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Author Topic: Joanna Newsom  (Read 27102 times)

alongwaltz

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Joanna Newsom
« on: 23 Apr 2007, 16:33 »

New EP out tomorrow.  I pre-ordered mine.  It better be in my mailbox by the time I'm home from work.
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TheFuriousWombat

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Re: Joanna Newsom
« Reply #1 on: 23 Apr 2007, 16:49 »

I thought it was already out. I saw the vinyl in my local record store over the weekend. Either way I'm looking forward to it. Ys was really excellent (one of the few great albums of '06) and The Milk-Eyed Mender was really great as well. Newsom's unique voice and super literate lyrics are very appealing. Oh! and before I heard her, I never knew the harp could be so damn cool.
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Re: Joanna Newsom
« Reply #2 on: 23 Apr 2007, 17:50 »

"Joanna Newsom and the Ys Street Band"

Wins instant points for a good title.

ScrambledGregs

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Re: Joanna Newsom
« Reply #3 on: 23 Apr 2007, 18:14 »

Agreed. I can't wait to see what her next album is like.
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Re: Joanna Newsom
« Reply #4 on: 23 Apr 2007, 18:20 »

I just remembered I heard the new song that's on this EP when Ms Newsom played here a few months back. It was probably my favourite song of the night, so that's a good sign.

alongwaltz

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Re: Joanna Newsom
« Reply #5 on: 23 Apr 2007, 18:44 »

I have heard this already.  I couldn't help myself and downloaded the leak.

'Clam, Crab, Cockle, Cowrie' is my favorite song of hers but this new version isn't much different, other than male backing vocals.

'Colleen' is really different and really good.

'Cosmia' is pretty different but really good too.
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heyboygetasweater

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Re: Joanna Newsom
« Reply #6 on: 23 Apr 2007, 19:56 »

I just got Ys last week, and it's easily one of the best albums I've herd in a while, I'll probably pick the E.P. up sometime
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Spinless

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Re: Joanna Newsom
« Reply #7 on: 24 Apr 2007, 03:24 »

Guys, help me understand why 'Ys' is so great.
I tried to listen to it quite a few times now, but I just can not get behind that. I think I must be doing it wrong or something.

I mean, everybody is saying it's great. Everybody. I don't think I've ever heard anything bad about the album.
So why do I feel completely indifferent to it?
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ScrambledGregs

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Re: Joanna Newsom
« Reply #8 on: 24 Apr 2007, 09:27 »

Because it's just not your thing...??

There's a dude I work with, and we talk about music all the time. We're both vaguely into indie rock, but we also pay attention to electronica and post-rock. Anyway, we have wildly varying opinions on music despite liking the same genre(s). He can't stand Joanna Newsom, so you're not alone.
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Re: Joanna Newsom
« Reply #9 on: 24 Apr 2007, 10:38 »

If you're really looking to get into it...I found that it took really listening to the lyrics for the album to click with me. You have to really 'go along for the ride' on each of the songs, and stay with it. You may not completely decipher the words, but they evoke strong emotions, nonetheless.
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Johnny C

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Re: Joanna Newsom
« Reply #10 on: 24 Apr 2007, 10:46 »

Newsom leads with her words, for sure.

I think I posted a thread about me feeling the same about The Field, and it took that thread for me to realize that none of the reviews I'd read had actually told me what was so A+ about it. Jeph had to call it a "breath of fresh air" for dance music.

In the same way, Newsom is kind of a breath of fresh air for indie-pop, in that she completely and utterly tosses out convention in favour of laybrinthe structures and gently arcane orchestration. She chooses to write actual poetry rather than merely settling for lyrics. She gives ambitious ideas room to breathe, something that seems rare outside of basically metal. Moreover, her pieces flow not with hooks but with elegance and florid melody. What she eschews and how she replaces those elements are what makes Ys such an interesting and acclaimed record.

If you're indifferent to it, that's fine. Maybe you don't see it the same way. Maybe you've already been exposed to music which you feel has done something similar and as a result Newsom's record seems old hat.
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Re: Joanna Newsom
« Reply #11 on: 24 Apr 2007, 23:11 »

OK, granting that "Colleen" is pretty much the most fabulous song of the year, what the heck is it about??? The lyrics are so strange.
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Re: Joanna Newsom
« Reply #12 on: 24 Apr 2007, 23:55 »

Guys, help me understand why 'Ys' is so great.
I tried to listen to it quite a few times now, but I just can not get behind that. I think I must be doing it wrong or something.

