Joanna Newsom – Ys

AMG Review: Along with the beautifully filigreed arrangements and melodies, which mingle strings, jew’s-harps, and spaghetti Western horns with Appalachian, Celtic, and even Asian influences, the album shows Newsom’s development as a singer. She has more nuance and control, particularly over the keening edge of her voice, which is recorded so clearly that when it cracks, it tears the air like a tangible exclamation point. Joanna Newsom – Ys’ daring, plentiful wordplay makes it even more of a rarity: an extremely musically accomplished album with lyrics to match. On “Only Skin” alone, Newsom goes from rhyming “fishin’ poles” with “swimmin’ holes” to “heartbroken, inchoate.” These songs are so full of words and plot twists that sometimes it feels more like you’re reading them instead of listening to them, and indeed, actually reading the lyrics in the book-like liner notes reveals that Joanna Newsom – Ys has a library’s worth of children’s stories, myths, romances, and of course, fairy tales woven into its words. As the album unfolds, it seems like Newsom can’t get more ambitious (and more importantly, pull it off), but with each song, she does. Two of the best moments: the darkly whimsical fable “Monkey & Bear,” a forest romp that boasts some of the album’s best storytelling and some of Parks’ liveliest arrangements, and “Sawdust & Diamonds,” which is surreally sensual and coltish, with surprisingly direct lyrics: “From the top of the flight/Of the wide, white stairs/For the rest of my life/Do you wait for me there?” Ys isn’t exactly a reinvention of Newsom’s music, but it’s so impressive that it’s like a reintroduction to what makes her talent so special. Its breathtaking scope makes it a sometimes bewildering embarrassment of riches, or as one of “The Monkey and the Bear”‘s lyrics puts it, “a table ceaselessly being set.” Yes, Joanna Newsom – Ys is a demanding listen, but it’s also a rewarding and inspiring one. Letting it unfold and absorbing more each time you hear it is a delight. –by Heather Phares

 

Joanna Newsom – Ys Tracklist

  1. Emily
  2. Monkey & Bear
  3. Sawdust & Diamonds
  4. Only Skin
  5. Cosmia

Joanna Newsom - Ys

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