Monday, 12 November 2012

Music Monday: Joanna Newsom

"She sings too strangely, it just goes through me."  My response to first hearing Joanna Newsom.  In my defence, my introduction to her was in the form of Sadie and Inflammatory Wit (from her debut album, The Milk-Eyed Mender), and she does sing strangely in both songs, and the sound still goes through me.  I skip them as a matter of course.  But after taking the time to listen more carefully to her other albums, I started to understand why my brother raved about her.  And rather as I didn't ever 'get' Sigur Ros until I visited Iceland, I truly fell for Joanna Newsom when I went on holiday to the Highlands - and the Isle of Skye - a couple of summers ago.  Although she's a California girl, something about her music seemed to perfectly match and complement the bleakly beautiful vistas of northern Scotland.  Newsom is now my most-listened to artist on iTunes, and currently stands at number two in my 'best gigs ever' list (yes, I keep a list.  Yes, I am a complete geek).

However, I don't feel like anything I write can accurately describe Joanna Newsom.  I could throw adjectives like 'crystalline' and 'delicate' around; I could talk about the beautiful sound of the harp, or her stunning voice, but it wouldn't do justice to her music, which seems to defy description or pigeonholing.  So I will merely direct you to listen for yourself: my favourites are Cosmia, Only Skin and Sprout & The Bean.  Oh, and "En Gallop".  And Peach, Plum, Pear.

But for various reasons, On A Good Day is the track I've chosen to share.  Partly because - unusually for Joanna Newsom, it's super-short (only 1:50 on the album version, slightly longer in this video), which compared to Cosmia (13:23) or Have One On Me (11:03) is astonishingly brief.  Partly because it reminds me of driving along winding Skye roads in the mist and rain.  And partly because today is a good day.  And if you like it - and Fleet Foxes - then I am sure you will love this version by FF's Robin Pecknold.


  1. So is this the first post in your series on artists to which I introduced you due to my superior taste in music? I expect 250 words on Jeffrey Lewis next week.

  2. P.s. I didn't know Sprout & The Bean was one of your favourites. There's an incredible version on YouTube - just search for "Joanna Newsom Sprout and the Bean WFMU".

    1. That is great. Amazing to see a close-up of her harp playing.