Ys

( 5 )

Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - David Sprague
Joanna Newsom chose to carve herself a niche -- folk-leaning singer-songwriter armed with a harp -- in which she wouldn't have much competition. It would've been easy for her to loll comfortably in that grotto, but instead she pushes herself significantly on her sophomore set, which displays the flowering of both her songwriting and her arrangements, orchestrated by the legendary Van Dyke Parks. While Ys pronounced "ease" indicates that Newsom has unabashedly embraced the "bigger is better" philosophy, she never gets lost in the intriguingly intricate mix. Parks doesn't consciously position Newsom's instrument at the fore, but he does help her bring out its nuances -- ...
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Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - David Sprague
Joanna Newsom chose to carve herself a niche -- folk-leaning singer-songwriter armed with a harp -- in which she wouldn't have much competition. It would've been easy for her to loll comfortably in that grotto, but instead she pushes herself significantly on her sophomore set, which displays the flowering of both her songwriting and her arrangements, orchestrated by the legendary Van Dyke Parks. While Ys pronounced "ease" indicates that Newsom has unabashedly embraced the "bigger is better" philosophy, she never gets lost in the intriguingly intricate mix. Parks doesn't consciously position Newsom's instrument at the fore, but he does help her bring out its nuances -- from the stone-skipping playfulness of "Monkey and Bear" to the foreboding darkness of "Only Skin," a song so redolent of drama that its 17 minutes pass by in a heartbeat. Newsom's vocals, keening and possessed with a birdlike chirp, are well suited to impressionistic lyrics that occasionally veer a bit too far into Renaissance Faire territory. Even when they do, however, Newsom displays a charm so guileless that it's impossible to suggest she's intentionally creating a period piece. Her songs and sound are distinctive and deliriously enchanting.
All Music Guide - Heather Phares
The Milk-Eyed Mender was a striking debut that set Joanna Newsom apart from her indie folk contemporaries. Its simplicity and depth, and the way it sounded timeless and fresh, made her a singular figure in that scene. On her second album, Ys (pronounced "ease"), she continues to move in a very different direction than her peers, and even a different one than what her audience might expect. The Milk-Eyed Mender's 12 gentle vignettes sounded like they were basking in sunlight; Ys is epic, restless, and demanding, made up of five dazzling, shape-shifting songs that range from seven to 16 minutes long. Newsom embarks on this adventure of an album with help from talents as diverse as engineer Steve Albini, arranger Van Dyke Parks, and producer Jim O'Rourke (who, come to think of it, is the perfect meeting point between Albini and Parks). Ys' boldly intricate sound plays like an embellished, illuminated, expanded version of Newsom's previous work. Parks' lavish, but never intrusive, orchestral arrangements sometimes make the album feel -- in the best possible way -- like a Broadway musical based on The Milk-Eyed Mender, particularly on the album closer, "Cosmia." Crucially, though, Ys isn't any less "real" than Newsom's other music just because it's more polished. The nature and craft imagery in her lyrics, the transporting sense of wonder and the one-of-a-kind voice of The Milk-Eyed Mender are here too, just in a much more refined and ambitious form: Ys is a gilt-edged, bone china teacup to Mender's earthenware mug. Along with the beautifully filigreed arrangements and melodies, which mingle strings, jew's-harps, and spaghetti Western horns with Appalachian, Celtic, and even Asian influences, the album shows Newsom's development as a singer. She has more nuance and control, particularly over the keening edge of her voice, which is recorded so clearly that when it cracks, it tears the air like a tangible exclamation point. Ys' daring, plentiful wordplay makes it even more of a rarity: an extremely musically accomplished album with lyrics to match. On "Only Skin" alone, Newsom goes from rhyming "fishin' poles" with "swimmin' holes" to "heartbroken, inchoate." These songs are so full of words and plot twists that sometimes it feels more like you're reading them instead of listening to them, and indeed, actually reading the lyrics in the book-like liner notes reveals that Ys has a library's worth of children's stories, myths, romances, and of course, fairy tales woven into its words. As the album unfolds, it seems like Newsom can't get more ambitious (and more importantly, pull it off), but with each song, she does. Two of the best moments: the darkly whimsical fable "Monkey & Bear," a forest romp that boasts some of the album's best storytelling and some of Parks' liveliest arrangements, and "Sawdust & Diamonds," which is surreally sensual and coltish, with surprisingly direct lyrics: "From the top of the flight/Of the wide, white stairs/For the rest of my life/Do you wait for me there?" Ys isn't exactly a reinvention of Newsom's music, but it's so impressive that it's like a reintroduction to what makes her talent so special. Its breathtaking scope makes it a sometimes bewildering embarrassment of riches, or as one of "The Monkey and the Bear"'s lyrics puts it, "a table ceaselessly being set." Yes, Ys is a demanding listen, but it's also a rewarding and inspiring one. Letting it unfold and absorbing more each time you hear it is a delight.
Pitchfork
[Rating: 9.4] Ys offers an endless wealth of substance, teeming with dense, well-mapped beauty.

