I trust youse guyses - what do any/all of y'all think of/about Joanna Newsom?

mhardy6647

Señor Member
I've searched a few places and opinions seem to be mixed. I mean, like, Pontiac Aztek-level mixed.
Best info I've found here:
uses the phrase acquired taste -- but there are acquired tastes and there are acquired tastes, you know?
Kate Bush
Captain Beefheart

My son asked me about Joanna Newsom and -- other than immediately conflating her with Loreena McKennitt (whom I like, as does his wife), I drew a pretty much complete blank on Ms Newsom, other than knowing her name.

He sent me a YT link to one of her albums, which I've listened to a couple of minutes of so far (it's 55 minutes-plus long!).

I am interested in some expert opinions.
Anyone? Bueller? @JohnVF? I note some comments from the latter at... well... another audio forum from the fairly distant past.

Thanks!
 

JohnVF

Administrator
Staff member
Oh yes 👍 I like Miss Newsom and I’ve seen her live, attractive and talented. But an acquired taste for sure. I’m still like her earliest work best but “have one on me” is a good middle point. Odd voice but filled with emotion. Not contrived, despite being very strange.
 

Mortsnets

Junior Member
Another thumbs up but some (my wife for instance) can't get past her voice which is not mainstream.
 
These days I can usually enjoy just about any vocalist who hasn't been auto-tuned.

After a quick listen, Joanna sounds to me like a natural progression from Melanie (Safka) of the '70s. (Remember "The Roller Skate Song"?) I like her! 👍 (As you mention, I also don't mind some occasional Captain Beefheart, and am hopelessly in love with Kate Bush.)
 

mhardy6647

Señor Member
After a quick listen, Joanna sounds to me like a natural progression from Melanie (Safka) of the '70s. (Remember "The Roller Skate Song"?) I like her! 👍 (As you mention, I also don't mind some occasional Captain Beefheart, and am hopelessly in love with Kate Bush.)
I would have to consider myself a fan of Melanie -- way more to her than Brand New Key.
Kate Bush is just fine by me, too.
Haven't worked up the nerve to really tackle Don Van Vliet yet... but I figure I may have another decade or so left to grit my teeth and dig in. ;)

Thanks, all, this is great so far!
That said, I've managed to listen to about 45 seconds of Ys. so far.
 

John Frum

Secret Society Member
Each of JN’s albums has displayed a jump in musical mastery and intellectual complexity, and there’s no sign yet that she’s plateaued.

That said, there’s certainly an argument to be made that each successive release is less accessible than the last, or to be vulgar, that she’s disappearing farther and farther up her own ass. Her vocals also get progressively more polished, which could be seen as a positive or negative, depending on whether you can tolerate her voice on the earlier recordings.

In any case, she’s a talent to be reckoned with, and her first two records are especially dear to my heart.

It wouldn’t surprise me a bit to hear that she now views her 2004 full-length debut The Milk-Eyed Mender as puerile, but it’s an astonishing piece of work from a 21 year-old who was just getting started. This album brings me back to where I was in life when it basically never left my car’s CD player, and hits me in a way down deep place where I can still feel feelings.

2006’s Ys is a good bit weirder and denser, and much better-recorded. I can pretty much tell you everything I need to know about a hi-fi by listening to “Emily.” It was rumored that if the record bombed, it would have bankrupted Drag City - evidently Van Dyke Parks doesn’t work cheap.

Hopefully, we’ll hear more from Joanna Newsom. She’s been pretty quiet since the 2015 release of Divers, but she has started a family, and, as Mrs. Andy Samberg, is likely under no financial pressure to record or perform.
 
Last edited:

JohnVF

Administrator
Staff member
I saw her perform in 2005 when I first moved to Chicago, at a magazine launch party where seemingly nobody but me was paying attention. She comes out on stage, and is very petite, and had this gigantic harp. I had bought her first album the previous year and liked it a lot, so she was the only reason I was at this event, besides the fact that it was down the street. It was a mesmerizing performance. The voice is less...odd?... when attached to a human being on stage, and somehow even more interesting. I've seen a lot of performances over the years but this one is up near the top for memorability. Musically she is insanely gifted. I can't imagine playing harp and singing at the same time. Well, I can't imagine playing harp at all but its an odd instrument that seems like it would need all of one's concentration.
 

Thermionics

Post Whore In Training
Have not listened to Joanna Newsom. Should probably carve out some time to see if she tickles my fancy.
 

JohnVF

Administrator
Staff member
Have not listened to Joanna Newsom. Should probably carve out some time to see if she tickles my fancy.
Its an acquired taste so the first dip of the toe might not be representative of long term feelings. Her voice is a bit less "90 year old school girl" than it used to be, but I never minded it. If somebody's archetype for a good female voice is Diana Krall, this'll be... different.
 

Thermionics

Post Whore In Training
Its an acquired taste so the first dip of the toe might not be representative of long term feelings. Her voice is a bit less "90 year old school girl" than it used to be, but I never minded it. If somebody's archetype for a good female voice is Diana Krall, this'll be... different.
I'm fine with unique (never really got into Diana Krall, or any of the other audiophile muses, however).
 

mhardy6647

Señor Member
I'm fine with unique (never really got into Diana Krall, or any of the other audiophile muses, however).
I would posit that Diana Krall is the polar opposite of unique*.
Not sure what the word for that would be -- polyque perhaps? (pronounced pol-YEKE, of course)
Maybe oligque? (from the Greek oligos, "a few")

I hate can't stand dislike don't care for Diana Krall. She's an OK pianist. I don't like her singing. Heck, I don't even think she's very attractive... but, then, I don't generally gravitate towards blondes (actual or artificial).

