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March 17, 2011 11:44 AM   Subscribe

An Overly Intense Track-By-Track Analysis Of Joanna Newsom’s ‘Have One On Me’ [part one] [part two] [part three] (prev prev prev) {Amazon link with previews} {Label site for album}
posted by jtron (25 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
I'm sorry, sir. You seem to be lost.

There is no overly. There is only beans.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:46 AM on March 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

These seem thoughtful, though a little less intense than I expected. In the end, I still much prefer listening to "Have One On Me" to reading about it.
posted by everichon at 11:49 AM on March 17, 2011

In the tradition of epic poetry, magnitudes more can be said about Have One On Me than the length of the transcribed lyrics. This barely scratches the surface.
posted by limnrix at 11:54 AM on March 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

That's brilliant, brilliant. Has anyone done anything like it for Ys?
posted by MrMerlot at 11:56 AM on March 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

There is only one track* on this album that doesn't turn me into a sobbing wreck.

* Good Intentions Paving Company
posted by elsietheeel at 12:11 PM on March 17, 2011

This record contains multitudes and is just so powerful. "Baby Birch" in particular, once I realized what it was about, just had me devastated.
posted by naju at 12:16 PM on March 17, 2011

Ha. Newsom is the only musician I am aware of who can make me tear up, and I don't usually cry for normal, human-like reasons.
posted by everichon at 12:20 PM on March 17, 2011

Oh thank god. I saw this post and immediately braced myself for some creepy straight dude's thinly-veiled panegyric on his own unrequited love for Joanna Newsom. But it's a track-by-track summary and analysis! And that's it! How pleasant.

Seriously. Straight dudes. Stop doing that. You're creepy.
posted by wreckingball at 12:21 PM on March 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

While these interpretations contain many keen insights, the author seems to overlook that part of Newsom's great talent is as a storyteller. Newsom is obviously fascinated by all sorts of historical characters, and by the way it might have felt to be a different woman living in a different time. So I think the author supposes too much in looking for threads of continuity between some of these songs/narrators.
posted by hermitosis at 12:22 PM on March 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

Interesting. Never heard of her, but the wiki article on her that album is at least 3.5 Ginsburgs, if we believe the usefulness of that metric.
posted by k5.user at 12:22 PM on March 17, 2011

Good Intentions Paving Company is like a lost track from Astral Weeks. It is the best song.
posted by Stonestock Relentless at 12:23 PM on March 17, 2011

Best song for me from the last time around was "Kingfisher":

Hung from the underbelly of the earth
While the stars skid away below
Gormless and brakeless, gravel-loose
Falling silent as gavels in the snow

The tides of the earth left
Us bound and calcified and made as
Obstinant as obsidian
Unmoving, save our eyes

I have a pair of good headphones and over the counter codeine, and I can live a thousand years in the running time of this album.
posted by notion at 12:23 PM on March 17, 2011 [4 favorites]

This is good. I'm learning stuff. Still, it feels pretty superficial. It notes themes for each song but doesn't really get to the bottom of any of them, I think.

And there are a few plain mistakes; for example, it is evident that Leigh Alexander doesn't know what a shunt is.

Still, thanks for this.
posted by grobstein at 12:24 PM on March 17, 2011

This is nothing. For the truly Newsom-mad, I recommend Visions of Joanna Newsom, which contains various essays, both academic and impressionistic, on her work, including a brief piece by Dave Eggers.

Also, "Absolutely the most difficult song to theorize at..."? Oy.
posted by Bromius at 12:24 PM on March 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

That does not seem like a correct use of "gormless".
posted by kenko at 12:56 PM on March 17, 2011

So I think the author supposes too much in looking for threads of continuity between some of these songs/narrators.

Yep. I started getting skeptical about this approach when I got to '81 and it assumed that both songs are about the same person, or are narrated by the same person. It's like the author is trying to cast it as a concept album. I don't really think there's much supporting evidence for that position.
posted by invitapriore at 12:58 PM on March 17, 2011

Huh, I took it for granted that this is a concept album. Doesn't the last song signify the very end of the relationship that sours throughout the album, recalling the "easy, easy" that opens the first song ("everything that reminds you of how easy I was not")?
posted by naju at 1:15 PM on March 17, 2011

"some creepy straight dude's thinly-veiled panegyric on his own unrequited love for Joanna Newsom."

Well she is totally crushworthy.
posted by puny human at 1:36 PM on March 17, 2011

I still much prefer listening to "Have One On Me" to reading about it.