I mean, everybody is saying it's great. Everybody. I don't think I've ever heard anything bad about the album.
This really surprises me, because among my friends (at least the ones who are really into music) she's absolutely villified, and I've read quite a lot of vitriol online about her as well.  One of my best friends loves her, but he basically doesn't mention her music at all anymore cos he's so sick of being bummed out by all the hating.

I find her voice like nails down a blackboard, so it's very hard for me to be indifferent about her music, but I think the praise thrown her way is fair enough... basically cos of what Johnny C wrote - it's at least ambitious, which most acclaimed stuff isn't.
« Last Edit: 24 Apr 2007, 23:58 by fish across face »
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Re: Joanna Newsom
« Reply #13 on: 25 Apr 2007, 00:32 »

I don't see why you feel you should like her. She is very different to anyone at there, so not everyone will go wild about her. I like her because she's just so refreshingly unique. Even those who she considers to be within her "freak folk genre", like Devendra Banhart and Vetiver, sound nothing like her. She is such a master of the harp that she has managed to take it well beyond the confines of Classical, and into her own delightful and complete world. I'm just glad she has got her much deserved recognition.
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crotch_lobster

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Re: Joanna Newsom
« Reply #14 on: 25 Apr 2007, 09:52 »

"The Sprout and the Bean" got me through some rough times. The more I listened to it the more I liked it, but I have yet to pick up her other stuff, so its unfortunately the only song of hers I have any familiarity with.

I'm of a mind to go pick up Ys right now! And this new "EP" if its in stores?
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jeph

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Re: Joanna Newsom
« Reply #15 on: 25 Apr 2007, 21:31 »

Her voice is one of the worst sounds I have ever heard put to tape. I can't appreciate any of her other qualities because augh that voice aaaaaaugh.

But it's cool if other people like her!
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Re: Joanna Newsom
« Reply #16 on: 25 Apr 2007, 23:31 »

I'm not sure if Jeph is referring to her voice in Milky Eyed Mender, or in Ys, or in the recent EP.  She sings very differently in each instance, and different still in concert.  If you listen to Colleen, aside from the punctuating squeaks, she sounds a considerable amount like Bjork in some of the Verspertine tracks.

But yeah, you know, each to their own.  People who don't recognize Ys (like Rolling Stone for instance) will have plenty of time over the next decade to change their opinion as it becomes enshrined as one of the albums of our generation.
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Johnny C

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Re: Joanna Newsom
« Reply #17 on: 26 Apr 2007, 00:13 »

People who don't recognize Ys (like you for instance, you elderly obsolete fool) will have plenty of time over the next decade to change their opinion as it becomes enshrined as one of the albums of our generation.
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Re: Joanna Newsom
« Reply #18 on: 26 Apr 2007, 06:21 »

It's unfortunate that some people can't get past Newsom's idiosyncratic vocals. If you ask me, her voice is a tremendous asset, one which she uses to great effect. Then again, I also think Dagmar Krause, Lydia Lunch, and Yoko Ono are brilliant vocalists.
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Johnny C

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Re: Joanna Newsom
« Reply #19 on: 26 Apr 2007, 16:44 »

I think it's fair that people can't get past the shrill cries of a woman whose voice is a surreal blend of "8-year-old kid choral star" and "eldritch hag."
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Re: Joanna Newsom
« Reply #20 on: 26 Apr 2007, 21:15 »

See, I don't think her voice sounds childlike at all. Also, she is probably the greatest lyricist I have ever heard. Her words are so good.
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Johnny C

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Re: Joanna Newsom
« Reply #21 on: 26 Apr 2007, 23:46 »

I submit that you have never met a child.
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TrueNeutral

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Re: Joanna Newsom
« Reply #22 on: 27 Apr 2007, 09:39 »

A friend of mine was going to see her tonight, by the show was resecheduled due to throat issues. Aww.

