Biscuits, Triscuits…

Joanna Newsom- Have One On Me
May 14, 2010, 8:31 pm
Filed under: music and musings

Joanna Newsom

Have One On Me

Drag City

Finding the time to give a triple album release such as this as much thought and listen as it deserves is really difficult when listening to music all day is not a full-time job. Anything is bound to become a task when it takes up so much time. That being said, it was a beautiful endless task; really getting to know this album that bleats and plinks and rises and falls with such complex instrumentation and creative prose.

It takes one type of mood to just lay down and listen to the angelic vocals of Joanna Newsom pierce through the speakers, seeing as she creates a purgatory-esque catatonic mood with her songs. This can be easily attainable and always enjoyable, it provides a space for one to ignore their own thoughts and just listen to Newsom spew her thoughts aloud. But it takes another mood to be able to listen to and really try to get down and dirty with her record and catch every quip, pun, and reference that she drops as there are quite a lot. That mood is a lot harder to get into, as enjoyable as she is, to really understand where she is coming from is rough work, it is just too dense for a casual observer to just make an observation from one or two listens.

That density only comes when you need to analyze her works in a short time. Otherwise, the density is sponge-y and sucks the listener into the syrup-y mass of instruments and Newsom’s captivating storytelling.  The album itself, cover, photos, and all is eclectic and amazingly Americana. Much of the change from Ys to this album comes in the conciseness, and the more straightforward storytelling than the wispy train of thought style lyricism and musicianship displayed in the previous. This album is still extremely epic, from the crazy picture on the front with a Cleopatra-esque Newsom surrounded by peacocks, random furniture to her nine to eleven minute songs that rise and fall with such thoughtfulness and fire.

There is a maturity, a strength and an elegance brought to this album from her vocals to the choices in instrumentation. Each disc on Have One on Me still rambles on beautifully but seems to be more clear in it’s purpose. “81” is just absolutely clever with it’s medieval style melody and harp plinking sweetly. With the title, it takes a while to connect that she is saying “A.D. 1,” in reference to a first-person experience finding a plot of land in the Garden of Eden. The creativity and stylistic freedoms taken in this song and all her tunes is just mind-blowingly genius.

Newsom’s ability to write prose and to tell really thought out, winding stories with her words and music is also just incredible. In “Good Intentions Paving Company,” Newsom sings whimsically “And I regret how I said to you/ Honey, just open your heart/ when I’ve got trouble/ even opening a honey jar./ And that, right there, is where we are.” She brings forth really straight forward ideas in ways that have never been suggested before, referencing fairy tales, the bible, and fables, personifying animals, and creating amazing similes, her style is revolutionary to some. In “Jack Rabbits” she almost whispers “I was tired of being drunk./ My face cracked like a joke./ So I swung through here/ like a brace of jackrabbits,/ with their necks all broke.” Not only in lyricism but the  tone and the stylistic aspect of the harp, piano, acoustic guitar and drums all knead themselves together to make these breathtaking songs successful. No song sounds alike, each one takes on it’s own persona and style, dances, cries, bellows, etc…

“Go Long” is one of these eight minute epics that crawls and flows like seasons through it’s verses. Newsom’s voice is serious and swaying as she sings of loneliness and mighty men with passion and intensity that is clear through out the tune. She changes the tone with just a few plucks of the various strings used in the song and moving up an octave as she wails like a harpie. The inflections with which she sings, the emphasis placed on some words and not others is also really wonderful to experience. She draws out words for many notes or will sing an entire phrase in a breath. Everything Newsom does is clearly purposeful and full of creative intent.

Infusing her tunes with blues, gospel, folk and soul, Joanna Newsom gives her all and more in this album; perhaps a little much. She could have held back a bit and saved it for the next one, but that doesn’t seem to be how she rolls. It seems that she does everything to her fullest ability and does not stop until it feels absolutely perfect and jam-packed with feeling. And in that case: mission accomplished.


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