[Rating: 9.4] Ys offers an endless wealth of substance, teeming with dense, well-mapped beauty.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 11/14/2006
  • Label: Drag City
  • UPC: 781484030324
  • Catalog Number: 303
  • Sales rank: 33,106

Tracks

Disc 1
  1. 1 Emily (12:08)
  2. 2 Monkey & Bear (9:28)
  3. 3 Sawdust & Diamonds (9:55)
  4. 4 Only Skin (16:53)
  5. 5 Cosmia (7:17)
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Album Credits

Performance Credits
Joanna Newsom Primary Artist, Harp, Leader, Vocals, Pedal Harp
Van Dyke Parks Accordion, Conductor
Jeff Driskill Clarinet
Grant Geissman Electric Guitar
Susan Greenberg Flute
Don Heffington Percussion
Peter Kent Violin, Concert Master
Gina Kronstadt Violin
Robert O'Donnell Jr. Trumpet
Vladimir Polimatidi Violin
John Rosenberg Conductor
Bart Samolis Bass
Terrence Schonig Marimbas, Cymbalom
Lee Sklar Electric Bass
David Stenske Viola
John Wittenberg Violin
Shari Zippert Violin
Matt Cartsonis Banjo, Mandolin
Edmund Stein Violin
Bill Callahan Vocal Harmony
Peter Doubrovsky Bass
Julie Rogers Violin
Miriam Mayer Viola
David R. Stone Bass
Cameron Patrick Violin
Marda Todd Viola
Sharon Jackson Violin
Briana Bandy Viola
Caroline Buckman Viola
John D. Mitchell Bassoon
Karen Elaine Viola
Emily Newsom Vocal Harmony
Patricia Cloud Flute
Phillip Fethar Oboe
Peter Nevin Clarinet
Jessica van Velzen Viola
Erika Duke-Kirkpatrick Cello
Giovanna Clayton Cello
Technical Credits
Van Dyke Parks Arranger, Producer, Orchestral Arrangements
Steve Albini Engineer, Vocal Engineer
Tim Boyle Engineer
Nick Webb Mastering
William T. Stromberg Copy
Joanna Newsom Composer, Producer
Nick Webb Mastering
Benjamin A. Vierling Paintings
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 5 )
Rating Distribution

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(3)

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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 1, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Beautifully Quirky.

    Joanna Newsom's voice isn't for everyone, but if the thought of a (as one of my friends put it) "drunken-sailor-elfish-wood-nymph" playing the harp intruiges you, please give Newsom a listen. Her vocals are unconventionally beautiful, the lyrics mind-blowing, and the instrumentals breathtaking. A rare bird, Newsom will make you smile if you give her the chance to let you.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    Complimentary To Your Dreams

    Best listened with headphones right before bed, this is an album that's unmatched in both beauty and the ability to transport the listener to another place. The arrangements are so impossibly ambitious, that you'll be left wondering when the album will crack. It never does, of course, and is a wonderful display of talent and imagination. Couldn't recommend it more.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 24, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted February 22, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted December 6, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews