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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.

Customer Reviews


I was given a copy by a friend, I dont think he gave it much of a listen and I must admit i almost didn't either so strange and unique is Joanna's voice. But by the second listen I was enchanted, by the third entranced. Now I hear this record in my dreams.(Honest). These songs are epic in scope, almost impossible to pin down they weave and dart where you least expect them to go. The instrumentation is worth the price of admission alone. This album wont be for the masses but will grow in stature as it is a truly rare work. "The metorite is the source of the light....."

A masterpiece

I'm not given to superlatives, but when I heard this record I was awestruck. Six months later, I still am. This is not pop music. It is high art - a complex, beautifully-realised masterwork, like a good concerto, or the epic poem of a great and mature writer. The imagery of the songs is colourful, intense and achingly sad. The orchestration is inspired. JN's voice: the best comparison is with Dylan. You can respect people who don't like, but you know they are deeply deeply misguided. There are few other comparisons one can make. As idiosyncratic as Tom Waits, and in time, who knows, even more great.

Sheer poetry.

I had never even considered giving any artist or album 5 stars, before - I simply never thought that I would encounter perfection. Apparently, I was wrong. Joanna Newsom is perfection in every way. The oddly beautiful, bird-like swoops of her voice, combined with her surreal and crystalline lyrics, make for the most intense listening experience I've had in months. Her music requires utter concentration - nay, DEMANDS it - conjuring up strange and lovely images and exquisite moments of clarity. Harp and human voice weave together in startling ways, revealing aspects of thought and states of mind I am not used to encountering outside of poetry. Conclusion: This IS poetry. If there is only one artist you must invest in this year, let Newsom be it.


Born: 18 January 1982 in Nevada City, CA

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Although Joanna Newsom's Appalachian-meets-avant-garde take on folk music is her most celebrated work, her range is even more inclusive than her solo career suggests: the classically trained harpist adds a decidedly different, textural sound to Nervous Cop, the noise rock trio that also features Deerhoof's Greg Saunier and Hella's Zach Hill, and she also plays keyboards for the Pleased, another San Francisco-area band more akin to Blondie or Television than her other projects. Like her résumé, Newsom's...
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