I couldn't go tonight anyway, I have a wedding party to attend.
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Spinless

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Re: Joanna Newsom
« Reply #23 on: 27 Apr 2007, 10:05 »

I've just been reading her lyrics. Nothing special, some of them read kinda annoying. Must be worse when she sings them. She is by no means a great lyricist. And I really do think that she'll be all but completely forgotten/ignored sometime in the next couple of years.
There's no part of Joanna Newsom that I enjoy, even photographs of her.
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alongwaltz

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Re: Joanna Newsom
« Reply #24 on: 27 Apr 2007, 14:19 »

Yeah, lyrics like:

"We sailed away on a winter's day
With fate as malleable as clay,
But ships are fallible, I say,
And the nautical, like all things, fades."

don't rank up there with current songs like:

"This shit is bananas"
"My lovely lady lumps"
"Alright, already, we'll all float on"
"I turn my camera on"

or classics like:

"Hey hey mama, said the way you move, gonna make you sweat, gonna make you groove"
"We all live in a yellow submarine"
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Spinless

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Re: Joanna Newsom
« Reply #25 on: 27 Apr 2007, 14:55 »

Okay, that argument was weak.
I could just as easily argue that Joanna Newsom is mind blowingly attractive by posting an image of Paris Hilton.
Just because you can find a worse lyricist doesn't mean that hers are great.

And for the record, half of those artist have probably written lyrics that make what Joanna Newsom writes look like highschool poetry.
The fact that she manages to say absolutely nothing of interest in four lines doesn't make her a good lyricist either. It just means that she's incredibly boring to listen to.

It seems to me that she takes an idea and tries to convey it with as many words as possible. She'll write a song and not say anything worthwhile until you've already started to fall asleep. It's like reading a book that has a great plot but takes a full page to describe one action.

Joanna Newsom's songwriting to me feels like a highschooler's essay. There's a 1000 word requirement but you can't think of more than 400. You fill the essay with bullshit and drag out all your sentences to make that 1000 words.

There are some subtle moments of genius in what she writes, yes. But it's not enough to hold my interest. She could be doing so much better if she would only decide to hand in a 400 word brilliant essay instead of a bigger essay that is 60% bullshit.

Maybe I'll like her when her albums have less bullshit to get through.
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alongwaltz

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Re: Joanna Newsom
« Reply #26 on: 27 Apr 2007, 14:58 »

I have never considered plot development a big intricacy to songwriting.

I've always considered good song lyrics to be more in the poetry camp than novels or short stories.
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Spinless

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Re: Joanna Newsom
« Reply #27 on: 27 Apr 2007, 15:19 »

It takes a little more than being poetic to hold my interest.
All my favourite lyricist are pretty straight to the point with fast and hard hitting sentences.

Didn't you read my full post? Or did you only choose to respond to the part you couldn't make an argument against? See, I never said that lyrics should be like novels or short stories. I used the idea of a story that's difficult to read despite a good plot as a metaphor for how difficult I find Newsom's lyrics.
Like I said before, there's too much bullshit in the way of her genius to hold my interest.

Here's how Joanna Newsom's lyrics look to me.

"blah blah blah blah
Blah blah blah
something thoughtful
Blah blah blah"

The 'something thoughtful' I like. What I don't like is how she expands the something thoughtful into four times as many sentences as she needs to and then uses awkward english so that they rhyme.

Here's something you won't be able to argue with.
Joanna Newsom is not a songwriter, but she can play and write music.
Joanna Newsom is not a lyricist.
Joanna Newsom is a poet that can play the harp.
« Last Edit: 27 Apr 2007, 15:22 by Spinless »
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Inlander

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Re: Joanna Newsom
« Reply #28 on: 27 Apr 2007, 18:56 »

It's the rhythm of the words that I like. They remind me in some respects of the Shinss songs: the way the words make the melodies tumble out and take odd twists and continue just when you're expecting them to resolve. Good poetry rarely makes a good song lyric: lyrics usually benefit from simplification, whereas poetry works best if it  works in the opposite direction - by which I mean not complication, but richness of language and imagery. For this reason, I think, the songs of a "poetic" lyricist such as Newsom are usually closely tied to the person who wrote the song: it takes a singular kind of delivery and musical vision to make such lyrics work. I can't imagine anybody successfully covering one of Newsom's songs, just as I think if she ever started regularly covering other people's songs she'd have to be very careful about the songs she chose. Music such as hers is a very careful balancing act.

