The Belle Jar- Union Station
Mar 5, 2014
Joanna Newsom may be an unfamiliar name to some, but she’s been putting out magnificent albums since 2004. Sure, Drag City might not seem like a huge record label or anything, but Newsom shares space on its roster with names like Bill Callahan, Bonnie “Prince” Billy, Silver Jews, and Fred Armisen (yes, that Fred Armisen!).
(Oh, and by the way, she’s dating Andy Samberg.)
If 2004’s The Milk-Eyed Mender felt like the opening of some old book of folklore, complete with calm, cool narration and gentle storytelling, and if 2006’s Ys felt like a huge, orchestral-yet-ambient operatic proclamation, then Have One On Me sits firmly in the context of Newsom’s realm, combining all the elements that have made her successful and expanding upon each one in a new way. And it’s something to behold.
Her infamous harp and light falsetto are instantly inviting, but firmly cautious. Newsom’s take on arrangements and track lengths might be a bit hard to swallow at first, but the beauty displays itself with each successive listen.
“Good Intentions Paving Co.,” the standout track on the three-disc epic, feels like the jazz croon of Billie Holliday over the cinematic orchestration of Owen Pallett. Her self-harmonies and uncompromised boldness shine, not one of the 422 seconds wasted on filler or indulgence. The shifts in tone throughout the track play out like scenes of a Shakespearean comedy (yet with blooming tragic undertones), ultimately fading to a close on a succinct and triumphant note.
Check out "Good Intentions Paving Co.":