For me it's the complete opposite. When I listen to her songs they seem capable of being somewhat musical and listenable, but never deliver. Her lyrics may or may not be poignant or poetic, but the off-putting voice and lack of melody keep me from hearing them.
posted by rocket88 at 1:55 PM on March 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh thank god. I saw this post and immediately braced myself for some creepy straight dude's thinly-veiled panegyric on his own unrequited love for Joanna Newsom.

I got cured of this early. Around 5 years ago I reviewed one of her shows for a journalism class. An older British lady workshopping it said "you know, I think you rather fancy her." In front of the whole class. Embarrassing, but taught me alot.
My recent Golden Plains review contains zero comments on her appearance. The new songs don't work as well at a festival, but I haven't properly listened to 'Have One On Me' yet. Ys and Milk Eyed Mender are brilliant though.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 2:28 PM on March 17, 2011

I still much prefer listening to "Have One On Me" to reading about it.

I still much prefer listening to Milk-Eyed Mender. I dunno why, but Ys didn't do much for me, and while some songs on HOOM are good, I've listened to it plenty and it's not calling for me very hard.

(Also, not what it says on the tin. Twas neither intense, nor overly intense.)
posted by mrgrimm at 3:11 PM on March 17, 2011

What naju said about Baby Birch. It was my favorite song on this album... and then I saw her sing it. Ouch! I've never had the experience of seeing someone perform music, and having it make it *harder* for me to 'enjoy' the records afterward.

There were a lot of her songs that, while not necessarily being oblique, at least were superficially beautiful enough that I could just listen to and enjoy the evocation. (even if they made me tear up, they didn't necessarily *devastate* me.)

Somehow, seeing her actually sing them... made it clear that they seem to mean a *lot* to her. I mean, that adorable (and I use the term w/ full knowledge of its creepiness) little hippie girl? is INTENSE, DOODZ. It doesn't make me like the music less, but I definitely can't listen to it lightly any more.

To keep this slightly on-topic- I think it'd be more interesting to see the linked author do this album-as-thinly-disguised-novel exegesis w/, I dunno, Now That's What I Call Music number 25. But maybe that's just me.
posted by hap_hazard at 7:18 PM on March 17, 2011

Also, re: Baby Birch- for my money, Playboy Mommy does a similar rip-your-heartstrings-out-and-strangle-you-with-them kinda thing. And yeah, Tori Amos is scary-intense, too, but...

To put it in downhome American terms: Tori Amos? Seems like the kinda person you could have a beer with. Even if it was out of doll teacups in an abandoned funhouse. But Joanna Newsom? Would straight drink up your blood like wine.
posted by hap_hazard at 7:37 PM on March 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I think most of these songs need a few more paragraphs to cover them fully. I feel like I actually learned more about the guy doing the "analysis" than I did about the songs. Like, wow, getting through all of Ribbon Bows without even mentioning the word "dog"? Dang, for me the most emotionally resonant moment in the whole album on the first listen-through was the narrator begging her dog to tell her whether god exists. (Recovering christian, dog owner - hey, it hit me where I live.)

Seeing her perform live is an experience I'll take to my grave. Every detail about that night fit into a coherent whole for me. If you like her albums, you NEED to see her the next time she tours, because it will completely change how you listen to her music. I came into the show thinking of her as kind of a freak-folk phenomenon who was endearingly ambitious and a way better writer than I'd initially given her credit for, and left thinking of her as someone completely outside of modern popular music - maybe more like an old jazz or blues singer, but writing all her own songs. Not just a musician, but a Musician; not just an artist, but an Artist.

So yeah, not much respect for the guy who wrote these posts but I guess it's nice to see people take Joanna seriously.
posted by troublesome at 10:45 PM on March 17, 2011

I remember seeing her early on, I think just after the release of "Milk-Eyed Mender". She was on tour with Devendra Banhart, presumably opening for him. None of my friends knew who Joanna was, and after the first opener played, Devendra came on, without Joanna; we assumed she just wasn't playing. Devendra broke his set early, and then announced that Joanna Newsom would come on next. You could feel the anger among the audience; no-one knew who she was and she was stopping the man we had came for from playing. Then this tiny woman with a harp came on stage, and after the first song you could see the shock in the crowd at how good she was. She showed a lot more of her influences back then; she did a couple covers of some old Appalachian songs in addition to her own.

She's changed a lot as an artist since then; the development in her voice is the clearest change (I miss the older, less-trained one somewhat..). But that ability to just grab an audience has stuck.
posted by Theiform at 10:48 AM on March 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

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