Joanna Newsom
Have One on Me


3.0
good

Review

by Nick Butler EMERITUS
March 7th, 2010 | 21 replies


Release Date: 2010 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A great album is hidden in here somewhere.

Well, credit where credit is due - Have One on Me is an absolutely gigantic leap forward from Ys; large chunks of Have One on Me feel like Newsom has had a good look at herself and whipped herself into shape. Gone are the airy-fairy whimsies; she no longer spends all of her time with her head in the clouds. That's surely closely tied to the fact that these songs bear much more of her influences than anything she's done yet, from the obvious (songs like "Easy" are pure peak-period Kate Bush), to the slightly unexpected ones that makes sense (Regina Spektor's vocal quirks appear here almost as regularly as Bjork's did on the last album, and touches of Joni Mitchell in the '70s abound), to the completely leftfield ("You and Me, Bess" takes great chunks of its melody from "The Old Main Drag" by The Pogues). That's definitely not a criticism; she's taking some very good influences and putting them to very good use, and she stays well away from simply stealing. What's more, that open-ness to external influences means grounding herself - which is EXACTLY what she needed to do. Really, it's a miracle this album sounds the way it does, given the circumstances; she must be the only musician in history to dump Steve Albini and somehow become less pretentious.

And yet, there are 3 CDs of this.

What. The. Hell.

I don't understand how any songwriter can identify their major flaw and correct it as acutely as Newsom does here, only to immediately throw it all out of the window by making such a stupid judgement call. There is just no avoiding the reality that Have One on Me is 60 minutes of music stretched over 125 - there is just no reason for "In California" to be 8 and a half minutes rather than 4, or "Esme" to be 8 rather than 3. Of the longer songs here (let's say all the ones over seven minutes, for argument's sake), around two-thirds of them are utterly bloated for no discernible reason.

It's a shame, because she occasionally reveals herself to be an artist that only truly excels when given space. Look no further than "Autumn" for that - it's stark, arresting, beautiful, vulnerable, and it's unquestionably her finest song yet. The fact that it falls where it does (right in the middle of the third disc) is a Godsend, and is surely the only reason why listening to this album in one sitting is even possible.

Yet, while she generally plays to her strengths, she's guilty of allowing her weaknesses to be exposed too often for this to be a great album. I guess that's what defines Joanna Newsom's career up to this point; of all the virtues a musician could possibly exhibit, she proudly displays all the over-rated ones (invention, idiosyncrasy, independence) and resolutely refuses to show any of the under-rated ones (brevity, subtlety, restraint). It's no wonder she's such a critic's darling, but it's also no mystery why she'll never truly cross over to a mass audience like some of her most obvious contemporaries have. As an aside related to both of those points, it also needs to be said that Newsom isn't anywhere near as good a singer as she thinks she is; far too often she closes her eyes and pretends she's Celine Dion going for the Hollywood vocal, when she'd do better to open them and realise that her fans spend their free time in student unions, not casinos.

So three CDs of what material, and to what end? Hard to say, really; it's clearly her best album, but it's also her most frustrating, because it really drives home her potential and hints at so much greatness without ever truly delivering it. At least it offers up a vision of her next album, one that's genuinely worth all the hype. I'm happy to take that.



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user ratings (352)
Chart.
4
excellent
other reviews of this album
Sebastian Radzikowski (4.5)
An intricate, beautiful piece of art; Newsom’s personal lyricism perfectly captivates the unpredic...

Mika DeLoach (1.5)
All in all, I would suggest to anyone who desires a method of torture for small animals do not liste...

Channing Freeman STAFF (4.5)
Have One On Me is the best hug you'll ever receive....

Jeremy Fisette (4.5)
This is a beautiful piece of art by one of the most talented musicians of the current century....


Comments:Add a Comment 
Iai
Emeritus
March 7th 2010


3553 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I don't think this review's particularly great, but a couple of people asked me to post it, so.

Thor
March 7th 2010


10202 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

It's scary how closely this review mirrors my thoughts on this album

It's no wonder she's such a critic's darling, but it's also no mystery why she'll never truly
cross over to a mass audience like some of her most obvious contemporaries have. As an aside related
to both of those points, it also needs to be said that Newsom isn't anywhere near as good a singer as
she thinks she is; far too often she closes her eyes and pretends she's Celine Dion going for the
Hollywood vocal, when she'd do better to open them and realise that her fans spend their free time in
student unions, not casinos.

And this is the best thing I've ever heard someone say about her everevereverever

Digging: Black Crown Initiate - The Wreckage of Stars

Electric City
Staff Reviewer
March 7th 2010


15743 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

nicholas butler, i'm surprised at you!

natey
March 7th 2010


4170 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

this is too indie enough for nicky

also thank God she isn't Celine Dion

mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
March 7th 2010


17945 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

u spelled judgment wrong FAGGOT

klap
Staff Reviewer
March 7th 2010


10576 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

agreeeeeeeeed

Digging: Charli XCX - Sucker

NortherlyNanook
March 7th 2010


1285 Comments


review is wrong but that's expected of a nick butler review for something that is actually good

MrHand
March 7th 2010


10 Comments


iai why are you still writing reviews

plane
Staff Reviewer
March 7th 2010


6099 Comments


I actually agree with a lot of your points. As it is nothing feels too long until I've simply had enough of Joanna Newsom, which doesn't happen often. When you mention her resolute refusal to show subtlety or brevity, I feel that those are great aspects about her music, they're just in service to a overall concept that amplifies them.

Minus The Flair
Emeritus
March 8th 2010


862 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

agree with lewis on all points made. really great review.

TheDMV
March 8th 2010


64 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

loved reading this. the review had all the characteristics you wish the album did

DrReg
March 8th 2010


127 Comments


Good review. Fight the power and rate it less than 4!

regularavon
March 8th 2010


2 Comments


I agree with the review, but for me, it's closer to 3.5 than a 3 so far.

jeremologyy
March 8th 2010


274 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

i think the longer ones have reason for their lenght. "in california" and "esme" are beautiful and slowly grow. i love them! and actually, autumn is my least favorite, its basically formless and plods along really slowly.

i respect your opinions, but disagree.


204409
Emeritus
March 9th 2010


3996 Comments


Is this album about Rasputin?

H61
March 9th 2010


272 Comments


i love this

AggravatedYeti
March 9th 2010


7685 Comments


this review leans more towards my probable outlook for this album, but I still need to hear it.
Well written as Ive come to expect from you.

Lucid
Contributing Reviewer
March 10th 2010


7026 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Autumn is my least favorite on the album too, idk why you like it so much.

WolfBunny
March 18th 2010


2 Comments


garbage review.

Donkey
April 7th 2010


152 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

The voice of impatience...



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