Waging War on Electronica
Following her last release, Joanna Newsom faced quite a feat. 2006’s Ys turned her from a kooky San Francisco harpist attracting little attention from anything other than the cult fringe to a world-renowned songwriter. Have One On Me is enormous in scope, taking influence mainly from jazz and world music, while its lyrics are full of archaic poetry.
In a world where a stunning reputation can be built on a laptop, it’s refreshing to see an artist filling three CDs with 2 hours of music comprised entirely on real instruments. What sets Have One On Me apart from its former release, aside from its length, is the amalgam of styles Newsom has incorporated. She moves constantly between the harp and piano and adds modern instrumentation to traditional themes. In “Baby Birch,” Newsom intertwines throbbing electric guitar riffs and oriental melodies, while “Good Intentions Paving Company” combines gospel soul and bluegrass banjo.
The lyrics have been toned down from those on Ys to a more concise collection of beautiful phrases. This hasn’t stopped her wonderful imagination from taking long ramblings, developing the most wonderful imagery. Newsom delivers these with a fresh tone to her voice. What was once grizzly and child-like is now wonderfully, even classically charming.
Newsom’s maximalist keynotes are a breath of warm fresh air when everyone else is focusing on more electronic paths. She is waging war on popular music armed only with a harp, luxurious album artwork and a voice that could make grown men weep.