25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beyond Eccentric
Utterly bonkers. This sounds like Bjork and Kate Bush giving Toyah Wilcox a kicking behind the bike sheds while the Penguin Cafe Orchestra look on. By no means bad but perhaps you should listen to the clips on the Amazon page to help you decide if you should acquire the taste or not. "This side of the blue" and "The book of right on" are the standouts for me but maybe...
Published on 7 Mar 2006 by J. D. Ritchie
16 of 28 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Weird but a Widening of Horizons
I first heard of Joanna Newsome through the ad featuring "Svetlana sucks lemons..." from This Side of the Blue. I decided to plunge in and buy the album, the track sounded quirky and original and perhaps the album was a hidden gem.
On first playing I thought a little girl had wandered into a recording studio and was singing gibberish. Joanna hasn't got the...
Published on 20 April 2006 by D. Maggs
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beyond Eccentric,
This review is from: The Milk-Eyed Mender (Audio CD)Utterly bonkers. This sounds like Bjork and Kate Bush giving Toyah Wilcox a kicking behind the bike sheds while the Penguin Cafe Orchestra look on. By no means bad but perhaps you should listen to the clips on the Amazon page to help you decide if you should acquire the taste or not. "This side of the blue" and "The book of right on" are the standouts for me but maybe that is because I was familiar with them to start with. Strange but rewarding.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Shrill-Voiced Singer,
This review is from: The Milk-Eyed Mender (Audio CD)First heard Joanna Newsom on Later...with Jools Holland and she blew me away. A winning combination of highly unusual voice, unusual choice of instrument (the harp instead of the ubiquitous guitar) and unusual but highly melodic, enchanting songs, it stuck right out of the usual crowd of dour indie-boys strumming their own egos.
Certainly that voice will not win over everyone - think Bjork as a shrill six-year old on a swing, singing nursery rhymes to an audience of adoring parents - so in some ways it's a bit of a Marmite challenge: you'll either love it or hate it.
I loved it. Fans of afore mentioned Bjork, Will Oldham, Devendra Banhart etc will probably appreciate the tender soulfulness and eccentric delivery while Newsom's blend of folky earthiness and Lewis Carroll surrealism gives her the context to justify the style.
Admittedly, about two-thirds of the way through, that voice can become a little grating and you may wish she could tone it down, just a tad for a song or two.
25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A real treat - but not for everyone,
This review is from: The Milk-Eyed Mender (Audio CD)I confess that I discovered this album after hearing some of 'This Side of the Blue' on a TV advert! After humming the same few bars irritatingly for a few days it might have ended there. But then my brother made me listen to a dubious recording of 'Book of Right On' on the internet and I was hooked. These two songs alone are a good enough reason to buy this album.
For those people who like comparisons, Joanna Newsom's voice could be (very loosely) likened to Bjork, Melanie or even Janis Joplin. She has an unusual voice which can be sweet and vulnerable as a child or harsh and nasal like a hedonistic 30-a-day jazz singer.
However, the comparisons pretty much end there. How many other musicians combine quirky, vivid lyrics, with an eccentric range of musical influences and make the result even stranger by using the harp as the predominant instrument?
Joanna Newsom defies convention and convenient musical labelling.
This album is unique. There are hauntingly lovely melodies and intriguing lyrics. The harp playing is at times beautiful enough to bring tears to your eyes. Her voice changes remarkably according to the particular piece of music.
'Song' does not do justice to the result.
While I defy anyone to criticise the harp playing, not everyone will enjoy this album due to Joanna Newsom's unconventional voice, and unusual style. However, for those with an open mind this is a real treat
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I do not know my way to the sea,
This review is from: The Milk-Eyed Mender (Audio CD)Joanna Newsom is one of the weirdest folksters around today, with her trippy little pastoral melodies and that incredibly weird, stoned-fairy voice. And with "The Milk Eyed Mender," her debut album, Newsom embroiders a series of offbeat little harp songs with her unique lyrics and wonky voice.
"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," Newsom sings mellowly in the opening song, over a plucky harp melody and a soft murmur of other instruments. She sings of crabby canaries, Narnia references, and "a thimble's worth of milky moon."
From there she veers into the trippling ballad "Sprout and the Bean," before slipping off into more eccentric harp-folk, laced with constellations, dragons, and "the book of right-on." She dabbles in haunting bluesy pop, languid little ballads full of nature's beauty, bizarre piano lo-fi stuff, shimmering folk songs like "Swansea," a countryish folk song, and mischievous and joyful organ pop.
Joanna Newsom is not for the timid or the closed-minded, the sort who think that the best music is the easily-digested stuff they show on MTV. Because this is the exact opposite -- sparse, melodious little tunes that tripple along in unpredictable ways, with a very atypical voice trilling behind it.
The main instrument here isn't guitar, as it is with most folk music -- it's harp, played with an echoing beauty with the occasional soft sweep of strings or synth behind it, and some piano adding a music-hall flavour. And Newsom can bend the harp to whatever sound she wants -- angular as a country guitar, gentle as a brook, soft, rippling or hesitant.
Newsom's voice can be a little annoying at first, because it's very high-pitched and a bit nasal. But once you get into the "feel" of the album, with its whimsical attitude, her acid-popping fairy voice starts to wear well. Especially when you consider the rambling poetry of her lyrics, with their fantastical imagery ("some dragons who were built to have and hold") and evocative, quirky knack with words.
Joanna Newsom is a brilliant folk-popster, and "Milk Eyed Mender" is a delightful, eccentric little debut album. And she only gets better from here on... right on...
21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars marvellous stuff,
This review is from: The Milk-Eyed Mender (Audio CD)Wow... what a refreshing thing to listen to. This album is a precious thing you will want to cherish.
