I won’t get into the infamous Pitchfork server leak (fun), as you’ve most likely read about ten editorials by now on the topic. Anyways, one of few significant albums that made their way through was some new material from the oddly appealing elf-like Joanna Newsom, with her sophomore album, Ys. You can apparently pronounce that as “ees”. I found the potential on her debut album, The Milk-Eyed Mender, to be quite outstanding through the simply played but unpredictable songs. Admittedly, the only thing that made me look past it were the vocals, which I found to be filled with effort but awkwardly unproportionate to the songs. The album was still a nice listen though, particulary with Newsom’s harp skills, which she has been perfecting since age seven, making their entering.
Odd cover art, huh? The first few listens to Ys were a good indication that Newsom has improved her musical grasp on all fronts, with the vocals noticably becoming significantly more bearable. Ys also sees Newsom expand on her original straightforward style of guitar-driven folk, with some stunning string work done by the brilliant Van Dyke Parks, whose musical career varies from underrated solo projects to collaborations with some of the biggest acts in the world, noticably U2 and Brian Wilson. ‘Cosmia’ is the shortest song on the five-track album, playing over seven minutes. Newsom has a particular skill of streching out a song without any notice at all, as the varying structures are much improved from her straightforward folk approach in her debut, with all five songs gliding smoothly regardless of their long length. The song begins with the elegant trickle of Newsom’s harp, with Parks’ strings eventually striking their way into the picture. Newsom is practically squealing when she starts to sing, “and I miss your precious heart,” though she manages to pull it off with grace and finesse. When she repeats the line in the last minute of the song, it is done with twice the passion while Parks seems to incorporate a new masterful charge of emotion in the strings. The album was produced by Jim O’Rourke and will be released on November 14th. Newsom has improved on her already evident talents to create an album that will most certainly be remembered as one of this year’s most diverse and creative.
Nice summation, but “GUITAR driven folk”? Newsom is about the most famous indie harp player out there..
indeed she is, though I wrote that because I personally think that Ys is such a larger display of her as a harpist. the song ‘Emily’ is pretty great as well.
But there isn’t any guitar on The Milk-Eyed Mender?
[…] There will be a lot of talk aobut Ys in the months to come. I’m sure some of it will be about the album’s really bad artwork. I haven’t had a chance to absorb this one completely, but what I’m hearing is an impressive step forward. Head over to Obscure Sound for an MP3 of “Cosmia.” […]
HI THERE! I’M A HUGE JOANNA NEWSOM FAN FROM BRAZIL. THERE’S A LINK TO AN EDITED ALBUM VERSION OF ”EMILY” ON MY SPACE (JUST SEARCH FOR THE SONG’S NAME). IT’S BEEN QUITE ENOUGH TILL I GET MY COPY OF ”YS”. AND THERE ARE SOME IDIOTS THAT DID NOT GET THE MEANING OF THE PROMO PIC OF HER WEARING AN ANIMAL ON TAXIDERMIA ON HER HEAD. WELL, I WOULD WEAR SOME DEAD PLANTS TOO IF I GOT THE MOOD TO IT ;-] LOVING JOANNA MORE AND MORE, antoni
I find it funny that you repeatedly point to her vocals on milk-eyed mender as being grating or unbearable, and that on Ys she has somehow rectified this quality. Now, I don’t know about all of her fans, but everyone I know who enjoys her music will point to her vocals as one of, if not the, main reason her music is so wonderful, explicitly for the imperfect qualities. It is intimate and human, rather than some milquetoast, canned attempt at as much. It’s more folk than folk music has been since it was strictly a personal, group experience.
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Totally agree with a e s about her voice. It certainly is one of the main fascinating points in her music. I am not knowledgeable in harp music , but I bet there are other very interesting works on harp. But it is certainly the combination of harp with her exquisite, weird voice that makes it so mind blowing. I certainly wouldn’t like her so much if she had a perfect, boring voice. I am actually trying to get used to the idea that her voice became more conventional on Ys… for now, with the exception of Cosmia, perhaps, I do prefer the Milk-eyed mender!
Just got back from her performance at the Somerville Theatre in Cambridge, MA, and I am awestruck. She is not only a commanding and assured virtuoso onstage, but a phenomenal composer as well. So many composers attempt to demonstrate that they can handle longer large-scale musical structures and end up proving just the opposite, but this is far from being the case for Joanna. Her musical inventiveness never falters, and her newest longer pieces carry you through moment after sublime moment. It has been years since I’ve been so impressed by a new musical talent. The woman is a freakin’ genius.