I don't suppose you need me to tell you that Miss Joanna Newsom is some kind of genius. What you might need me to tell you is that Y's is, it would seem just a taster of what she has to offer. Here on the ridiculously expensive but almost justifiable (if only due to the quality of music on offer here) 3 track Y's Street Band EP we see a taster of the first new material since the aforementioned Y's if only in the form of one new song and two reworkings.
New track Colleen as showcased at ATP is as beautiful and as remarkable as remembered. I remember on the night I had mixed expectations of something new, so often have a band I loved been picked up by the media and then delivered something ridiculously bad or at least lacking the ingenuity of their early work. Joanna it would seem has no such problem for now, Colleen is outstanding, a true work of genius, an instant classic, timeless and charming, a song that puts what was possibly the most outstanding opening track to an album in sometime, Emily from Y's, into the background, or at least out of the limelight. If anyone had a problem with her voice as on the Milk Eyed Mender then here is a more palatable, less shrill tone to sweep up those curious outsiders, those who take that little extra convincing, those who think more than two colours in an outfit is risky, how can you fail to love Colleen?
Clam, Crab, Cockle, Cowrie from the Milk Eyed Mender & Cosmia from Y's are reworked in a more intimate setting, the latter given a lush new feel, this is a portable Cosmia, Cosmia as played by Joanna and her friends in a room full of friends. Intimate and inventive and more charming for it.
If expectations weren't high enough already for any possible follow up to the landmark Y's then they have just been raised considerably with this release.
Joanna Newsom is one of the great indie musicians of our time -- just look at last year's "Ys," a sprawling masterpiece of freakfolk.
And after the solemnities of "Ys," apparently Newsom has decided to go a bit more lighthearted. "Joanna Newsom and the Ys Street Band" is an unpretentious little EP, with some new songs and new takes on older songs -- a fun little treat.
It opens with the strong folky chords of "Colleen," a slice of Celtic-flavoured balladry that trickles through an oddball melody. "I tell it as I best know how," croons Newsom in her crazy-fairy voice. "Pick me up and toss me round/I lost my shoes and tore my best gown..."
She then follows it up with new versions of two older songs: the gentle haunting reimagining of "Clam Crab Cockle Cowrie," and a full-band version of "Cosmia," which seems nicely fleshed-out and polished.
After to the legendary grandeur of "Ys," this little EP seems relaxed and laid-back, as if Newsom and her band had sauntered into a coffee shop and done an impromptu set. They're done with an ear for fun, but that doesn't take the delicate, appealing edge from the music.
Her twangly, delicate harp is matched up with some decent banjo tunes, and what sounds like some soft drums, all mingled together. In "Clam Crab Cockle Cowrie," we mostly just get gentle strums from the harp. And over it all is Newsom's creaky, meandering vocals, wandering through the melody like a sleepy fairy.
One new song and two reworkings, but "Joanna Newsom and the Ys Street Band" is stil worth getting for anyone who likes eerie, weird little folk songs.
An EP with only three tracks, only one of which being a new song. Doesn't sound particularly promising does it? Well by way of an answer it should be pointed out that all the tracks are new recordings and the total runtime is just over 24 minutes.
The songs were recorded at the end of the U.S. tour (Autumn 2006 in California)after having to cancel three gigs due to a lost voice, and were recorded 'live' in the studio with her tour band with minimal tinkering.Her vocal troubles certainly aren't evident here, although her voice seems to get richer and less spikey with each new recording.
Anyone lucky enough to have caught her live shows earlier this year will be familiar with the new song here ("Colleen") and the new version of "Clam,Crab,Cockle,Cowrie"(from "The Milk Eyed Mender"album) but british fans will not have heard "Cosmia" in this form as they had the benefit of orchestral backing not available on the american tour.
"Colleen" starts the EP off with a frenetic energy and is typically untypical of anything else out there, it's kind of folky, kind of sea shanty and breaks the verses with a strange flamenco/belly dancing jig that should have you on your feet and dancing. It's followed by a new recording of "Clam,Crab,Cockle,Cowrie" which is fully justified as it is very different from the album version and benefits from the addition of an accompanying voice, richer instrumentation and the more controlled vocal delivery already evident on the "Ys" album. The final track("Cosmia") is in some ways the most exciting as it takes the original and expands it to double its previous lengh replacing the orchestration with a rich variety of sounds utilising the band to its full.The song feels slightly more gentle here than on the album but no less rich for it.
