As of Today 21796 Blog Posts

The site of Joanna Newsom playing harp is truly an awesome one: it calls to my mind someone dragging a beached whale back to water.  The synchronousness of her confidently straddled, enormous harp, held aloft by a tiny frame with a hugely expressive mouth atop – from which bounds an alternately shrill and chiming voice, beautifully enunciated –, is unexpected and vivifying.  Here she is performing "Peach, Plum, Pear," from her 2004 album The Milk-Eyed Mender; it's one of my favorite tracks from the album, comprising thematic and musical elements of her varied output – and the songs themselves are tremendously varied; I think the oddness of her voice tricks some into treating her songs as largely alike, bound together as they are by her inimitable howls and chirps, but the timbre and structure of all are quite distinct – into a lovely song, the melody of which seems to almost delight in its lyrics' melancholy.  Otherwise unremarkable lyrics like "I was blue and unwell" and "Now it's done/ Watch it go/ And you've changed some" – thereafter followed, more poignantly in print but no less in song, by "Am I so dear?/ Do I run rare? And you've changed some" – are given significant emotional heft and urgency by her quietly impassioned delivery; the fairly commonplace disappointments expected to be expressed by "indie" musicians here become, for me, just wonderfully, pin-pointedly poignant and heartbreaking.  She is one of the few singer-songwriters I can think of who seems un-cowed by the expectations of the "singer-songwriter" genre and treats each element of her song as essential complements to the whole; she places no premium, so to speak, on her lyrics, and thus they rarely feel inorganic or unnecessary, as if unwanted by the rest of the composition.  The final notes of this song seem to me an implicit acknowledgment of the inadequacy of words in expressing the weighty disappointment one feels when shied by crushes, or, by the same token, the over-importance that words seem to confer such small, delicate emotions: the fading exigency of its unresolved denouement seems to recall cinematically melodramatic ambulance sirens.

Loading, please wait ...
Add Your Views
Please to comment.


Joanna Newsom




Open Ended