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The Milk-Eyed Mender

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iTunes Review

The scrambled fairyland found in The Milk-Eyed Mender might’ve been created by Beatrix Potter under the influence of magic mushrooms, but actually it’s the work of singer/songwriter Joanna Newsom who infuses this 2004 release with a sweetly surreal glow. These songs are not for everybody — the lyric vocabulary is exotic, the melodies are childlike to the point of preciousness, and Newsom sings in a girlish warble while accompanying herself on harp and piano. But once the listener gets acclimated to its peculiarities, the album makes for revelatory listening. Newsom’s music takes folk-rooted forms and twists them into idiosyncratic shapes. Tracks like “Sprout And The Bean,” “The Book Of Right-On” and “This Side Of The Blue” are poetic meanders filled with whimsical details and startling imagery. Some tunes — especially “Cassiopeia,” an insomniac’s lullaby — come across like word-association games set to music. A playful, twang-laden country element creeps into “Inflammatory Writ” and “Sadie.” “Swansea” and the traditional tune “Three Little Babies,” carry a spooky undercurrent. The most affecting song is “Clam, Crab, Cockle, Cowrie,” a haunting meditation on loneliness. Dreamlike, delicate and sometimes downright weird, The Milk-Eyed Mender surrenders its strange charms if given the chance.

Customer Reviews

wait, wait, yeahhhh.

So my friend begged and begged me to listen to this album. Finally, I did, and i might have said that Joanna's singing sounded like "a strangled squirrel". I might have said that. But i take it back. By the second listen, I was hooked on 'The Book of Right-On.' Then 'This Side of the Blue'. About the 5th listen, I couldnt stop listening to 'Swansea', then 'Clam, Crab, Cockle, Cowrie.' Her voice becomes beautiful. I really couldn't imagine these songs any other way. The kicker here though, are the amazingly smart and sweet lyrics. She's a singer, she's a poet, she's amazing. Give it a couple listens and see what happens.

All we wanna do is chew and chew and chew. Dear one, drive on.

In 100 years, when future music lovers list the top 10 singer/songwriters or the past century, Joanna Newsom should (will?) stand proudly near the top. In an era of derivative melodies/hooks, recycled lyrics and tired subject matter, Joanna seems to exist in a sort of musical utopia where cheap contrivances are extinct. Her music is so boldy unique and unprecedented it sends snap-judgers running for the hills, and attentive art-lovers into ecstatic frenzies that usually end in smiles and sighs. Her sound is lush and playful, yet grabs you by the throat and demands your full attention, which when given, fills your mind with intertwining colors, images, memories, epiphanies... The Milk-Eyed Mender is a fantastic album. All aspiring artists will find inspiration in her sense of creativity, or at least revel in the brilliance of a modern-day master storyteller. This is music at it's most rapturous and we all deserve to experience it...especially now. Do yourself a favor and devour this music.

Not for everyone.

Her voice is not for everyone, I'll agree. The very first few seconds I listened to Joanna Newsom, I was really just like.."uhh..". However, the more you listen to her, the more you understand. She's like Bjork, Fiona Apple and Regina Spektor (maybe a little CocoRosie, too?) all wrapped up in one, with a harp thrown in. It's great. LOVE IT.


Born: January 18, 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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