Joanna Newsom

November 29, 2006


Joanna Newsom is an unlikely pop star: for one, she plays the harp. At times, her voice sounds childish, elfin (though not Lord of the Rings elfin – think Bjork in Appalachia elfin), or even helium-tinged, yet according to many (read: Pitchfork), she has produced one of the best (if not the best) record of 2006.

I admit, I found the harp bit intriguing; it’s why I picked up her debut record, The Milk-Eyed Mender. I played Ms. Newsom’s record over and over, largely because my ex could not stand the sound of her voice. This made me like it all the more. Her voice, I think, is a bit like the smell of gasoline: either you really like it or you really don’t, and there’s probably something genetic about it. I also found the song, “Sadie” to be the saddest song I had ever heard. (Which may be a testament to my emotional state at the time, since I believe the song is about a dog.) 

So it wasn’t surprising to me when an early review of Ms. Newsom’s second album, Ys, largely hated it. I guess Rolling Stone doesn’t dig harps (not that there’s anything wrong with harps). More unlikely, however, were the other reviews, which seemingly came from everywhere else. And sorry Rolling Stone, but it looks like 99% of people dig harps.

Ms. Newsom’s sophomore effort is only five songs long… five long songs (one clocks-in at almost 17 minutes). There is nothing on the new record that is immediately accessible or likeable as on The Milk-Eyed Mender. Instead, Ys impresses with its depth of storytelling and orchestral complexities. The new album finds Ms. Newsom sounding more mature, and works more like the recital of a folksy campfire epic poem than the most popular pop album to hit the internet this year. 

Listen: Bridges and Balloons, Three Little Babes and Sadie from The Milk-Eyed Mender, and Cosmia from Ys. Both are available on Drag City Records. Also listen to Erin from Walnut Whales,  a self-released record.


One Response to “Joanna Newsom”

  1. Scooby Says:

    Now that’s deep…

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