Joanna Newsom | Joanna Newsom and the Ys Street Band EP (Drag City)

ep_joannanThe instrumentation is a complex mixture of folk instruments which work together to create a dense array of sound.

 

 

 

 

This ever-so-cleverly titled three-song EP has a lot packed into it. The songs feature Newsom playing with her touring band for the Ys tour, which did a remarkable job at translating Van Dyke Parks' lush orchestrations into something a little earthier in concert. On this EP, the band takes on one original song and new interpretations of a song from The Milk-Eyed Mender and Ys. The three songs take Newsom's unique brand of folk to a new level and are a true treat for the listener.

The first song, the new "Colleen," is my favorite. The song has a sense of immediacy not to be found on either of Newsom's LPs. The instrumentation is a complex mixture of folk instruments which work together to create a dense array of sound. Though the track is not as long as Ys's epics, it is just as wordy and features Newsom's unique trademark squeaks and yelps. I find myself leaving this song on repeat and getting lost in its bright melodies and wild orchestration.

The next two songs are reworkings of previously released material, but are not boring at all. Mender's "Clam, Crab, Cockle, Cowrie" takes the folky beauty of the song to a slightly avant level. The instrumentation is fairly simple and the song's sweetness is a nice contrast to the EP's other two complex monsters.

The short sample of songs ends with the epic closer of Ys, "Cosmia." Parks' orchestra is replaced by a mixture of banjo, accordion, guitar, and clarinet, with Newsom's masterful harp playing also in full force. The band does an incredible job of translating the arrangements into something a smaller folk band can play. It really manages to capture the grandeur of the original version only in a different way. It takes the huge scope of Ys and almost makes it more relatable and real to the listener. This intimate reworking manages to match, or even to surpass, the original version in sheer beauty. For those who couldn't catch Newsom on her last tour, this EP gives a taste of the stunning musicianship that was missed. | Pete Wissinger

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