Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Joanna Newsom - Ys

Joanna Newsom is not your average singer. First of all, her voice is...unique. There's really no one else quite like it. My sister says she sounds like she's twelve years old, and I'll admit she doesn't exactly sound like most grown women, but the effect isn't as jarring as someone like Lady Sovereign(who I'm convinced is secretly a tween). In any case, she's a terrifically talented singer. You really have to listen for yourself, but I think her voice is a welcome change from the Natasha Bedingfields and P!NKs and Taylor Swifts (bleh!). I really am extremely picky when it comes to female vocalists. And male vocalists, for that matter.

The thing is, though, this show isn't all about Joanna's voice. Her album Ys is a collection of five lengthy fairytale ballads and songs, each a gem of musical and lyrical craftsmanship. This isn't an EP, though. No, this is a gosh darn full album; the whole thing runs a little over an hour. Each song is filled with vibrant and seldom-heard words(define jerkin, if you can), which combined with harp and orchestral accompaniment further the fantastical quality of the album(what does Ys mean, anyway?).

When listening to this stuff I feel like I should be sitting in a wingback armchair in some mansion filled with books. There's a regalness here, kind of. It's the type of music you wouldn't listen to every day--only when you're feeling particularly ponderous and wonderful. I think the harp has a lot to do with that. It's a highly underrated instrument, and Newsom is pretty spectacular at it. I wouldn't mind if her work inspired other artists to use the instrument more often.

Wikipedia says she's psych folk, whatever that is, but one thing I really like about Newsom is that she doesn't snuggle into any real genre(I found Ys in the Pop/Rock section of my library, haha). That gets you pretty far in my book. Anyway, if you want something high-quality and different, please do give this a listen.


  1. Thought you might find this interesting: Ys is a mythical city that was said to lie on the coast of Brittany in what is now France. The city was washed into the sea because of some god's wrath and immorality and what not.

  2. Thanks for posting this! Speaking of Newsom, Roan Press's new book, "Visions of Joanna Newsom" is now available for pre-ordering exclusively via our website: