climax: "If I can’t trust you, then damn it Hannah—there’s no future. There’s no answer."
It’s possible to love someone dearly, but no longer trust them. This is the hardest kind of love, I think, because, as Ezra puts it so succinctly: that kind of love has no future, and no answer. You can’t have a relationship with someone you can’t trust. The “Hannahs” of relationships never realize truly what they’re breaking by figuratively “tearing New York Times to pieces”.
It’s never just a thing that happened once. It’s not just a mistake. It means everything. This type of trust-shattering blunder is the type to end friendships, relationships, and marriages—no matter how strong they seemed initially. Something that once seemed to be as unmoving as a plant (to go back to the first verse), shows itself to be as fragile as a newspaper. Once the damage is done, it’s done.
The climactic line is repeated over and over as the music intensifies. Even as it increases in tempo and volume, there’s still a forlorn, melancholy tone to it; a sense of the profound loss of something magical. There’s no future. There’s no answer. When things like this happen, they’re terribly, profoundly sad.
This song is beautiful. And I really like it.
Spot on. My favourite song of the year.