Could somebody please explain to me how Joanna Newsom is better known than Alela Diane?

Message Bookmarked
Bookmark Removed

I don't intend this as a Newsom vs. Diane knockdown—we can save the Nevada City rumble for later—my confusion has more to do with how it is that the more difficult, acquired taste is showing up in The New York Times Magazine and dating TV stars while the more accessible artist with simpler, lovelier songs remains a cult figure. Is it owing to extra-musical factors like the novelty of her harp? Looks? Friendships with the Devendras of the world? Or are people really more drawn to her ten-minute rambles than to AD's four-minute songs? Are they ashamed to like something so simple as the (to me at least) catchier Diane material?

Michael Train, Sunday, 28 March 2010 23:57 (eight years ago) Permalink

i don't know who alela diane is, but i wish nina violet were more well known. she's awesome and i hate almost everybody:

scott seward, Monday, 29 March 2010 00:00 (eight years ago) Permalink

she should be signed to a good label, at the very least. don't know how hard she has tried to get a deal. i'd say she should go with a label like vanguard, but nobody had heard that watson twins album that i love on vanguard and i fear that their records just get put out and thrown into a black hole or something.

scott seward, Monday, 29 March 2010 00:03 (eight years ago) Permalink

same with that living sisters album i like. i doubt anyone here will hear it. but its worth hearing.

scott seward, Monday, 29 March 2010 00:03 (eight years ago) Permalink

okay, i listened to alela on myspace. she should tour with nina violet!

scott seward, Monday, 29 March 2010 00:05 (eight years ago) Permalink

mia doi todd isn't famous either.

scott seward, Monday, 29 March 2010 00:06 (eight years ago) Permalink

you can preface your post with all the good intentioned, no-newsom-vs-diane-knockdown provisos you like, them's fighting words. your post names the things that separate j-new from alela and people that she's ostensibly comparable to; like her songs are long-ass 'rambles' and she plays a harp.

egregious apostrophising (schlump), Monday, 29 March 2010 00:06 (eight years ago) Permalink

hey at least alela is on rough trade.

scott seward, Monday, 29 March 2010 00:10 (eight years ago) Permalink

I saw Alela Diane and she was good. I saw Joanna Newsom and it was one of the best shows I've ever seen. So that might help.

sleeve, Monday, 29 March 2010 00:14 (eight years ago) Permalink

I just don't get how the less accessible artist is the more popular. Seems very odd. Does popular taste really tend so strongly toward the abstruse?

Michael Train, Monday, 29 March 2010 00:17 (eight years ago) Permalink

the alela stuff is pleasant. there are a lot of pleasant singers like that though. kinda hard to rock the world. nina is more interesting to me. and she can be amazing live.

scott seward, Monday, 29 March 2010 00:18 (eight years ago) Permalink

"Does popular taste really tend so strongly toward the abstruse?"

no. most people are very vanilla/middle of the road.

joanna has struck a chord with people for some reason. it happens. tiny tim did it to people too.

scott seward, Monday, 29 March 2010 00:19 (eight years ago) Permalink

maria thinks that diane cluck should be famous.

scott seward, Monday, 29 March 2010 00:31 (eight years ago) Permalink

I think that Diane Birch should be famous.

henry s, Monday, 29 March 2010 00:37 (eight years ago) Permalink

I think Suzy Mangion should be more famous than all these women.

Turangalila, Monday, 29 March 2010 00:46 (eight years ago) Permalink

Because she sings like an ondes-martenot and her songs and arrangements sound removed from time without coming across as obvious throwback pastiche...

Turangalila, Monday, 29 March 2010 00:50 (eight years ago) Permalink

Alela, Mia Doi, Suzy = all great. Haven't heard of Nina or Diane, will investigate!

Ned Raggett, Monday, 29 March 2010 01:01 (eight years ago) Permalink

I'd say in this case it might be because Newsom is more distinctive; Alela Diane is v. good, but she also sounds similar to a handful of others working in that vein. Newsom is pretty distinctive in terms of sound and is a gifted lyric writer IMO. But it is an interesting question. Maybe Diane hasn't put herself out there in the same way.

Mark, Monday, 29 March 2010 01:18 (eight years ago) Permalink

I'll throw in for Larkin Grimm while we're discussing unusual women singer-songwriters though her subject matter & "difficulty" limit her audience some. still, she's made some of the best best BEST records.

Twink Will Ferrell (J0hn D.), Monday, 29 March 2010 02:22 (eight years ago) Permalink

yeah I have been listening to Parplar a LOT lately and really digging it. I didn't know there were more, I need to get on that!

sleeve, Monday, 29 March 2010 03:57 (eight years ago) Permalink

I have room for all these women in my life.

