Joanna Newsom 

Ys(Drag City)

It’s tempting to make a review of Ys (pronounced “eees,” apparently), the second album by Joanna Newsom — an album with a cover like a medieval-set novel for pre-adolescent girls, consisting of five songs, running 55 minutes, for which harpist Newsom is accompanied by an orchestra, and sings, in her froggy, mewling voice and storybook cadence, lyrics full of mythic allusions and nature imagery — into a showcase for a tossed-off one-liner: say, Finnegan’s Wake: The Musical, starring the Smurfs, or something. But that hardly credits the operatic mood shifts, goofy yearning to an almost Kate Bush-ian awareness of the perils of the adult world, Newsom pulls of in the space of her expansive compositions, or the way the orchestra, arranged by Van Dyke Parks, sometimes works in ominous opposition to her — it’s almost an invasion of privacy. Look past Newsom’s surface preciousness — and the occasional squeak escaping her vocal chords — and you’ll see a current of loneliness, as there is with anybody so immersed in an imaginary world.


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