It’s been awhile since we’ve heard anything new from harpist/singer/songwriter/sexy-ass elf Joanna Newsom. After watching her chill-inducing performance with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra two summers ago, I had assumed she was living in the seclusion of a giant tree in some remote enchanted forest, periodically emerging to date funniest-dude-on-SNL Andy Samberg and play a negligent MILF in the video for MGMT’s “Kids.” (Yeah, that’s her in the sunglasses at the beginning-lookin’ fine, am I right?)
Turns out she’s been writing songs. More precisely, she’s been writing a ton of songs. On Feb. 23, more than three years (or six elf-months) after the release of her critically slobbered-over Ys, Miss Newsom is dropping a TRIPLE-ALBUM (note: the phrase “TRIPLE-ALBUM” should never be in lowercase) entitled Have One On Me. I personally think it should be called Have Three On Me but I guess that’s her decision. Needless to say, I’m already stocking up on scented candles for the three-hour Joanna fest taking place in my apartment next Tuesday.
Based on its length, the upcoming TRIPLE-ALBUM promises to be the next logical progression in Joanna’s evolution of epic-ness. Her first album, The Milk-Eyed Mender, for the most part took the form of a conventional folk-pop record, albeit unconventionally adorable. Trading in some catchiness for a whole lot of songwriting depth, the unparalleled Ys treated us to sprawling, meandering compositions, majestic string arrangements and lyrics about cosmological nomenclature and the challenges of interspecies relationships. With Have One On Me, Jo New clearly intends to outdo herself in terms of sheer quantity. Time will tell what new musical ground she will break, but rest assured it will be so. so magical.
For the uninitiated, now is as good a time as ever to finally get past that impossibly shrill voice (You’ll learn to love it, I swear!) or overcome any hang-ups you dudes might have about enjoying a harpist (No, it didn’t turn me gay!) to embrace one of the best lyricists since Bob Dylan. Start with some of the more accessible songs off The Milk-Eyed Mender, like “Bridges and Balloons” and “Sadie” before you dive into the River Ys. Newsom’s lyrics are intensely personal and often cryptic, but they’re imbued with a kind of magic that makes itself known even if you don’t quite understand what she means by “hydrocephalitic listlessness” or “the plague of the greasy black engines.” As an added bonus, she will improve your GRE Verbal by 50 points or your money back!
Confirming my suspicions that you could write a book about Joanna Newsom songs, apparently some people have written a book about Joanna Newsom songs. It’s called “Visions of Joanna Newsom” (note the Dylan reference), and it’s got contributions from Dave Eggers, a specialist in medieval women’s writing, and some other folks nerding out hard on Jo New. Looks like I’m not the only one…