nov 3 2006

Joanna Newsom – Ys

cover of

They don’t come stranger than this, folks. If you want to give the truly bizarre a spin, look no further this year than harpist Joanna Newsom’s second album “Ys”. I saw her for the first time a few years ago on the ever-impressive “Late Night With Jools Holland” show. (Youtube to the rescue: here’s her performance that night of the song “the book of right-on” from her debut album “The Milk-Eyed Mender”). Hearing that this little elve was about to release an album with production and arrangements-assistance of people like Van Dyke Parks, Jim O’Rourke and Steve Albini, my musical curiosity was of course aroused. Ys is an album that is both very simple and incredibly complex. 15-minute song structures are of course complicated. Yet they’re at the same time quite repetitive, thus simple. Her voice at first sounds like a manierism, with the girl-ish tweak of Björk combining the intonation of Kate Bush, but it strangely enough never “quite” gets on my nerves. It’s an album that has “hubris” written all over it, yet it still manages to not sound pompous or arrogant. Here’s a few notes from my notebook from reviews around the web:

Joanna Newsom has always lived in a different world to the rest of us. With Ys she’s found a way to let us in. It’s a wonderful, varied, unpredictable place, difficult perhaps, and demanding. But it’s beautiful and there is magic here. She’s done right by us all.

BBC – collective – Joanna Newsom – Ys 

Ys was a mythical city in the Douarnenez Bay in Brittany which was built below sea-level and protected by a dam but which was subsequently flooded.

WOEBOT: Joanna Newsom “Ys” 

It took a while for her to win me over, but I am floored. Absolutely floored. The sweet, off-kilter and vaguely irritating voice that eventually stole my heart with The Milk-Eyed Mender has returned with not just a harp, but a full orchestra in tow (and then some – is that a banjo I hear?), along with a trunk full of whimsical lyrics to rival any on that landmark debut.

Harmonium � Archive � �Monkey & Bear� – Joanna Newsom [Ys]

his EP is hard to stomach: Five tracks, four of them more than nine minutes and one (“Only Skin”) sixteen-plus, with meandering strings-and-things accompaniment and indulgent vocal quirks that make Bjork sound like Kelly Clarkson.

Rolling Stone : Joanna Newsom: Ys : Music Reviews 

Her lyrics have a depth and intricacy that rivals, and possibly surpasses, Dylan, Waits and Cohen. I may be talking out of my hat but I think Newsom’s lyrics should be judged in comparison to the likes of Nabokov or Camus rather than popular music.

Gentlemen, Hats Off!: Joanna Newsom – Ys

After following the sage advice of the commenters on this site, I went and investigated Joanna Newsom�s new album, Ys, a couple of weeks ago. Not being very familiar with her previous releases, this was something of an exploration and, as it turns out, I should have packed a tent and sleeping bag.

The Muso � Curiouser and Curiouser – Joanna Newsom

Newsom�s most obvious recent cultural reference point is Kate Bush, a woman somehow capable of cultivating popularity, as she walks a tightrope between the opposing sides. Deconstruct the likes of �Wuthering Heights� and you�ll find high art concepts, skilfully hidden under a sheen of pop froth.

The Mondo Project � Blog Archive � Music Review: Joanna Newsom – Ys 

Here�s how I feel when I listen to this album: I feel like I�m on a planet made of marbles, and I have stepped into a pool of velvety quicksand. Instead of panicking, I find myself comforted. Black clouds turn to white, and it rains cherry blossoms. Meteors break off and float around the magic hour sky, and I am being massaged by the hands of god herself.

Feldheim: the Big Red Box of Ivy League Music

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