Sunday, November 19, 2006

From: The Soundcheck & The Fury

On harp (the musical instrument, not the beer)

So I'm sitting here on Saturday morning, listening to new weird folkie Joanna Newsom pluck her harp and sing in her precious, but not in a good way, cartoon voice. The critics rave about her, you know. On, the reviews added up to a 92 -- the third-best record of the year, so far. That's a notch ahead of Dylan's "Modern Times," and five ahead of the new Los Lobos. The likes of the Decemberists and The Hold Steady can merely stand back and gaze at the heap of praise at Joanna's bare (I'm betting bare, new weird folkie that she is) feet and say -- well, I don't want to put words in anybody's mouth. I'll just say that I prefer my harp in a bottle.

The album is called "Ys." I don't know how to pronounce it. I don't know if anyone can. Does it rhyme with "hiss"? Anyway, here's what some of the critics say:

Drowned in sound: "It’s a vivid and beautiful painting that you can walk into; a magic window into another world that I'd be happy to get lost in, and never come back."

Uncut: "For the 56 minutes that "Ys" lasts, all the doubts evaporate. Every elaboration has a purpose, every labyrinthine melodic detour feels necessary rather than contrived. Tempting as it is to fixate on the gilded reputations of her associates, this is unequivocally Newsom’s album."

Pitchfork: "The people who hear this record will split into two crowds: The ones who think it's silly and precious, and the ones who, once they hear it, won't be able to live without it."

But I can't get inside the damn thing, try as I might. I'm six minutes into the third of five songs, "Sawdust & Diamonds," and so far the only melody that's stuck is from the first song, the 12-minute "Emily." Thing is, isn't that the melody from Springsteen's "Spirit in the Night"?

posted by David Williams

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