Review Summary: Have One On Me is the best hug you'll ever receive.
If you were one of those people who hated Joanna Newsom's Ys simply because of her voice, then you'll like Have One On Me. If you became obsessed with her after the release of Ys and subsequently developed a fur fetish, you'll still like Have One On Me, only with the stipulation that her earlier work is better. If you're against "indie hipster bullshi
t," then you'll like it but pretend you don't. With the bottom line out of the way, where does Joanna Newsom get off releasing three discs worth of material when many people couldn't stand to hear even one in 2006? The answer is a bit hard to reach. Somehow, this triple disc album seems to go by faster than Ys. Part of the reason is that her voice is a lot easier on the ears now, sure, but the songs themselves are better as well. Even if you enjoyed her scratchy wood nymph voice on Ys, the album was still a lesson in patience as Newsom's vocals continually reached new heights of ways to make the listener uncomfortable. Have One On Me's impact is on the other hand immediate, and it is lasting.
The harp is still the main musical focus and it's as gorgeous as ever, but now everything works together to create an immersive sound as opposed to Ys, where it seemed like you had to focus on the music just to stand her voice at times. I'm not going to mention specific songs because the best way to listen to this is to let all three discs play without paying attention to song titles or song lengths or which disc is playing. Two hours will seem simultaneously like fifteen minutes and fifteen years. Her voice is generally subdued, all vibrato and no scratchiness. Alongside the harp that she's famous for, there are piano ballads and even a few songs with drums. There's no specific audience for Have One On Me; anyone could easily fall in love with it, probably without even realizing at first. There will be plenty of people who will immediately dismiss the album because of its indie hype, but don't listen to them. It's been a long time since an album like this was released: an album that is intensely personal even if you can't relate to the lyrics, even if you've never been in love, even if you've never lost something, even if you've never really felt alive. Basically, if you were never one to believe all that bullshi
t about everyone else being just as lonely as you are, Have One On Me has got news for you. Pressed to recommend a song from each disc, it would be these three: "Good Intentions Paving Company," "Occident," and "Does Not Suffice." However, no matter how homogeneous the discs might sound, all the songs stand apart as immense works of art.
Have One On Me is ultimately a hard album to analyze and review. If I broke my feelings down to their simplest form, this review would say, "This album makes me feel things. Listen to it." And that should be a stronger recommendation than anything else I could say. The album makes me want to die. It makes every longing I have so much worse yet somehow better. It gives desire a definition and a purpose. I would say "I never want this album to end," but the album actually doesn't ever end. I am so very much okay with that. I feel like I can whittle away my days listening to this album and only this album for the rest of my life, and never have to feel anything except what this album makes me feel. Which is to say, everything.