I would say that this is definitely one for the converts(newcomers should start with "Ys" and/or "The Milk-eyed Mender")but if you are already a fan then this is an essential purchase.
A final word on categorisation of music. I hate it! This need to pigeon-hole and fence music within little boundaries. If anything new or excitingly different comes along (like this), instead of celebrating its singular beauty, there is a rush to be the first to coin the term that will peg it back. If that weren't bad enough there are a million followers-on who have to prove how smart they are by using the terminology as if it were there own. Thus we have people describing this album as 'freak-folk' a category which, if it exists at all, has been used to describe acoustic driven performers with a hypnotic trippy rythmic feel. Joanna Newsom has actively denied the tag herself and her music is actually nothing like anything in the genre (if it even exists) in fact the only connection is that she has been on stage with some acts that hover on the fringes of the genre. It really comes down to lazy journalism and second-rate 'would-be-critics'who'd like to appear smart at the expense of artists who possess genuine talent.
For all those people who need a category for this music here is one: Joanna Newsom.
I see no need to write another long review...Just thought I'd give a quick 5 star review of this amazing album to confirm the other reviews...Some of the melodies get stuck in your head and you start singing them constantly...Though some of the complex lyricism takes a little longer to commit to memory. Quality over quantity definitely makes her work much stronger, especially with the extra instrumentation. Though ultimately it is Joanna's piercing yet beautiful heartfelt vocals combined with the lush delicacy of her harp which truly make this album so special. My favourite is perhaps the final track, 'Cosmia', though they are all genuinely unique and worth your time. So, get to the store and pick up a copy!!!
If quirky be the food of love then this be food we all love.. Kate Bush like at times soaring vocals taking you high taking you low. Shadowed by harp notes and banjo sounds plucked from the halls of angels... Give this a try and you will be smiling even on rainy days. Newsom rocks.
I have to admit when I first heard of Joanna Newsom I really wasn't impressed my first impression was that she possessed a voice which was false and put on but on a whim I purchased Ys and this EP at the same time, now shes not by all means everyones taste nor a first-listen artist but this woman is so fantastic.
"Joanna Newsom and the Ys Street Band" is an EP in the shape of a sorry letter of which during her US tour she has to cancel a couple dates due to a 'lost voice' this is her apology which I thought was pretty sweet.
The EP consists of one previously unreleased song and two alternate arrangements of older songs.
"Colleen" is a very cool song although that sounds like an unintelligent approach to her music as it can be pretty cryptic to decipher I mean cool as in breezy and light almost medieval sounding.
Joanna references that Colleen, despite her inability to keep plants alive, is starting to go down the path towards motherhood, that her subconscious dreams of "a funny sea,
as soft as a newly born baby", which she cannot grasp entirely, this song clearly has extended nautical themes. it seems to me that the song deals with a woman who has forgotten her connection to the ocean, her harp playing as always is exceptional and the cute little squeak is brilliant which leaves the song an original and unforgettable piece.
The song of hers that I've never got into is "Clam, Crab, Cockle, Cowrie" until this version I know there isn't much different from the original on "The Milk-Eyed Mender" I just prefer it such a beautiful song I think the song is about admiring someone from a distance and wanting them to notice you I just think it's indicative of how wrapped up in a person you can get almost an obsession beautiful song also the other running them of water and the ocean is apparent again mostly in the title as all are shell fish and mollusc's.
"Cosmia" is one of my favourite songs on "Ys" instead of the 7 minute version on that album we get a 13 minute epic here I still don't know what version I prefer this version seems more jangly than the 'Ys' version yet that version seems more intimate.
Like many songs Joanna writes, she tells personal accounts of love, happiness and in this case, loneliness, through seemingly fictionalized narratives.to me It's about someone who is trying to forget about someone that they have lost and had no control over losing. I was informed by a friend that this song is about the death of a friend of Joanna's and on the "Ys" album cover she has a Cosmia Moth pinned as a tribute to the friend which I thought was sweet very personal for Joanna and I guess to the listener. Again she releases something brave, difficult, experimental, awkward and to some extent self-indulgent.
She is definitely a marmite singer you either love her or you don't
It's a nice EP maybe as a starter then venture to the other releases.