Edit this event
- Joanna Newsom »
The first time I heard Ys, I cried. They weren’t just any kind of tears; they felt like conjoining dew drips, the kind you cry when someone touches you so slowly and softly you barely notice ‘til their hand begins to warm your inner thigh. It’s that gradual, half-fearful, tenderly touch of a cinema first date, where a moment’s innocence washes you back to a simpler time. There’s something in these silent bawls that meets with that sensation of being rescued, feeling joyous whilst these light tears, the ones that are as warm and soft as blood, tumble and fall.
As lame as it is to reiterate this, with Ys Joanna Newsom really and truly has, more so than with The Milk-Eyed Mender, crafted an utterly compelling otherworldly jewel of an album. Her new five-track offering stretches and meanders along longer ancient autobahns, like lullabies placed upon hand-woven widescreen canvasses. They're often like her exhaling in tongues, leaving condensation on a three-way magic mirror, through which she then reveals intricate etchings of poetic pictures that tell tales which seem to be pouring into your head at random, but which water the thoughts you've condensed and buried in the back garden of your mind. It’s not that she is a magician or an elfish witch (or maybe she is), but she has the power to make these subconscious feelings grow, your emotions buckle or falter and hairs raise all over you like an apparition’s appeared.
I'm rocking back and forth as if overdosed on methadone to every string, stood in the El Rey Theatre in LA some time after Newsom’s latest came out - a considerable while in this digital age – and this is where my virginal unravelling of Ys takes place. However, I could be anywhere; I'm completely lost, as every word featherishly whirls from her breath to mine, diving like dolphins or gravity-defying penguins up my nostrils and wrapping themselves around my brain veins, sensed only momentarily before dissipating. Whether her words go in like osmosis or whether they just evaporate, I’m not sure. Her lyrics feel like a junk shop muddle but each one adds up to touch on those senses of 'something bigger' that we all feel. She doesn't have the answer, just a few mossy cobbles from an Aztec or Victorian purple brick road. But maybe those roads once lead us somewhere.
To prove just how enamoured the room is, she receives the politest heckle ever following album opener 'Emily':
"That was the best thing I ever heard!"
Joanna replies, "Ahaha. Thank you."
Then she plays another 15-minute string-gasm.
There are obviously not just her words; there's music, but it sounds like fairytale pond scenes. Between spinning leaves slapping on a lake, small bugs skitter across strings and bounce on thumbed bass lines. The whole set is more autumnal than mulled-wine scented mittens, yet with violins that sound so transitional that one moment it's like the brightest spring morning; the next minute it’s like migrating geese are eclipsing the moonlight in some Hitchcockian Thomas Hardy remake.
Joanna has made an entire folk world and art-rock genre and taken the styles through a periscope and to another level. Not only that: tonight she has dragged us all with her. At times she plays so fast and far away from the folk that it’s not unlike the McGarrigle Sisters playing rave covers – sure to turn any early folksters in their lily buried graves. It’s for this reason my Richard Thompson-loving nan is getting _Ys_ for Christmas.
And the bugs keep skittering as she plays her way through the entire new album in an elongated daydream way. It's almost as if you've not heard the album before, which I hadn't, but even listening back to it in the days and weeks that follow, the whole wonder of the record feels divorced from the past plays and experiences, with more and more revealing itself as you try to keep up and understand her and all the emotions the incredibly simple music is prickling.
She says "meedoooriite" (meteorite) like the media is wrong and all assumed knowledge is muddled like wool knotted in a kid’s first attempt at knitting. She makes you wish tabloids were in flames, and she is probably only really talking about falling stars which she thinks you can put in jars. She might be a fucking lunatic and stink of piss, but that doesn't matter a jot. She's unique and fascinating, and probably every guy in here wants to sit in a forest eating jam sandwiches with her.
For anyone who has been living in a soundproof room, it’s all about her quivering voice that gusts over her harp, sounding not unlike the pre-vocals before Björk erupts or the moments when little-known goth-ers Queen Adreena and Cyclefly would slow right down to a near stop.
I could be anywhere: Joanna Newsom crowds are probably this shushed and in varying degrees of cute with an awed slant to their jaws the world over. There's a kid with a No More War tee who stares like a cliché waiting to be photo’d. An art-school beauty with big blonde hair and a floral dress steals every guy’s 'n' girl’s hearts as she half-skips making trips back and forth to the bar. A bunch of older guys, who'd bore anyone for hours about Neil Young, sit on chairs, or slouch, propped up against the walls. It’s just like any other Joanna Newsom gig, anywhere in the world: everyone is knowingly touched and leaves wanting to live on a commune or own a pet dragonfly.
I get home and play the record for the first time and the feeling is exactly the same and the same trickling channels appear on my cheekbones. Live, Joanna pretty much sat prettily and played the harp, recreated the record, some other people joined in, she played 'Peach, Plum, Pear' and the 'Book of Right On', and it was all special...
What else did you wanna know?
- ATP Jeff Mangum: the DiS review
- In Photos: ATP Festival curated by Jeff Mangum @ Butlins, Minehead
- Joanna Newsom, Scratch Acid, Magnetic Fields for rescheduled March ATP
- Watch: Joanna Newsom armwrestles Robin Pecknold of Fleet Foxes
- End of the Road 2011: the DiS review
- Joanna Newsom, Sebadoh, Thurston More for Jeff Mangum ATP
- This Week's Singles: 18/07/11 Wilco, PJ Harvey, Joanna Newsom, Belle & Sebastian
- Rachel from Esben & the Witch: The Importance of Words