10/31/2006

One-minute, one listen review: Ys by Joanna Newsom

One LP, five songs, fifty five minutes. What is this, a jazz record? (No, then it would be Mingus by Joni Mitchell, although parts of this remind me of Joni's more experimental long works.) It's daring, alright, especially for an artist already known for a warbling weird voice some find irritating who plays harp for indie rock kids. The production is higher (string arrangements, which are all pretty nice, by Van Dyke Parks, best known to most for writing the Smile lyrics...that hints at the aspirations of the record, don't it?). The songs go as deep as 16 minutes, and after one listen, I've got no real idea what they're about, although the lyrics sound impeccable. The songs are also hard to hear structure in; these aren't exactly several songs in one, more like pocket suites.

A lot of people will call it pretentious; it is, but so is anything that aspires to capital-g Greatness, so pretentious unto itself is not a bad word: pretentious for the sake of pretentious is the dangerous thing.

With the shortest song being 7:17 ("Cosmia," surprisingly placed as the last song, the very slot you might expect a 25:14 song to appear), this isn't a record you can just dabble around in, and I don't think they're gonna find a real single here.

There are chords and moments in here that just go Ping! with me. You know, that feeling where you hear a certain set of notes that just make you melt through your headphones and puts a massive smile on your face or a tear on the edge of your eye, scaring the other subway passengers either way. Other than that, I can't say if this is daring and amazing or daring and amazing to me for the moment for being daring; in the latter, the magic will wear off pretty quickly. Maybe in a few days I'll give this a re-review. I can say for certain that the Rolling Stone review is full of shit, but so is the continuing existence of the magazine, so what else is new.

Apropos of nothing, there's a new Madvillain video for "Monkey Suite." I like it; reminds me of a cross between The Nightmare Before Christmas and that one Tool video:

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