Megadeth Panel (Ówen P.), Monday, 29 March 2010 10:02 (eight years ago) Permalink

But yeah echoing what other people said, I don't think things are always as linear as "I just don't get how the less accessible artist is the more popular" otherwise all those MOR no-mark honkers on CDbaby or whatever would be cleaning up

Not a musician, but I thought of Justin Fashanu for some reason (DJ Mencap), Monday, 29 March 2010 10:20 (eight years ago) Permalink

one year passes...

it's because Joanna Newsom is (unknowingly?) a robot programmed to generate buzz, and Alela Diane isn't. Alela doesn't look like a Medieval salvia elf priestess on her album covers, has never dated a comedian, has never worn a wolf on her head, isn't Gavin Newsom's cousin, doesn't sound like [Edward Scissorhands milking a groundhog? Texas Gladden on helium? she doesn't inspire lame hyperbolic similes, anyways], and doesn't botch the pronunciation of words that every 2-year-old should know. the only tidbits I know about Alela Diane are that she's maybe possible Native American, her husband and father are in her backing band, and Joanna Newsom and Marie Sioux are her best bros. some people's life's stories just don't lend themselves to mythologizing. it isn't always necessary to be mythical to make it big in the freak-folk scene (or whatever), but it definitely helps.

I mean even without knowing anything about Newsom's music (which is great) you can pretty much figure out why she had a better shot than most at attracting NPR features and Dave Eggers accolades so early in her career. and the music itself isn't much of an acquired taste to indie kids who were already into offbeat folk to begin with or stockbrokers who were digging Edie Brickell and Kate Bush 20 years earlier and want something quirky to fill that gap. The Milk-Eyed Mender is full of catchy 3-minute pop songs, and its off-kilter qualities made it more accessible rather than less so to an audience that gets suspicious of all things "normal" and "pleasant".

and this is forgetting that Newsom and Diane are both way more famous than like 99.9% of all singer-songwriters, difficult or accessible or otherwise. so the threadstarter's question is more like, "why is successful indie artist A more successful than successful indie artist B,' and that's hardly a weighty or thought-provoking question.

every time you touch me (I get hives) (unregistered), Friday, 13 May 2011 14:06 (seven years ago) Permalink

the new Alela Diane album is great imho, and stylistically it's more Neil Young or Will Oldham or Holly Golightly than Joanna Newsom. To Be Still is still probably her best work.

every time you touch me (I get hives) (unregistered), Friday, 13 May 2011 14:08 (seven years ago) Permalink

Your second post there did more to convince me to check out her new album.

'what are you, the Hymen Protection League of America?' (jon /via/ chi 2.0), Friday, 13 May 2011 14:13 (seven years ago) Permalink

cool, then.

if I have a major qualm about it, it's the drumming. a lot of the songs on To Be Still were drumless and wouldn't have benefited from driving rhythms in the first place, but the new album is heavier on country-rock stuff, and I feel like it could've been more satisfyingly propulsive with a looser, less Byrdsy rhythm section.

the arrangement for "Elijah" is perfect though, and I think this is pretty similar to the album version:

every time you touch me (I get hives) (unregistered), Friday, 13 May 2011 14:35 (seven years ago) Permalink

Unregistered, that was a golden post.

THE Alan Moulder?!? (Ówen P.), Friday, 13 May 2011 16:22 (seven years ago) Permalink

three months pass...

have only heard the first one on the last record, but her falsetto's beautiful, huh. she should go that a way.

sweatpants life trajectory (schlump), Wednesday, 17 August 2011 12:18 (seven years ago) Permalink

this record sounds great!
can't quite pinpoint why it's getting me in a way that similar contemporary-lush-country-recs haven't, but it's really nice. i want to cook to it.

(Chris Isaak Cover) (schlump), Thursday, 25 August 2011 12:34 (seven years ago) Permalink

two weeks pass...

just going to bump this thread every time i listen to this record & am reminded of how good a fit its sweetness and boldness and canter are, when you're doing something. i saw her a few years ago and thought it was nice, but she's doing something different now, it's really bold and confident. & even though it it's going to get filed away under 'modern country' or new, traditional sounding music or whatever, it doesn't quite match up with any of those records, to me.

and my soul said you can't go there (schlump), Monday, 12 September 2011 10:21 (seven years ago) Permalink

one year passes...

Hey, new Alela Diane record, apparently on the breakup of her marriage. Listening to a track on the BBC now, good stuff.

Ned Raggett, Wednesday, 31 July 2013 16:29 (five years ago) Permalink

four years pass...

Unveiled today, alongside the news that Diane’s brand new album ‘Cusp’ will be released on February 9th via AllPoints (which can pre-ordered here) new single ‘Émigré’ sees the California-born Alela Diane respond to the ongoing, international refugee crisis by plunging us among the merciless seas: “I hear yelling I hear crying I her praying / As the ocean threatens us on all four sides / the water rises deeper every minute / this vessel cannot bear the burden of our love”. Diane has long been writing about love, loss, nature and memory, bittersweet subjects birthing their emotional debris through bluesy croons and comforting folk serenity. On ‘Émigré’, however, the personal feels more intimately political; the inhuman force of the sea stands for the propulsions of capital, nation and economic flow which propel so many people “across the borderlines”, torn from home to greater unknowns.

Dinsdale, Saturday, 2 December 2017 13:05 (one year ago) Permalink

two months pass...

well, Alela Diane's new album is just lovely

Dinsdale, Friday, 9 February 2018 19:28 (ten months ago) Permalink

You must be logged in to post. Please either login here, or if you are not registered, you may register here.