Artist – Album: Joanna Newsom - Ys
Released: 6th November 2006
Sounds Like: A day too late
Fancy me doing a blog on the 5th of November and not mentioning Bonfire Night! What was I thinking??
For those of you that aren’t from these fair (rainy) isles and don’t know what Bonfire Night is – that’s right guys, I have had readers from some pretty exotic locales: Sri Lanka, the Philippines and, er, Guernsey – it’s an annual celebration with fireworks and massive bonfires, where we celebrate a failed attempt to blow up parliament 400 years ago. We celebrate by burning a big straw effigy of one of the conspirators, Guy Fawkes (wait, are we practicing voodoo?!), braving the rain and the snow and the cold, and eating strange things like toffee apples and a mysterious cake-like substance named parkin. We British do some strange things eh?
Then again, you Yanks gave the world a strange enough thing of your own in Joanna Newsom. Her second album Ys is a sprawling folk album – released in the 21st century but belonging to the 12th – where ancient, ornate fairy tales are weaved around an emphatically plucked harp and Newsom’s distinctive, gambolling voice. Possibly the most grounded of the five epic tracks is opener ‘Emily’, a tribute to her sister that clocks in at only 12 minutes long.
The thing is, Ys is great but it is weird. Joanna Newsom is weird. Van Dyke Parks (who contributed the orchestra arrangements, and was also responsible for the Beach Boys’ symphonies on Smile) is weird. Combine the two, and you’re bound to get fireworks. Weird fireworks. There’s no point pretending that it’s not. But, like the celebration of Bonfire Night that we have enjoyed for centuries, it’s traditional and unique, earthly, storied and special, and it has the rare power to illuminate your evening.
Albumaday... rating: 7/10
1. Emily – 12:07
2. Monkey & Bear – 9:29
3. Sawdust & Diamonds – 9:54
4. Only Skin – 16:53
5. Cosmia – 7:15
Listen to ‘Emily’: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ak8S8FN3ycA