Wednesday, December 6th, 2006

Sawdust & Diamonds

Joanna Newsom discusses the making of Ys in brief with Exclaim and at length with Harp, who must be thrilled that they’ve finally found an artist whom they can cover without worrying about accusations of false advertising. And The Seattle Times has an AP piece that’s somewhere in between. Photo by/courtesy of Jim Newberry.

The year-end lists are just starting to creep out but I’m curious to see how prescient the Catbird-o-meter will be – if Metacritic is a barometer, then Ys will be topping more than its fair share of critics polls. But not mine, as you may have noticed. This is no comment on the record itself – I only just got it a couple weeks ago and it would have had to be like a thunderbolt to the head to have made the sort of impression to make my list. And it didn’t – it’s not a visceral record (though I only need to think back to seeing her live in October to remember that that’s by no means a blanket statement on her music). It’s a dense and almost overwhelming piece that really lacks any immediate frame of reference for comparison except, perhaps, for The Milk-Eyed Mender and even that one is a considerably different creature from its follow-up.

At the moment I actually rather prefer the first album, but that’s almost certainly because, by comparison, it’s an accessible pop record. Ys, not so much. Choice lyrical fragments and instrumental flourishes jump out unexpectedly but the whole of the record has still been too much to take in and absorb yet. I can appreciate and applaud it on an intellectual, artistic level but there’s not yet any real emotional connection with it. Also not sure how much I like the Van Dyke Parks string arrangements – sometimes they get a bit too Disney for my tastes. But, as I said, a couple of weeks is certainly not enough time to form a real, well-informed opinion on a work like this. Ask me again in a few months.

But in the meantime, check out this edition of NPR’s All Songs Considered for which Newsom recently played DJ. You can stream some of her selections as well as her own songs.

So the Toronto Camera Obscura show next month is happening on January 31 at Lee’s Palace, tickets $17. I had guessed it would be either that date or the 29th and it’s the former, though you may still want to head to Lee’s on the 29th as Kevin Devine and Jennifer O’Connor will be performing. Tickets for that one are $10.

More Cowbell brings tidings of a new record from Son Volt. The Search will be out on March 6 and promises it to be the band’s “most diverse record yet”. Choice adjectives from the announcement are, “Eastern-style electric guitar”, “upbeat Memphis-style horn section” and “Zeppelin-esque” – considering that the last time it was announced that Jay Farrar was expanding his sonic palette we got Sebastapol, which sounded exactly like Jay Farrar always sounds – except with Hawaiian guitar. I’m not saying that it’s impossible that Son Volt could surprise me yet, I just kind of doubt it.

Joe Pernice tells Commercial Appeal he’s not depressed. Meanwhile, Aimee Mann tells the San Francisco Chronicle she’s not depressed. Hmm, you think maybe some artists have a problem with the public not distinguishing between the work and the author?

Pitchfork has a really long and enjoyable interview with Craig Finn of The Hold Steady that touches on pretty much everything.

I’m not rounding up (m)any of the various year-end lists this year – just too damn many of them. But if you want to see how many people love Tapes N Tapes, Largehearted Boy and Fimolicious are happy to play aggregator for you.

np – Sparklehorse / Dreamt For Light Years In The Belly Of A Mountain

By : Frank Yang at 8:49 am
Category: Uncategorized
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  1. Catbird says:

    I find it interesting, though not wholly unexpected now that I come to think about it, that the blogs were rating Belle & Seb. so incredibly highly mid-year (Mid-year survey from over at Hodge Podge :… ), but now it’s almost nowhere to be seen. It was also unclear back then, before the *official* release, just how widely praised that TVOTR record would be.

    I’m starting to see "The Knife" wild card pop up, but I am surprised that no one’s really throwing in the "Man Man" one.

  2. Frank says:

    if I’d gone to 20, B&S would definitely have been in there, as would YLT, Camera Obscura, Destroyer and a lot of other stuff that’s on your predict-o-tron. But then that’s sort of hedging – limiting to 10 forced me to think about which ones I really liked best.

    But most everything I got this year (and kept) I’d rate from decent to excellent. Omission from the final list is no slight against them.

  3. tom says:

    I’ll never understand the "all Jay Farrar songs sound the same" camp. As a huge Uncle Tupelo/Son Volt fan, and being very intimate with all of Jay’s output, I feel that although he has a signature sound, so do most artists. For me the difference in instrumentation is THE change in sonic palette. What has to be different for you to recognize the nuance? On Okemah, vocally he hit notes I’ve never heard him attempt before. Do you feel "World Waits for you with its beautiful tempered piano sounds anything like the crunchy guitars of "Drown"? If Jay comes out rapping, I can see you writing "it’s still Jay with a beatbox".

  4. Thierry says:

    I don’t know if you saw the new Filter, but they have put Joanna Newsom on the cover, include a fawning feature piece…and then thoroughly trash the record in the reviews section! I’m all for freedom for reviewers, but a little editorial consistency wouldn’t hurt, either.

  5. boo says:

    I’m incredibly anti joanna. I think she’s ridiculous

  6. Thierry says:

    Oops – I meant Wire, not Filter.

  7. JF says:

    Thanks for the heads up on the Camera Obscura show. I think their album should be ranking much higher, though their virtues are not the ones often praised by bloggers (subtety, classicism, sixties soul influence).