OK, feels good to get that off my chest. ;)

_______________
* IIRC, the word unique derives from Latin unus equus "one horse".
 

JohnVF

Administrator
Staff member
I would posit that Diana Krall is the polar opposite of unique*.
Not sure what the word for that would be -- polyque perhaps? (pronounced pol-YEKE, of course)
Maybe oligque? (from the Greek oligos, "a few")

I hate can't stand dislike don't care for Diana Krall. She's an OK pianist. I don't like her singing. Heck, I don't even think she's very attractive... but, then, I don't generally gravitate towards blondes (actual or artificial).

OK, feels good to get that off my chest. ;)

_______________
* IIRC, the word unique derives from Latin unus equus "one horse".
I can’t stand Elvis Costello either.... but I’m glad they’ve contained all this in one family.
 

John Frum

Secret Society Member
To give some context:

Back in the mid-aughts, as there have been for decades, there were a lot of freaky hippie-types playing music that, broadly speaking, occupied the spectrum between folk and psychedelic rock.

One particularly talented and photogenic twentysomething pod of them lived in the Bay Area, back when you could still make it as a run-of-the-mill trustafarian. They played, recorded, and toured together as documented by Kevin Barker (who some of you may know from his forum activity) in the film The Family Jams.

It was, as they say, a moment. The media dubbed it the Freak Folk Movement, eagerly pigeonholing a diverse group of artists. The break-out stars were Devendra Barnhart and Joanna Newsom - earnest young weirdos with impeccable collections of obscure LPs that had yet to be reissued by A Light In The Attic. The best overview you’ll get is a CD curated by Barnhart and released by Arthur Magazine called The Golden Apples Of The Sun. It’s well worth tracking down if this sort of thing is your bag.

But it was short-lived, like these times are. Any sort of movement was a false narrative, and “The Family” was falling apart even as the music was being rapidly bought up for use in commercials and dramas.

Many of those artists are still recording. Some get better with age. Others struggle to capture the same energy that infused the work they did when they were fresh and free. Newsom confoundingly does both.
 

Thermionics

Post Whore In Training
I would posit that Diana Krall is the polar opposite of unique*.
Not sure what the word for that would be -- polyque perhaps? (pronounced pol-YEKE, of course)
Maybe oligque? (from the Greek oligos, "a few")

I hate can't stand dislike don't care for Diana Krall. She's an OK pianist. I don't like her singing. Heck, I don't even think she's very attractive... but, then, I don't generally gravitate towards blondes (actual or artificial).

OK, feels good to get that off my chest. ;)

_______________
* IIRC, the word unique derives from Latin unus equus "one horse".
My intent was that Diana Krall et al are the opposite of unique - all those audiophile muses seem to be rather interchangeable.
 

JohnVF

Administrator
Staff member
To give some context:

Back in the mid-aughts, as there have been for decades, there were a lot of freaky hippie-types playing music that, broadly speaking, occupied the spectrum between folk and psychedelic rock.

One particularly talented and photogenic twentysomething pod of them lived in the Bay Area, back when you could still make it as a run-of-the-mill trustafarian. They played, recorded, and toured together as documented by Kevin Barker (who some of you may know from his forum activity) in the film The Family Jams.

It was, as they say, a moment. The media dubbed it the Freak Folk Movement, eagerly pigeonholing a diverse group of artists. The break-out stars were Devendra Barnhart and Joanna Newsom - earnest young weirdos with impeccable collections of obscure LPs that had yet to be reissued by A Light In The Attic. The best overview you’ll get is a CD curated by Barnhart and released by Arthur Magazine called The Golden Apples Of The Sun. It’s well worth tracking down if this sort of thing is your bag.

But it was short-lived, like these times are. Any sort of movement was a false narrative, and “The Family” was falling apart even as the music was being rapidly bought up for use in commercials and dramas.

Many of those artists are still recording. Some get better with age. Others struggle to capture the same energy that infused the work they did when they were fresh and free. Newsom confoundingly does both.
A very good synopsis. I really don’t like how the reviewing press pigeon holes bands into these buckets. I got into it on a YouTube thread with some twit who swore The National was Post Punk because any band with an electric guitar and depressing lyrics in the mid aughts to 20-whatever was part of some post punk revival. Gotta bucket! A buddy of mine hovered around what was a sorta part of the freak folk bucket with his band Tanakh, but really his corner all had this one festival in common, Terrastock... which I think had something to do with the o.g. freak folk band Pearls Before Swine, or singer Tom Rapp. I don’t know, not really my scene but I’ve greatly enjoyed the few times I’ve brushed up against it.
 

StevenZ

Pending Gold Star Member
Been listening to her for a very long time. I love her voice and her incredible talent. Glad other see her like I do as well.
 

mhardy6647

Señor Member
My intent was that Diana Krall et al are the opposite of unique - all those audiophile muses seem to be rather interchangeable.
FWIW, I like Jennifer Warnes (and I wouldn't admit that just anywhere... well, actually I would).
She's not terribly unique either, but I enjoy a lot of the music she recorded over ... well... several decades.
 

John Frum

Secret Society Member
How about this, @mhardy6647: Joanna Newsom narrated the 2014 film adaptation of Thomas Pynchon’s Inherent Vice, and at least since her second album is probably the most Pynchonesque songwriter I can think of working today.
 
Top