I love her unique voice, and I've been heartbroken that the people I've shared it with are too stuffy to accept anything a bit different. It's so wonderful to hear a female voice with some emotion and originality! A lot of the album is just her and her harp playing, but I've never thought to imagine a harp being played in a contemporary manner like this- I couldn't attempt to identify any specific genre, but there are elements of folk, right through to jazz- whatever, you need to hear it. Forget cherubs, this is how a harp /wants/ to be played!
Please, please give this album a try, I have found it inspiring and enchanting, as I come to share more of her joy, playfulness and melancholy with each listen.
33 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the many highlights of 2004...,
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This review is from: The Milk-Eyed Mender (Audio CD)2004 has been a rum year for new albums (a ghost is born, The Cure, Abbatoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus, Carbon Glacier, Bubblegum, Medulla, Faded Seaside Glamour)& reissues (Dogs, A Lifetime of Temporary Relief, Dirk Wears White Sox) alike. The list is probably longer- but Joanna Newsom's 'The Milk-Eyed Mender' is possibly the highlight of 2004.
Laura Veirs' nodded to JN on her website and I was already curious, while positive-reviews and a piece in a tabloid by Dave Eggars (apparently she's related to a Californian-politician!)had me sold. Oh, Joanna is an acquired taste- I imagine some people would loathe her vocals and probably can't transmit the use of a harp in contemporary music. They're probably the kind of people that would hate a lot of my record collection, the kind of people who still don't get Robert Wyatt, who still don't understand Tilt is the greatest album of the 20th Century. Call it their problem, if you like...
Some singers near to Joanna Newsom: Laura Veirs-Hope Sandoval-Alison Shaw-Bjork- Nina Nastasia- Anne Briggs- Sandy Denny- Mary Margaret O'Hara...but really, what am I saying? No one really sounds like Joanna Newsom. Press play and Bridges and Balloons may sounda bit odd...but give it time and if you're not sold on our Joanna by the second track, specifically around "Should we go outside? Should we go outside? Should we break some bread? Are y'interested?", then take yourself back: you might be defective. (Our Joanna is as wonderful in the whole ethereal-pronouncing department- see Robert Wyatt's Little Red Robin Hit the Road, the more alien-Bjork, or Mark Hollis: she stretches and delivers familiar words in other ways, making it sound both right and wrong at the same time...)
Take my word for it, The Milk-Eyed Mender is a wild-album- an absolute joy- it usurped both Nina Nastasia's Dogs and Veirs' Carbon Glacier in the night-time listening realm. Our Joanna isn't some medieval auror or anything- there are plenty of references to our world, along with the best nod to Camus since Magnetic Fields' I Don't Want to Get Over You. So, The Milk-Eyed Mender sounds like it could have been made both centuries ago and just yesterday. It's the kind of record that makes you wonder how someone like Joanna Newsom came to be; it's also the kind of record that makes me want to swear never to wear shoes again. It's only right, I think...
29 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Individualism screams!,
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This review is from: The Milk-Eyed Mender (Audio CD)Ballad, Folklore, Non conformist style music... Quite individual, in its own genre. The simplicity and delicate style of the music really makes its special. Joanna Newsom, a Harp player seems to gather her inspiration from nature, the sea, the sky... she paints quite pretty pictures in her songs with quite simple music techniques, but with descriptive and elaborate lyrics... Most songs contain Harp, but others contain Wurlitzer electric piano, harpsichord, piano, guitar and other vocals by Noah Georgeson. Although it seems to attach itself to artists such as Bjork, it isn't as regurgitated with technical effects and mixing... What you hear is what you get! Quite an acquired taste, but those who love folk music will probably adore this gem, also lovers of Bjork would be able to understand its beauty... just I'd advise pop music lovers to stay well clear!
A little work of art for the Debut album of an upcoming, talented musician, maybe we'll see more of her in the future..
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Difference between the sprout and the bean,
This review is from: The Milk-Eyed Mender (Audio CD)When my husband first played this CD for me he had a smile on his face but he's an engineer and doesn't always evaluate music with aesthetics in mind so not knowing his real motive I began listening to `The Milk Eyed Mender' (beginning with Bridges & Balloons)...and I kept listening and listening and listening long after my husband parked the car and had wandered off into the shopping mall. It's been a long, long time since I've heard singing so originally charming and beguiling but deep inside me her music stirred something old and familiar whether it was from my youth (and I was missing my two front teeth and learning to rhyme with rhythm taking cues from my Southern Grandmother in accompaniment) or her music's familiarity was from an older knowing that I cannot frame in words. What-ever the source, for a long while I could not stop listening. And, when I finally did, I realized that" the difference between the sprout and the bean (which) is a golden ring" could be explained by going outside and being in the sun. Thank you Joanna, thank you so very much.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Just an amazingly incredible debut!,
This review is from: The Milk-Eyed Mender (Audio CD)This girl is one of the most exciting things to happen to folk and indeed world music on a grand scale for a very long time.
Her sound is fresh and different, the songs melodic, intelligent and she uses some beautiful imagery - a true artist adding a twist to the occasionally mundane folk sound.
Her unmistakable voice combined with the beautiful tone of the harp is a stroke of genius.
Do not judge this artist on 'the music from the phone ad' the album is an absolute inspration and a must hear.
Cant wait to hear more from Joanna Newsom.
15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars No middle ground with this.,
This review is from: The Milk-Eyed Mender (Audio CD)You will either love it or hate it, me I love it! Bought it months ago and it is still my most often played CD. IMO Cassiopeia is the only weak track the others are fantastic, especially Clam Crab Cockle Cowrie which simply so beautiful it leaves me dumbstruck!
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The Milk-Eyed Mender by Joanna Newsom (Audio CD - 2004)