In other news, I just bought the E.P. today and I'm listening to it for the first time right now. I am absolutely loving the version of "Cosmia" here.
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Re: Joanna Newsom
« Reply #29 on: 27 Apr 2007, 22:01 »

Also, comparing Joanna Newsom to Led Zeppelin is inherently flawed because they're trying to accomplish entirely different things with their music.

Like, how Led Zeppelin's music is interesting. That makes them different!
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jimbunny

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Re: Joanna Newsom
« Reply #30 on: 27 Apr 2007, 23:11 »

I can see how you could value "direct and to the point"-ness in lyrics, but that's only one quality to consider when appraising anyone's use of words. I would find your requirement that everything an artist says furthers some point, or argument, very restrictive. You've got to have room to experiment - dare I say play - with the language. And wordplay is absolutely rampant in Newsom's lyrics (more so in Milk-Eyed Mender). She uses rhythm, rhyme, and alliteration masterfully, with quite an expansive vocabulary. This approach to songwriting may mean lengthier passages and songs, but to write off lyrics that take time to say something or perhaps just serve to create an image seems to me hasty and judgmental. This is why I keep going back to Newsom's material - it's not immediately transparent. It takes some work, perhaps some creative interpretation.

To reference an earlier post, it would be quite the high school student that could produce lines like hers, and no, though a few of the artists in that list have produced intelligent, insightful, and creative lyrics, none of them could be said to far outshine Newsom in the poetic arena. To say so is evidence of a one-dimensional evaluation.
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Johnny C

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Re: Joanna Newsom
« Reply #31 on: 28 Apr 2007, 00:31 »

Newsom leads with her words, for sure.

Darryl, I submit that you read this more closely and try to understand what I'm saying with it. Inlander hit the nail squarely on the head: the reason that she uses so many words is so that the rhythm, the pacing and the overall aural sensation of the phrases are just right. Her phrases are intricately interwoven with the melodies of her songs. She is a poet that can play the harp, but as far as your "she's not a songwriter" bit goes I call bullshit. Give The Milk-Eyed Mender another examination and you will find your assessment to be wildly incorrect. On Ys, I'll say that she moves from songwriting into genuine, full-on composition.

As a final aside, every written interview with Newsom I've come across portrays her as a thoughtful, eloquent but overall wordy individual. I would consider it absurd to expect her to alter her personality while writing songs simply to please people who think she uses too many syllables.
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pilsner

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Re: Joanna Newsom
« Reply #32 on: 28 Apr 2007, 08:02 »

Here's something you won't be able to argue with.
Joanna Newsom is not a songwriter, but she can play and write music.
Joanna Newsom is not a lyricist.
Joanna Newsom is a poet that can play the harp.

No offense, but I think it would be productive for you to spend a little more time thinking about both song lyrics and Newsom's lyrics.  First, what you wrote makes no sense.  There is no distinction between a lyrics and poetry set to music.  Setting your poetry to music is the very definition of lyrics. 

Quote from: Merriam-Webster's definition for poetry
2 : writing that formulates a concentrated imaginative awareness of experience in language chosen and arranged to create a specific emotional response through meaning, sound, and rhythm

Quote from: Merriam-Webster's definition for lyrics
1 : a lyric composition; specifically : a lyric poem
2 : the words of a song -- often used in plural

But to step away from semantics, Johnny and Inlander are right about the qualities of Newsom's lyrics.  She's not repetitive at all.  She may use allusions more subtle than your average Iron Maiden song, but almost every line carries its weight, be it concrete or metaphorical.

Compare, for instance Only Skin, in which Joanna talks about herself, her gender identity, and her music, against Monkey & Bear, a tale about (wait for it!) a monkey and a bear.

Quote from: Joanna Newsom in Only Skin
I have washed a thousand spiders down the drain
Spiders ghosts hang soaked and dangelin'
Silently from all the blooming cherry trees
In tiny nooses, safe from everyone
- nothing but a nusiance; gone now, dead and done
Be a woman, be woman!

From a poetical (and therefore a lyrical) point of view, this verse is very expressive and (especially compared to a lot of modern poetry) very accessible.  We can understand the spiders as past decisions and past memories, that haunt in the present, distract, but ultimately are n the past and shouldn't be overly belabored lest they incapacitate.  But the images Newsom uses are haunting, quite literally, and hew back to a series of poetical references thousands of years old, back to ancient Greek mythology in fact (the fates at their loom, Ariadne being turned into a spider for hubris, etc.)

