Joanna Newsom


So, I dug into Joanna Newsom and am thrilled. It reminds me of when I discovered Katherine Ryan and was astonished to find this brilliant person who is a big deal just a little bit out of my sight. That I have never, ever heard of Newsom before shows how difficult it is to know what's going on even in a fully connected world.

I listened to a bunch of her music and then some interviews and then a charming ten minute vid of her husband, Andy Samberg (as you doubtless know) talking about how much he loves her and how cool she is. All made me love her, too. She will now always be on my attention list.

All that said, it's pretty easy to understand why she isn't extremely popular. Her music is mostly pretty weird. On the first couple of vids I watched, I couldn't understand anything about what she was doing. I couldn't understand the words (I later learned that she is often doing a sort of beat poetry and, once I learned not to interpret in sentences, it worked better for me). Her music is very spiky and unconventional. Also, and this is trivial, her facial contortions as she forms her very strange vocal style is hard to interpret.

Fortunately, she came with your recommendation so I kept at it and learned enough to begin to understand what she is doing, to understand the semantics of her style, build enough familiarity that I could start to categorize and feel in ways that build meaning for me. I learned and conclude that she is free, innovative, expressive beyond belief. Her music is unusual but interesting as hell and, often, once I got used to it, lovely. Not only that, she's not talking about the commonplace crap that most are.

As much as I admire Taylor Swift, she is speaking a truth that resonates with her audience, like her and the audience are matched tuning forks. Her virtue is (partly) the accuracy and cleverness with which she evokes the experiences of a young women in America.

Joanna, of course, is not part of any kind of resonance system. She seems intensely determined to avoid the road most traveled, less Robert Frost, more Alan Ginsburg, in her lyrics. I'm not musically literate enough to to make a similar comparison for music but it's there. Her tunes are often arhythmic and melodies disjoint and surprising. I think she might be the most creative musician I know about. Hell, the most creative person.

As I write this, I am listening to her tunes. During that last paragraph, I was especially charmed by the song. It was a little more melodic (which is good for me) and the lyric pronounced a little more clearly (most of her songs I need lyrics on to know what she says) and, as I wrote, I thought, Gotta look at the song title after I finish this paragraph. Amusingly, it was named Emily.

Anyway, thanks for the reference. Made for a fine Saturday night and great addition to my playlist.