Posted September 1, 2006 by Mike Mineo in Features

Joanna Newsom perfects her style


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.


Joanna Newsom – Cosmia



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Mike Mineo

I'm the founder/editor of Obscure Sound, which was formed in 2006. Previously, I wrote for PopMatters and Stylus Magazine. Send your music to [email protected].