Joanna Newsom – The Milk Eyed Mender
Drag City, 2004
Acquired: Love Garden, New, 2006
Joanna Newsom is twee as fuck. And that's how I came to love her. It also laid the groundwork for my future as a music critic. It required patience, and at the behest of a friend or two I kept giving it chances. “Sadie” was tolerable, and I kept listening to that and the songs around it. Listening to it now, I don't know how I liked this, because her voice was the biggest obstacle and here it's almost grating. I think it was the lyrics, though. “This is an old song/ These are old blues/ And this is not my tune/ But it's mine to use,” really struck me. I tried to let the songs around it unlock the rest of the record for me, but it was hard though, because “Inflammatory Writ” is the most grating song on the record (it is seriously fucking unlistenable) and “The Book Of Right On” isn't quite as engaging as songs that come later. Eventually the second half of the record opened up and I got hooked. “Peach, Plum, Pear” is the gem of the record, where “Clam, Crab, Cockle, Cowrie” is my favorite song she's ever done and holds the number one spot on my PC's iTunes. I listened to it a lot in California. This was perfect driving music on my twice daily commute to Santa Monica to pick up catering. Often I'd beat traffic and arrive a half hour early. I would then drive down to the ocean and sit on the beach watching the sunset over the mountains. Or I'd sit in the car listening to that song watching the sunset and call home or Annie or whoever, telling them how I felt totally at peace with the world and myself. I tried to get Jerry and Vince to listen to this while I was driving at some point during the trip, but only to see how violent their reactions would be. They were pretty violent. Anyway, this record doesn't even come close to hinting at the genius that Newsom would achieve with Ys. This is like a little twentysomething pixie playing her harp singing these precious little songs. I guess the grace she achieves on the aforementioned great songs could hint that she was going on to bigger, better things, but really, when Ys hit I lost my shit. At the same time, I don't mean to discount this record, because it's excellent on its own. It's just that in the shadow of Ys it seems kind of quaint. I had a chance to see Joanna Newsom a couple weeks into freshman year and I'm sure it would have been one of those shows I'd brag about (see: The Arcade Fire @ the Jackpot right after Funeral got huge and after they'd already booked their fall tour, The Unicorns @ some place in the West Bottoms senior year of high school before they broke up (affectionally known as the show where Jon D was passed out until they invited everyone up on stage and he was practically the first one there). Seriously sad about that one, because when I saw her in support of Ys it was one of the worst shows I ever attended (not really Newsom's fault, though. More on that in the next entry).