Joanna Newsom: c/d?

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This is a rare case of someone I really can't decide if I like. I think her harp playing is pretty damned wonderful, and her songwriting is pretty damned competent, at worse. I'm not sure I can get past her voice and childish persona though. People tell me to give it more time, I did, and I still can't decided. Thoughts?

Hurting (Hurting), Saturday, 16 October 2004 04:30 (fifteen years ago) link

I think she's gonna be like Astrid and Claudine -- classic 20 years later.

mottdeterre (mottdeterre), Saturday, 16 October 2004 05:21 (fifteen years ago) link

I don't think her harp playing is all that engaging actually. I mean, it's cool that she plays the harp, but she's no Alice Coltrane. Also, the best song on her album is the one with harpsichord. So she should incorporate that more.

Patrick South (Patrick South), Saturday, 16 October 2004 15:20 (fifteen years ago) link

i still need to get this album.

i love "bridges and balloons"

reo, Saturday, 16 October 2004 22:34 (fifteen years ago) link

People's thoughts are already being collected here.

Alba (Alba), Saturday, 16 October 2004 22:45 (fifteen years ago) link

three weeks pass...
She was on Jools Holland's show at the weekend. Bizarrely, she reminds me of Kevin Coyne!

Dadaismus (Dada), Tuesday, 9 November 2004 11:41 (fifteen years ago) link

ten months pass...
There's a new Orange advert in the UK that uses "This Side Of The Blue".

Sell out!

James Mitchell (James Mitchell), Wednesday, 28 September 2005 21:10 (fourteen years ago) link

you're using the imperative form of the verb "to sell," right?

s1ocki (slutsky), Wednesday, 28 September 2005 21:15 (fourteen years ago) link

I just saw that inbetween LOST

Googley Asearch (Toaster), Wednesday, 28 September 2005 21:30 (fourteen years ago) link

I like her stuff and I can just about get over the voice but I'd never dream of playing any of her stuff in public.

dog latin (dog latin), Wednesday, 28 September 2005 21:33 (fourteen years ago) link

Dud. She's more boring twee crap for mincers and kids on We're Twins records.

js (honestengine), Wednesday, 28 September 2005 21:37 (fourteen years ago) link

She was the soundtrack for one of the films at Res-Fest. I'd never heard her before. The track was terrible. Worse than Polyphonic Spree even.

Alex in SF (Alex in SF), Wednesday, 28 September 2005 21:59 (fourteen years ago) link

Those CocoRosie sisters sing just like her, but, buddy, they can't write like her.

M. V. (M.V.), Wednesday, 28 September 2005 22:14 (fourteen years ago) link

I don't know what We're Twins records are, so I guess I'm a mincer, whatever that means.

polyphonic (polyphonic), Wednesday, 28 September 2005 22:15 (fourteen years ago) link

Potentially classic?

But she has to get more musically interesting yet for me.

The album frequently loses my attention about half-way through, yet I don't think the songcraft dips badly at all. It's not in the sequencing either, and there is plenty of variety (the bluesy "This Side of..." the trad-folky "Swansea" etc). Nevertheless there's something a little limited about her palette (tempo?) that doesn't grab me like it could at this point.

What I've heard of her newer material seems to be spinning towards lengthier lyrical epics, possibly exploring/reining in her voice a bit too. I really dislike judging things from bootleg live recordings so I'm not going to speculate whether this is yet an improvement.

Give her time I say. I think her humour is underrated at this point, and her personality & grit still latent under the image (or schtick if you're cynical) and the novelty.

fandango (fandango), Wednesday, 28 September 2005 22:43 (fourteen years ago) link


signifieds butt heads with the signifiers and we all fall down slack-jawed to marvel at words. just insane lyrics! I haven't heard better ones in a while.

regular roundups (Dave M), Wednesday, 28 September 2005 23:59 (fourteen years ago) link

I was just thinking today that I'd really like to hear another album from her. I have a feeling the next one will be really good.

Hurting (Hurting), Thursday, 29 September 2005 00:24 (fourteen years ago) link

fandango, do you have some live bootlegs? I saw her in SF a couple of months back and her second song was a new song, probably about eight minutes long. If you have it and could YSI that would be swell.

whatev, Thursday, 29 September 2005 03:52 (fourteen years ago) link

i like a quirky voice, but Ralph Wiggum off The Simpsons has already got this one, so she should go get her own.

Lee F# (fsharp), Thursday, 29 September 2005 09:24 (fourteen years ago) link

i think her voice is quite beautiful. especially on the second track where she layers it up. lovely.

cake (cake), Thursday, 29 September 2005 11:00 (fourteen years ago) link

she is weird in a boring way. cocorosie are weird in a fascinating way.

alex in mainhattan (alex63), Thursday, 29 September 2005 11:57 (fourteen years ago) link

I think her humour is underrated at this point

otm. i think she's very self-aware of her own tweeness, and plays it up because it's funny, which makes it less insufferable than twee things normally are.

the actual timbre of her voice is the least interesting thing about it, she has a natural intuition for phrasing and emphasis which is far more effective.

The Lex (The Lex), Thursday, 29 September 2005 11:59 (fourteen years ago) link

I don't think she is 'weird'. Quirky perhaps but not weird.

Cocorosie are neither weird or fascinating, or remotely interesting beyond the superficial sonic tinkerings (imo).

fandango (fandango), Thursday, 29 September 2005 12:00 (fourteen years ago) link

(xpost sorry)

fandango (fandango), Thursday, 29 September 2005 12:00 (fourteen years ago) link

Oh, and for whatev I just have a few random live songs. No bootlegs & at this moment they are on a hard drive unconnected to a working PC unhelpfully. Actually two hard drives(!) one of which may or may not have failed & all this needs sorting out. Fucking computers.

fandango (fandango), Thursday, 29 September 2005 12:04 (fourteen years ago) link

maybe she is not weird enough then...

somehow she reminds of the incredible string band. whose appeal i didn't get neither. the kind of hippie music which confirms all prejudices against hippies.

alex in mainhattan (alex63), Thursday, 29 September 2005 12:28 (fourteen years ago) link

Nothing like them

Dadaismus (Dada), Thursday, 29 September 2005 12:29 (fourteen years ago) link

I tried to like her but agree w/ a lot of the comments here. It just never registered in the end. I much prefer Josephine Foster's voice, although some people seem to be annoyed by it.

TRG (TRG), Thursday, 29 September 2005 12:42 (fourteen years ago) link

Classic, classic, classic. I can't blame anybody for not liking her - she makes some pretty adversarial stylistic decisions, but I can't think of any living artist who comes near her lyrically, and she consistently meets the musical challenges she presents herself with.

The B. Dylan comparisons are valid, the James Joyce ones are overreaching, but I can see why someone would make them. If you're a Lit nerd, you're on her like white on rice.

Here's a YSI of the new song she's been performing. Originally it was two songs, Only Skin and Be A Woman, she eventually melded the two and added some new parts. Sound is a bit distant initially but improves greatly at the 7 minute mark.

It clocks in at 15 minutes, and I'll take this occasion to dispel the hippie tag everybody's throwing around. This is not some indulgent & stoned free-flow jam - it's a highly structured and crafted piece of work. Dismissing Joanna Newsom's work as "stupid hippie crap" is akin to doing the same to John Fahey's or Neil Young's. Don't let the dress / demeanor of someone blind you to what they have to say, which in this case is a lot.

Edward III (edward iii), Thursday, 29 September 2005 15:21 (fourteen years ago) link

man, stoned free-flow jams are way more fun than tinkerbell songsters

Ward Fowler (Ward Fowler), Thursday, 29 September 2005 15:30 (fourteen years ago) link

i'm so conflicted about this one

Susan Douglas (Susan Douglas), Thursday, 29 September 2005 15:54 (fourteen years ago) link

man, stoned free-flow jams are way more fun than tinkerbell songsters
-- Ward Fowler (littlefielda...), September 29th, 2005.

Ah, the other venerable slam - Joanna Newsom as curious tree-faerie. It was only a matter of time....

Edward III (edward iii), Thursday, 29 September 2005 15:58 (fourteen years ago) link

Because it's an apt description?

Jimmy Mod Loves Alan Canseco (The Famous Jimmy Mod), Thursday, 29 September 2005 16:26 (fourteen years ago) link

to me that long concert extract sounds like a monologue theatre play. the occasional harp chord she hits doesn't make it music i am afraid. her voice sounds like a five year old björk without the rolled 'r's. let's face it she is a freak and people only go to see her as people go to see elephant man.

alex in mainhattan (alex63), Thursday, 29 September 2005 16:47 (fourteen years ago) link

Let's face it, die.

polyphonic (polyphonic), Thursday, 29 September 2005 16:56 (fourteen years ago) link

You're right, she sucks.

Edward III (edward iii), Thursday, 29 September 2005 18:58 (fourteen years ago) link

I can understand people not liking her voice, but I can't understand people who think she's untalented.

o. nate (onate), Thursday, 29 September 2005 19:04 (fourteen years ago) link

i don't know if she is talented or not. how her output can appeal to anybody is the question i ask myself. her voice doesn't help really. it's about as annoying as the voice of the singer from sigur ros. who has the advantage that he kind of sings whereas she mostly does sprechgesang.

alex in mainhattan (alex63), Thursday, 29 September 2005 19:18 (fourteen years ago) link

If she'd release an instrumental, I'd be all for it. As it is, I just can't get over that voice.

Mr. Snrub (Mr. Snrub), Friday, 30 September 2005 00:09 (fourteen years ago) link

i think you eventually not only do you get used to her voice but get into it. i have more trouble with the song structures which are too predictable i think, coupled with how totally thought out her lyrics are. at the same time i know its supposed to be that way. but at times i wish it were so very very well thought out. that's a dylan thing isn't it?

also, is the Sadie song about a dog? that song makes me cry.

Susan Douglas (Susan Douglas), Friday, 30 September 2005 00:21 (fourteen years ago) link

--so, curious if the voice is an issue for folks who've endured several listenings.

Susan Douglas (Susan Douglas), Friday, 30 September 2005 00:23 (fourteen years ago) link

she's no harpo marx

J.D. (Justyn Dillingham), Friday, 30 September 2005 00:28 (fourteen years ago) link


its curious to me too when folks say she 'has no talent':

not to make everything a gender issue, but i feel that's what people say about female artists when there is one thing they dislike about them....particularly if it is a voice thing. its like ok you're not the total package, you're untalented. and your true instrument of expression is your voice of course and you must sing pretty.

Susan Douglas (Susan Douglas), Friday, 30 September 2005 00:36 (fourteen years ago) link

Not sure I follow you, Susan. People use the word 'untalented' more when they dislike one particular thing about a female artist than when they dislike one thing about a male artist?

Aren't your comments above about her songwriting talents indicative of the fact that there might be more than one thing they don't particularly like about her (even if they just happen to mention her voice)?

Tim Ellison (Tim Ellison), Friday, 30 September 2005 00:42 (fourteen years ago) link

Regardless of gender issues 'untalented' is a pretty crappy innacurate term to describe someone whose songs (whether they're to taste or not) ring out so clear, lyrically structured & melodic as those on JN's album (haven't listened to that live thing yet).

I might call Wolf Parade or Clap Your Hands Say Yeah untalented mind.

fandango (fandango), Friday, 30 September 2005 00:47 (fourteen years ago) link

xpost - yeah exactly. i think with male artists some folks are more likely to pick out what they think is a flaw but consider their other contributions opposed to feeling the one disliked thing colors everything else they're doing and they are now "untalented". i know folks may have multiple issues with her and issues that are not voice-related (i do) ...but labelling her as completely not talented seems sorta ridiculous to me. something about that word "talent"...well I do feel like its used more with women. maybe b/c otherwise you're talking about skill???

Susan Douglas (Susan Douglas), Friday, 30 September 2005 00:55 (fourteen years ago) link

no need to go off in the gender was just something that came to mind.

Susan Douglas (Susan Douglas), Friday, 30 September 2005 00:57 (fourteen years ago) link

thanks fandango for responding, and edward III for the YSI! much appreciated.

whatev, Friday, 30 September 2005 01:31 (fourteen years ago) link

There are about 5 new songs in that medley I think!

Interesting, but perhaps not the greatest introduction :-O

fandango (fandango), Friday, 30 September 2005 11:50 (fourteen years ago) link

sorry to stir this up again, but listening to stuff recently (b/c of this thread) and folks do talk about her phrasing a lot but also she seems to in general have an incredible sense of rhythm. also surprised folks don't compare her more to jeff mangum.

Susan Douglas (Susan Douglas), Thursday, 6 October 2005 04:44 (fourteen years ago) link

is that from ?

StanM, Thursday, 25 June 2009 17:50 (eleven years ago) link

oh yeah, ISB had it goin' on back in the day, in that forest hippie kinda way

they were very good looking guys, robin especially:

my asian girlfriend (bug), Thursday, 25 June 2009 17:50 (eleven years ago) link

she looks so pretty in that pic!

something about her music doesn't draw me in. i can never put my finger on it. i guess i just get the sense that she's singing about things that i don't know about, or something. not sure -- i need to listen to more.

surm, Thursday, 25 June 2009 17:51 (eleven years ago) link

robin looks prettier than joanna there, haha

tylerw, Thursday, 25 June 2009 17:51 (eleven years ago) link

it's like noah lennox whould date maria carey or something.
and yes, im jealous

Zeno, Thursday, 25 June 2009 17:52 (eleven years ago) link

milk eyed mender>>>>Ys in an actually want to listen to it sense imo, but Ys is probably way "better" or more accomplished or something

❉❉❉❉❉❉❉❉Plaxico❉❉❉❉❉❉❉❉❉ (I know, right?), Thursday, 25 June 2009 17:53 (eleven years ago) link

also like Joanna for the fact that she's a Moore Bros. supporter -- those guys are like the 21st century Incredible String Band. So much handsomer too.

More handsome than ISB in their prime? Getouttahere!

Then in walked Barbara Castle with the Lady Eleanor (Tom D.), Thursday, 25 June 2009 17:54 (eleven years ago) link

saw her live a couple years ago on the ys tour and she is genuinely funny, even if the crowd were sucking up

❉❉❉❉❉❉❉❉Plaxico❉❉❉❉❉❉❉❉❉ (I know, right?), Thursday, 25 June 2009 17:54 (eleven years ago) link

so i mean dating a comedian...

❉❉❉❉❉❉❉❉Plaxico❉❉❉❉❉❉❉❉❉ (I know, right?), Thursday, 25 June 2009 17:54 (eleven years ago) link

andy samberg fwiw is not that funny

spiritual giant Cubby Culbertson (omar little), Thursday, 25 June 2009 17:59 (eleven years ago) link

he's hot

surm, Thursday, 25 June 2009 18:02 (eleven years ago) link

cute couple!

goole, Thursday, 25 June 2009 18:12 (eleven years ago) link

there is film on the internet somewhere of her telling a dick joke, brought to you by some magazine that photographed her wearing couture

i find myself really hoping she has a seriously long-tailed career: the cd-rs and milk-eyed mender are fantastic finding-a-voice stuff; i've never been able to get an angle on ys because i miss the sheer enthusiasm to be writing and singing conveyed in the first album. or the joy in just doing it for it's own sake.

'colleen' (only new song since, i think?) maybe more accomplished than anything on 'ys'

'ys' quite clunky in some ways —

"and I miss your precious heart
and miss, and miss, and miss
and miss, and miss, and miss
and miss, and miss your heart
but release your precious heart
to its feast, for precious hearts"

— i mean, i know how it looks written isn't the point, but i still find that a little naif or faux-naif

i may be biased towards 'colleen' bcz the yelping makes it sound like she's finding a way to indulge the schtick
-singing of the first releases without leaving technique behind, which would be +++ good thing

also the ys street guitarist sounds a bit like he's playing on one of the acoustic tracks on rumours

thomp, Thursday, 25 June 2009 18:35 (eleven years ago) link

i can't help but feel like it was a big fuck you when she started singing more normally to all the people who had defended how she sang on the first album as natural instead of contrived. I'll let you know when I have worked through this with my therapist.

❉❉❉❉❉❉❉❉Plaxico❉❉❉❉❉❉❉❉❉ (I know, right?), Thursday, 25 June 2009 18:44 (eleven years ago) link

can't help but wonder what I'm On a Boat would have been like if she's helped write the lyrics.

❉❉❉❉❉❉❉❉Plaxico❉❉❉❉❉❉❉❉❉ (I know, right?), Thursday, 25 June 2009 18:45 (eleven years ago) link

also the ys street guitarist sounds a bit like he's playing on one of the acoustic tracks on rumours

yeah what a pile of shit

goole, Thursday, 25 June 2009 18:48 (eleven years ago) link

I thought thomp was saying that's one of the reasons he preferred "Colleen" to Ys.

great gabbneb's ghost (jaymc), Thursday, 25 June 2009 18:54 (eleven years ago) link

oop, sorry

goole, Thursday, 25 June 2009 18:56 (eleven years ago) link

i can't help but feel like it was a big fuck you when she started singing more normally to all the people who had defended how she sang on the first album as natural instead of contrived. I'll let you know when I have worked through this with my therapist.

― ❉❉❉❉❉❉❉❉Plaxico❉❉❉❉❉❉❉❉❉ (I know, right?)

I think the reality is that when she was first starting out, she hadn't really sung before and wasn't too great at it. Some people found it "endearing", others "contrived".

But she's obviously a perfectionist who works hard at all the things she does. I'm guessing that she's either taken some vocal lessons or just worked at it a lot since the first album. She's gotten to be quite good and will probably continue to improve.

Seeing her live on the Ys tour, the thing that amazed me the most was how good and well-controlled her voice sounded.

