November 30, 2006

Joanna Newsom's Ys

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Only a master of haiku could adequately sum up Joanna Newsom’s new album, Ys, in 150 words. In five ten-minute songs, the dreamlike sound of her first label release, The Milk-Eyed Mender, expands into colorized, ethereal vision.
Unlike Iron and Wine, who lost their crucial bareness when Sam Beam jumped from living-room recordings to the studio, Newsom’s own shift has allowed her to express her imagination fully.
The album navigates the difficult territory between calm insipidity and stormy confusion expertly. Her unique voice sounds crisp and clean, rolling over the emotionally laden classical backing like a schooner over ocean waves. In “Emily, Sawdust & Diamonds, and Only Skin,” some of the prettiest, that voice spins some of the most majestic songs I’ve ever heard.
They make Ys the kind of album you should honestly save for your children someday. Newsom’s a masterful sea captain, and this record ranks along Brightblack Morning Light’s self-titled LP as the semester’s best.