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Artists :: N :: Joanna Newsom :: Ys :: Member Review

There are two types of people in the world: those who absolutely abhor Ys and those who absolutely love it.

First, let's explain why the first group of people exists. Joanna Newsom's sophomore album is a collection of five songs, each lasting between 7-16 minutes. Either way you want to look at it, those are some long songs. To further add ire to the haters' fire, Ms. Newsom is quite the pretentious singer. She is constantly releasing loquacious couplet after loquacious couplet. She uses archaic language, freely placing the word "thee" in Emily. This, along with her plucking harp, tends to make the songs on Ys sound medieval, which is UNBEARABLE to those who hater this album. Her voice cracks, bends out of pitch, and even seems to randomly change in direction from one moment to the next.

If there's one good reason to dislike Ys it's because it can seem totally unconstrained by Newsom's wildly erratic singing.

It's funny, in a way, why the opposite holds true for the people in the other camp. People love this album because Joanna Newsom's lyrics are verbose, because her music flows freely, and her harp happily hums along with her random vocalizing. Itís gorgeous poetry being sung in a surprisingly intriguing manner. The word choice she uses is excellent; she flaunts the fact that she studied creative writing. Her folksy, weathered voice adds life to her already vivacious vocabulary. Just listen to her sing the opening lyrics of Monkey & Bear, the second song on the album. Youíll hear her worn sound. Of course, youíll hear that throughout Ys, not just in specific places.

The lengths of the songs can seem daunting, especially for the 16+ minute Only Skin. But trust me, there is reward to be had in listening to every single moment of this lyrical extravaganza. The accompanying orchestrations also offer some harmonious majesty to further add character to an already colorful album.

If there is one problem with Ys, though, itís that it can be difficult to like at first. Just listen to it a few times if you donít like it upon initial impression. It really can be a stirring album, and itís definitely a poetic excellence.

Rating: 8/10
Reviewer: felixarabia
Reviewed: January 20, 2007


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