Joanna Newsom - Ys 2xLP
Label: Drag City
Joanna Newsom's second full length Ys (fyi: apparently pronounced 'ease', not 'wise') probably needs no introduction. On this album, she seeks to reinvent herself, distancing herself from the indie folk scene that she helped spawn. It appears all that lingers from The Milk-Eyed Mender is her trusty harp, though even it claims less of the spotlight. Ys most definitely shows much artistic growth and aspiration with a far broader creative scope and production sense. Really, if there's any question that Newsom (and her label Drag City) is goin' for the serious artist credibility, you need look no further than the big gun support from top shelf luminaries Van Dyke Parks, Steve Albini and Jim O'Rourke. Not unexpectedly, they do amazing work on this album. It's stunningly beautiful. With a supporting cast like that, Newsom was clearly afforded full freedom to focus on realizing her vision. In each of the five lengthy tracks (the longest is 16 minutes!), she unveils her lyrics in theatrical, highly literary fashion. It's the storybook stuff of romantic fairy tales and whimsical fables, but it's set far less in nature than the rural hued Milk Eyed Mender. It evokes fantastic jewel-toned interiors, stages, salons, tea rooms. At once, dainty and sumptuous. The album defies expectations in wonderful, enchanting ways.