Review Summary: "That's clever."
Over the past year, Joanna Newsom isn't exactly what one would call an unknown artist. This is especially true within the large bundles of music communities online, where the woman once pictured with an unfortunate animal on her head (It was hot, okay?) has become a figurehead of an imaginative movement that Newsom herself has dismissed in interviews.
All of this came from the release of one album, Ys
. A five song set lasting a little under an hour, full of harp, strings, and plenty of imagery, Ys
seemed to be rather daring in its execution, though largely accepted by critics and fans alike. Rolling Stone were even so amazed and baffled by its beauty that they accidentally called it an EP and gave it three stars.
My thoughts when news of this release was revealed?
"How will she follow up something as colossal as Ys
What's great about Joanna Newsom & the Ys Street Band
is that she doesn't try to 'follow up' her previous efforts; it is only meant to be a place holder, and Newsom and her touring band does this with grace. "Colleen" proves that she is already beginning to stray away from dramatic string sections and a generally baroque feel, instead favoring the flavors of Appalachian folk. Banjo, acoustic guitar, accordion, harp, percussion, and the occasional yelp twist and mingle to form one of Newsom's best songs yet, with her typically narrative style executed with a quaint charm. The tune can feel sinister, humorous, and beautiful at the same time, with lines such as " 'Have you come, then, to rescue me?" He laughed and said, "from what, 'Colleen'?'"
Elsewhere are two re-workings of some of her best compositions, "Clam, Crab, Cockle, Cowrie" and "Cosmia". Besides the pleasing alliteration this creates within the song titles, these songs represent the contemplative and melancholy side of Joanna. The former isn't changed much; tempos are slowed somewhat, phrasing altered, and harmony vocals added. But these harmony vocals make a gorgeous song even more heartbreaking than it was before. Here, "Cosmia" is noticeably toned down and stretched out, turning a somewhat anxious song into a lulling riverside suite of sorts. The orchestration is replaced with those on "Colleen", giving it a certain flair and mood that a string section could not. This new version may not have the intensity as the original, but hell, there's theremin
If Joanna Newsom & the Ys Street Band
proves anything, it's that Newsom is a cool rockin' daddy in the USA.