Joanna Newsom | Ys (Drag City)

cd_newsomThe best part of Ys is the lasting effect. The more you listen, the more you uncover and appreciate her sophisticated lyrics.

 

 

 

Joanna Newsom is currently headlining her first tour, sweeping through Midwest states she has never played in, to support her second LP, Ys. Veteran help on Ys comes from Steve Albini, Van Dyke Parks, Jim O'Rourke, and Bill Callahan of Smog, who provide a wakeup call to unfamiliar fans and critics.

The most noticeable difference in this album is the shortened track list, from Milk-Eyed Mender's 12 to a mere five. And just as the cutting-edge indie kids have adapted to the harp and come to appreciate her voice that belongs to no nationality or regional accent, Newsom tests them with five songs ranging in lengths of seven to 16 minutes. The limited amount of songs eliminates previous Newsom styles heard on the piano-driven and playful "Inflammatory Writ," the bass-heavy "Book of Right-On," and Walnut Whale's "Fray"—a song loosely about a crowd at a baseball game. While these sounds would be horribly out of place on Ys, Newsom manages to sneak mini-parts into each song, allowing the 16-plus-minute "Only Skin" to succeed.

The best part of Ys is the lasting effect. The more you listen, the more you uncover and appreciate her sophisticated lyrics. Each song has amazing moments, but two are standout tracks. Album notes list Joanna's sister, Emily, for backing vocals on her song about sisterhood, appropriately titled "Emily." My new favorite, "Monkey and Bear," finds Van Dyke Parks making his greatest contribution by intricately layering strings that set the story's tone.

On an album with such high stakes from critics and one with such self-restriction, it is incredible that Newsom was able to outdo herself. Fans, who are currently soaking up every second of the 56-minute work of genius ponder what LP number three might have in store. A | Joseph O'Fallon

RIYL: CocoRosie and Cat Power (with harps)

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