Moodles, Thursday, 25 June 2009 19:00 (eleven years ago) link

kinda can't believe there's much debate about the dexterity/accomplishment of her voice

the heart is a lonely hamster (schlump), Thursday, 25 June 2009 19:12 (eleven years ago) link

oh i'm not sure the fleetwood mac thing is particularly accurate but i meant it in a positive way, yeah

i have now accidentally played the above track over the top of 'tusk', which comes closer to working than it ought, but still doesn't really work

thomp, Thursday, 25 June 2009 19:29 (eleven years ago) link

She has a bit of a comedic turn in the video for MGMT's Kids too

Number None, Thursday, 25 June 2009 22:27 (eleven years ago) link

That Esame song is fantastic.

ecuador_with_a_c, Friday, 26 June 2009 02:38 (eleven years ago) link

ws gonna say

four months pass...

nice shoes? heard from a friend who plays on her upcoming album that the new one is "more down to earth" than Ys.

tylerw, Friday, 20 November 2009 20:08 (ten years ago) link

She finished recording her new album apparently. If "Esame" isn't in it there is no hope for this world, imo.

Turangalila, Friday, 20 November 2009 20:14 (ten years ago) link

tylerw, what you should do is find out if there's strings in this new album. :)

Turangalila, Friday, 20 November 2009 20:14 (ten years ago) link

Doesn't sound like strings are a big part of it -- at least compared to the last one. This one was recorded with her touring band mainly ... It's more of a "band" sound, I guess.

tylerw, Friday, 20 November 2009 20:23 (ten years ago) link

Also it might be a "triple album" apparently.

tylerw, Friday, 20 November 2009 20:24 (ten years ago) link


Turangalila, Friday, 20 November 2009 20:32 (ten years ago) link

a small ensemble recording sounds great!

still one of the best shows I have ever seen

sleeve, Friday, 20 November 2009 20:40 (ten years ago) link

So it will be a more down-to-earth triple album?

Makes sense.

Moodles, Friday, 20 November 2009 21:46 (ten years ago) link

one year passes...

markers, Sunday, 15 May 2011 03:17 (nine years ago) link

she's got it all. sass, ass, shoes, voice, harp skills, curves, legs, entire english dictionary memorised, whimsy

i mean, what

jumpskins, Sunday, 15 May 2011 15:50 (nine years ago) link

Listening to Joanna Newsom is like being attacked by smurfs. But I'd give her a classic because no one sounds like her. I can't stand her music though.

thirdalternative, Sunday, 15 May 2011 17:03 (nine years ago) link

one year passes...

Whimsy is just the right word for the video’s star, the adored singer/songwriter and harpist Joanna Newsom. Newsom, harp in tow, performed a cover of Sandy Denny’s folksy, 1971 sea shanty “The North Star Grassman and the Ravens.” “Aesthetically, her songs are really inspiring to me—they’re really bold strokes that feel sort of theatrical and they’re interested in story,” Newsom said of Denny’s melancholy track and creative collaboration it inspired. “The fashion and design that I’m interested in also has to do with story, very strong statements that have some sort of narrative to them, that they aren’t just interested in the now.”

buzza, Saturday, 22 December 2012 21:29 (seven years ago) link

markers, Saturday, 22 December 2012 23:44 (seven years ago) link

one month passes...

Not too sure how many Joanna fans will actually buy this, but nice to know it'll be out there.

Hard Skin, the most popular oi! punk band around, send a strong message to their massive fanbase of women by doing a collaboration record with a lot of very famous females who are huge fans of the band as people as well as as a band. They have redone their whole new classic album On The Balls but have let the ladies take over the main vocals! What could have turned out to be really funny is actually absolutely brilliant and another classic!

it's all fuck what sit says, we'll do our own thing (Matt #2), Tuesday, 22 January 2013 16:36 (seven years ago) link

There's a sound sample on Amazon, definitely sounds like her:

a la recherche du tempbans perdu (NickB), Tuesday, 22 January 2013 16:42 (seven years ago) link

one month passes...

Luna has new answers (buzza), Tuesday, 19 March 2013 01:29 (seven years ago) link

two months pass...
one month passes...
one year passes...

I can totally hear her in all the stuff she picks:

Josh in Chicago, Tuesday, 20 January 2015 23:01 (five years ago) link

Crossing my fingers for Gentle Giant influence on the next album. She's at her best on twistier tracks like "Have One On Me".

jmm, Tuesday, 20 January 2015 23:09 (five years ago) link

four years pass...

Saw her live this week, she's amazing. In tears for "Only Skin", and I came away with newfound appreciation for the non-Ys songs she played. I'm in utter awe at what an amazing performer she is.

Antonym Scalia (Leee), Wednesday, 27 November 2019 20:40 (eight months ago) link

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