Friday, February 24, 2006

Click on this bbc link and watch all three performances by Joanna Newsom. Start with "Peach, Plum, Pear." I went out and bought the album, The Milk-Eyed Mender, and have been listening to it daily for a week. Here's a Pitchfork review of the album, and a Newsom interview.

The album was released back in 2004, and had escaped my attention until a couple of weeks back when I heard a cut - "Peach..." on a friend's ipod. I walked to my pc and ordered the album. I do this all the time, impulsively plunk down money for an entire album on the basis of an infatuation with one song, and the majority of time I quickly discover why the record company picked that particular song to promote and radio stations to play. My rec room is full of cds that haven't been spun since the second week I owned them. This one, it's been ripped to the home and work pcs, and is in the short rotation in the car. I like it that much.

As the BBC link implies, Newsom is associated with bands like Animal Collective and singers like Devendra Banhart or, as the BBC calls it, "the New Weird America," a somewhat purposely (I assume) ironic label since Animal and Banhart and Newsom are producing folk-tinged music with relatively simple instrumentation. To produce naive music in a time of computer loops and easy sampling and elaborate production in itself isn't new or weird, but when combined with what seems to be a genuine wonder at the pleasure of making the music, there is a charming joy of discovery emanating from the songs. Note I do not say "innocence." Why this is "new" and "weird" - and those are certainly adjectives that apply to Newsom and Animal Collective - warrants further listening and thinking. (And I'm going to revisit Banhart - his Cripple Crow of last fall left me indifferent, and I'm not all the familiar with his earlier.)

But here's what hooked me: her voice reminded me of, of, of.... I couldn't figure it out. It took me days. How soon we forget: Victoria Williams. The wonder of hearing a single song - I discover a new artist that intrigues me, I rediscover a musician whose music I used to adore.


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