What is the new album from Joanna Newsom like?

A little bit goldilocks?

I’ll explain in a moment.

Firstly I need to say, that as the thing is spread over three discs, and I only found the perfect moment for it last night, I’ve not anywhere nearly fully grokked it yet.

But I’ve never let that stop me being opinionated before.

I can see a logic, that says that this is the ‘just right’ album. Milk Eyed Mender was a small and wondrous thing. Incredible (and for me, perfect) but limited to a series of perfectly formed (at times) but traditional songs.

Ys represented a huge expansion that was for me too much. I like the album. I let it wash over me, but it never packed (for me) the punch of those perfect moments on the first album.

Have one on me, though a much bigger album, seems to hypridise the two. The lessons are learnt from the grand huge epics of Ys. And they are somewhat shrunk, into things that much more resemble ‘simple’ songs.

So this is the ‘just right’ album. Not too hot, not too cold. Not to big or too small.


Right now, listening to the almost too punny ‘Good Intentions Paving Company‘ I feel I am awash with Americana.  There’s that swagger that makes me imagine prairies and sunshine and films about the depression where nothing is that depression.

She seems to have picked up Van Dyke Parks‘ storytelling style even as she’s outgrown his production.

And this album has a much broader swathe of tones than the strings of Ys. I’m awash in perfect piano and horns right now. And the drums kick back in.

And that voice.

That voice that I once loathed. That I’m sure many still do.

At times on these discs it seems like she’s reining it in. I don’t know if that’s a production thing, but it’s not too problematic. The voice shines and sings (metaphorically, as well as literally). It’s one of the key things that holds the album together.

And from my one and a half listens, I’d say the album hangs together incredibly well. It wanders around, but it stays very coherent, despite it’s length and the production duties being shared by a few.

The harp is obviously still magical. Entrancing and incredible. I can’t remember which track it was late last night that had me utterly baffled. I swear I was trying to follow about four or five separate interweaving motifs. Simple scales and arpeggios coiling around each other. If she is playing them without multitracking, then she is a goddess amongst us.

So the album is good. There’s bits that currently bore me, but I suspect that’s just me being stubborn or obtuse. Throughout the three discs, I’ve found moments where I’ve literally sat bolt upright in shock at the power of a certain sequence.

It’s hard to nail down what makes it so special.

And I don’t think I need to.

Just go get yourself a copy.

Have one on me.


Photo by Alex.


About Alex Ava

Joiner of Dots. Player of Games. Unreliable Narrator. Dancing Fool.
This entry was posted in Questions by Anna-Kaisa. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to What is the new album from Joanna Newsom like?

  1. Pingback: What do you think of this video? « Unstruck

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