Then on the other hand we have:

Quote from: Joanna Newsom in Monkey & Bear

So
My bride
Here is my hand, where is your paw?
Try and understand my plan, Ursala
My heart is a furnace
Full of love that's just, and earnest
Now; you know that we must unlearn this
Allegiance to a life of service
And no longer answer to that heartless
Hay-monger, nor be his accomplice
(that charlatan, with artless hustling!)
But; Ursala, we've got to eat something
And earn our keep, while still within
The borders of the land that man has girded
(all double-bolted and tight-fisted!)
Until we reach the open country
A-steeped in milk and honey

Seems pretty straightforward to me.  The monkey's trying to convince the bear to leave.  Now the monkey and bear may serve as metaphors, symbols, or allegory, but the actual happenings in the song are easy enough to follow.

The idea of saying that Newsom, an artist that regularly omits a chorus or refrain from her music, uses unnecessary verbiage seems absurd to me.  On the contrary, it's almost every other artist who has perhaps 5-10 original lines of lyrics per song repeated ad nauseum who loads down her songs with fluff.  I would love to see a hundred more Newsom's crafting gemlike prismatic lyrical verse -- but I doubt it would ever happen because taking that path is so much harder.
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Re: Joanna Newsom
« Reply #33 on: 28 Apr 2007, 08:14 »

I thought her first album was pretty good and I was very impressed when I saw her live.

That 'Ys' album took her completely beyond my interest. No idea what that record was supposed to be but I didn't like it at all.
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alongwaltz

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Re: Joanna Newsom
« Reply #34 on: 28 Apr 2007, 13:29 »

I'm not even sure what the stance against is anymore.  Being overly literate is a bad thing?  I really don't understand what they're trying to say.

If you want to say you don't like her, feel free.  I can't argue with that.  But don't try and claim that she's a poor songwriter or mediocre because that's just ridiculous.

I hate to use the majority rule but the fact that nearly every publication (print or online) gave it a great review and artists like the Concretes, Decemberists, Mates Of State, and My Morning Jacket all listed Ys in their top five of the year should say something.
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Re: Joanna Newsom
« Reply #35 on: 28 Apr 2007, 13:35 »

He can say she is a poor songwriter if he thinks she is.
You can strongly disagree that she is a poor songwriter.

Thankyou for joining me on State the Obvious Saturday, everyone.
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Re: Joanna Newsom
« Reply #36 on: 28 Apr 2007, 17:19 »

I hate to use the majority rule but the fact that nearly every publication (print or online) gave it a great review and artists like the Concretes, Decemberists, Mates Of State, and My Morning Jacket all listed Ys in their top five of the year should say something.

No it shouldn't. That's a logical fallacy.
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Re: Joanna Newsom
« Reply #37 on: 28 Apr 2007, 18:34 »

Only if you put a lot of faith in the music press, and really, why should you? I think music is the most idiotic thing to be reviewed by anyone.
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Spinless

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Re: Joanna Newsom
« Reply #38 on: 29 Apr 2007, 09:22 »

I love this thread so much.
For those of you who don't know what Joanna Newsom sounds like or whether or not you should listen to her, go and read what Johnny C, Inlander and Jimbunny had to say as they gave the single most honest, yet non-biased opinions in the thread.
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Johnny C

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Re: Joanna Newsom
« Reply #39 on: 29 Apr 2007, 10:28 »

I would suggest listening to Newsom first and then coming back. You might wind up agreeing with Darryl and that's alright, because it's okay.
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Kai

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Re: Joanna Newsom
« Reply #40 on: 29 Apr 2007, 15:50 »

I only listened to Ys

I really don't like it

But the cover art I had was a really low quality image

So it sort of looked like she was cracking the horns in her right hand

motherfuckin' Dio
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but the music sucks because the keyboards don't have the cold/mechanical sound they had but a wannabe techno sound that it's pathetic for Rammstein standars.

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Re: Joanna Newsom
« Reply #41 on: 29 Apr 2007, 17:11 »

Kai, that's poetry. You don't play the harp at all, do you?

Spinless

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Re: Joanna Newsom
« Reply #42 on: 29 Apr 2007, 17:35 »

You two are still the best things on the forum. Thanks for reminding me.
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ekmesnz

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Re: Joanna Newsom
« Reply #43 on: 30 Apr 2007, 09:27 »

Okay, that argument was weak.
I could just as easily argue that Joanna Newsom is mind blowingly attractive by posting an image of Paris Hilton.
Just because you can find a worse lyricist doesn't mean that hers are great.

And for the record, half of those artist have probably written lyrics that make what Joanna Newsom writes look like highschool poetry.
The fact that she manages to say absolutely nothing of interest in four lines doesn't make her a good lyricist either. It just means that she's incredibly boring to listen to.

It seems to me that she takes an idea and tries to convey it with as many words as possible. She'll write a song and not say anything worthwhile until you've already started to fall asleep. It's like reading a book that has a great plot but takes a full page to describe one action.

Joanna Newsom's songwriting to me feels like a highschooler's essay. There's a 1000 word requirement but you can't think of more than 400. You fill the essay with bullshit and drag out all your sentences to make that 1000 words.

There are some subtle moments of genius in what she writes, yes. But it's not enough to hold my interest. She could be doing so much better if she would only decide to hand in a 400 word brilliant essay instead of a bigger essay that is 60% bullshit.

Maybe I'll like her when her albums have less bullshit to get through.

Let me guess... your favorite band is Dragonforce and you think emo is awesome because it's "way hardcore."

Not being retarded doesn't automatically make something bullshit. If you listen to her, you might find (might!) that the combination of her wicked words, complex rhyming pattern, and West African polyrhythms are actually pretty cool.

Four minute pop structures and 7 minute solo metal shifests ftl.
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öde

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Re: Joanna Newsom
« Reply #44 on: 30 Apr 2007, 09:50 »

Let me guess... your favorite band is Dragonforce and you think emo is awesome because it's "way hardcore."

Weak concluding.

Strong boarding, everyone. I don't really know what Joanna Newsom sounds like but I am checking her out soon on this mix someone made for me.

I feel like I've dirtied this thread now.
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öde

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Re: Joanna Newsom
« Reply #45 on: 30 Apr 2007, 10:25 »

augh that voice aaaaaaugh.
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KaosPilot

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Re: Joanna Newsom
« Reply #46 on: 30 Apr 2007, 13:47 »

I really dig Joanna Newsom. 'Ys' was probably my favourite album of last year. I totally get where people come from when they say they can't stand her voice. It took me a few listens of 'The Milk-Eyed Mender' to get into it. But with 'Ys' it was sort of instantaneous, the music totally floats right through you, it's the kind of album i feel like i can wrap around me as if it were a warm blanket.
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Emaline

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Re: Joanna Newsom
« Reply #47 on: 30 Apr 2007, 14:28 »

I have loved every Joanna Newsom song as soon as I've heard it. I like her voice. It is very childlike, but still interesting. I think she is a great songwriter. Her songs are interesting, and tell good stories.
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little bitty bird, with the flaxen hair, can i help you with the weight of the cross you bear?

ScrambledGregs

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Re: Joanna Newsom
« Reply #48 on: 04 May 2007, 22:42 »

Only if you put a lot of faith in the music press, and really, why should you? I think music is the most idiotic thing to be reviewed by anyone.

RateMyPoop.com??
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BillAdama

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Re: Joanna Newsom
« Reply #49 on: 05 May 2007, 13:51 »

Some people just don't get into Joanna Newsom.  She is pretty eccentric, and she tries for intricate word play instead of any kind of pop hooks.  I can see how, especially Ys, isn't accessible to a lot of people.

I hate the people who call it 'pretentious' though.  People who attack music for being pretentious are basically just saying 'Anybody who says music is great that I don't like is just trying to sound cool and self important'.

I don't get the appeal of bands like The Field and Stars of the Lid though.  Nowhere in a review for those sorts of album have I ever seen a critic actually claim to get pleasure listening to them.  Places like Pitchfork see minimalist electronica as some new form of art-rock.  The Pitchfork review even made the preposterous claim that anybody who doesn't like them just is too brainwashed by consumerist music they refuse to do any kind of deep listening.  (In other words, they're comparing themselves to classical music conniseurs because they like listening to a bunch of amelodic tones drifting in and out for 75 minutes.)
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