Reviews in 200 Words

Have One on Me by Joanna Newsom

In Album on April 28, 2010 at 4:53 pm
One of the most startling moments on Joanna Newsom’s new album Have One on Me comes at the end of her song “In California.” After almost eight meandering minutes her acrobatic voice hops into an upper register and repeats the word “cuckoo.” Gangly and incessant, on first listen it feels like a provocation. After all, Newsom is a harpist whose first album sprouted pop songs sung in a voice equal parts cherub and crone. Cuckoo? That’s what some say to a recommendation. But Newsom’s songs eventually reward dedication. Repeated listenings expose the context enfolding each layer, begging questions along the way. Is the cuckoo the person who left her heart “as heavy as an oil drum” and “yellow as an ear of corn”? Is it Ms. Newsom herself begging an old lover not to come back and “upset the order” of her scarred heart? There’s a pond and a fox snatching “goldfish from that sorry Golden State.” And that’s how the album is – full of wordplay and poetry wrapped in beautiful melodies that haunt and linger and smile more than any she’s ever written. Even the three-LP album’s title is a joke. Have one on her? