Joanna Newsom – Ys (Drag City, 2006)

jnewysNick: Well? come on.

hold on a min, I haven’t decided what to do yet.

I thought we were doing Joanna Newsom?

well maybe…but maybe Grizzly Bear, actually you decide.

well I’ve no idea what Grizzly Bear sounds like so let’s do Joanna Newsom.


Joanna Nuisance.

ok, here she is with her second album ‘Ys’.


Y, S.


where’s she from?

I’m not sure, she’s American anyway.

oh that’s surprising, she sounds typically British eccentric.

because that’s what it is. it’s eccentric.

is this classed as folk music?

by some people yeah.

haha but not by everyone?


she has an American ‘r’

r? letter r?

yes, that’s when you can tell where she’s from.

{Nick – laughing}

it’s very engaging, I have to say. despite the fact it’s quite seriously eccentric.

it’s just about folk isn’t it? it’s certainly not pop.

it get’s very close to modern classical.

I’m thinking of….whatshisname.

you know whatshisname?


{Nick – rifling through Cd’s}

Peter Maxwell Davies!

and that lot.

I was in a taxi in London and they were playing him, I didn’t catch his name but the Dj said it was called Eight Songs for a Mad King. so I went to a classical record shop the next day and asked for it and the guy behind the counter asked ‘do you actually like this stuff?’ I have a feeling I was the first person to ever ask for it. it made an enormous impact on me when I first heard it. I was like ‘what is this?’ it’s so mad and so brilliant.

the orchestral arrangements were done by Van Dyke Parks.



I don’t know them.

he worked with Brian Wilson a good bit. back…

back in the old days?


this is almost it’s own genre.

it’s certainly unique.

very unique yes!

what does she look like? I’m trying to picture her.

is she a nerd with big glasses?

like Nana Mis…Mus….

Nana Mouskouri wasn’t a nerd!

she should look like a female John Lennon.

it’s so… centre.

I can’t help it feels more European than American.

amazing stuff.

a big talent.

this is an album I want to listen to again.

and probably again and again and again.

I’d want to sit down and give it some proper attention, follow the lyrics.

it has a lot of humour in it.

melodic humour.

other bands have humorous lyrics but she’s like, this is probably a weird comparison but she’s like Thelonius Monk.

every now and then she’ll throw a note in there and it’s just….funny.

she has such great control over her voice as well, even in the yodel-y parts she never puts a foot wrong.

what age is she?

hold on…

oh man, she’s probably the same age as me.

yep, 27, born in 82, hate when that happens.

well she’s probably a lot more……..

go on.


heh, yeah.

I love the way she suddenly puts emphasis on random words.

there are eastern influences too.


and there’s also quite a childlike quality to it isn’t there?

like ehm……

{track 4 – Only Skin}

recognize the back singer here?


oh it’s…. Mr Pleasant Voice… that guy from this morning.

what’s his name again?

Bill Callahan.

yes, well she is a much, like MUCH bigger talent than he is.

how much does she sell?

I have no idea.

I’d like to find out.

because it’s not difficult to listen to but I can’t imagine it going over too well with ‘the great unwashed’ as they say.

I remember I was working in Virgin one night, it was a Monday night, hardly anyone around. and I was playing her first album, this guy walks up to the counter and just says ‘turn that shit off!’ he was really angry. I said no, he looked like he was going to jump the counter and start attacking me.
‘turn it off or you lose a customer’ I just shrugged, he left.

really!!?? wow, that’s weird, I can understand someone maybe not liking her but to get so angry….

there’s a strange dichotomy between the childlike quality of her voice and what she actually sings, the aggressiveness, it adds a nice, strange quality to it.

wikipedia says: Newsom has, however, expressed disappointment at comments that her singing is “child-like.”

well, I’m sorry but it is, she sounds a lot younger than she is.

is it over? ok let’s listen to Peter Maxwell Davis.

Jeepers creepers! A long and sprawling review of a long and sprawling album. Great job!

(ps. sorry to my former employers for not bowing to a customers request but he was a thick idiot)

(pps. as I’m tidying up the text we are listening to ‘Eight Songs for a Mad King’, it’s pretty odd stuff. Nick says – ‘it sounds like a zoo’. And he’s right.)


2 responses to “Joanna Newsom – Ys (Drag City, 2006)

  1. Great review, one of the best. Took me a while to get into her, but i havent looked back since.
    P.S That guy was probably a mystery shopper, Ruan! Now i know why we never scored high while you were around.

  2. how soon after that incident did Virgin close down?

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