5 Songs, 55 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

Pronounced “ees,” harpist Joanna Newsom’s second album is an unusual piece of modern artistry; it doesn’t sound like anything else released in 2006. Five songs in 55 minutes, the album slowly unravels in its idiosyncratic nuance. Newsom’s voice recalls old style jazz and cabaret singers with the touch of a ‘60s folkie while her compositions and arrangements are steeped in wandering, ponderous art song. Strings, woodwinds, brass, a variety of percussion – at points, a full orchestra — and the expert scoring of legendary and controversial producer Van Dyke Parks who has enhanced and skewered the music of the Beach Boys, Randy Newman and Victoria Williams over the years, make this onion worth unpeeling. There is no easy point of entry. The opening cut, “Emily,” for example, begins: “The meadowlark and the chim-choo-ree and the sparrow set to the sky in a flying spree, for the sport of the pharaoh.” These are not easy songs to penetrate, narrative in moments and quickly abstract, romantic in the longing for an existence very apart from modern life.

EDITORS’ NOTES

Pronounced “ees,” harpist Joanna Newsom’s second album is an unusual piece of modern artistry; it doesn’t sound like anything else released in 2006. Five songs in 55 minutes, the album slowly unravels in its idiosyncratic nuance. Newsom’s voice recalls old style jazz and cabaret singers with the touch of a ‘60s folkie while her compositions and arrangements are steeped in wandering, ponderous art song. Strings, woodwinds, brass, a variety of percussion – at points, a full orchestra — and the expert scoring of legendary and controversial producer Van Dyke Parks who has enhanced and skewered the music of the Beach Boys, Randy Newman and Victoria Williams over the years, make this onion worth unpeeling. There is no easy point of entry. The opening cut, “Emily,” for example, begins: “The meadowlark and the chim-choo-ree and the sparrow set to the sky in a flying spree, for the sport of the pharaoh.” These are not easy songs to penetrate, narrative in moments and quickly abstract, romantic in the longing for an existence very apart from modern life.

TITLE TIME

Ratings and Reviews

4.6 out of 5
276 Ratings

276 Ratings

jeff. ,

too much to digest

You'll hear alot about Ms. Newsom's 2nd LP in the next few months, and if her history is anything to judge by, opinions will be divided up the middle. To my ears, with all the screeches, strums, and ravishing strings, there is nothing like this in the world... and that's before you get to the circituous wordplay that gives the songs their odd and affecting candence. Poetry? I'm not one to judge, and additionally I've always responded more to the harsh blast of a guitar than the well-turned phrase. But there's something here that is sticking in my craw and not letting go. I've listened to this off and on for a couple of months, and sometimes it takes me totally by surprise and makes the water well up in my eyes. I haven't got this emotional since In the Aeroplane Over the Sea; those of you who are still brought to tears while listening to that CD in rush hour traffic, and are a few years older, looking for beauty amidst the squalor of your everyday existence, will understand.

MUSIK_KRITIK ,

best of 07

Everyone is right to say this record is too much. Too long, too lyrically dense, too much to listen too (and there's only 5 songs!!!)...some will throw it away because of this, but some of us will keep listening, and will recognize it's genius. This record transcends any words I can use to explain it. Unfortunately iTunes doesn't offer my favorite song of this record alone (Emily). It released in late Nov. of 2006, but it's so close to 2007, I consider it one of the best records of 2007.

other favorites of 2007:

1. Loss and Love -Son of the Velvet Rat
2. Beautiful Sleepyhead -Emily Wells
3. Song and Void -Richard McGraw
4. Smokey Rolls -Devendra Banhart

D-Shep ,

Close your eyes...

If you can tolerate the druidic influences, the theatrical presentation, and the listing of every plant possible, you'll tumble like an Alice into Joanna Newsom's Wonderland. The album is deceptively exhausting, giving the heart of each song to spring past a predetermined length of music. Most of the lyrics flesh out with Joanna's poignant accentuation, and the quiet accompany of strings, opening a pop-up book of snowy mountains, delicate slants of light, and sparrows. Take it as it is, and your heart will flutter as Newsom's dreams involve themselves into a folk-tale of warmth. It is a poetic portrait, and well worth its weight in gold.

More By Joanna Newsom

You May Also Like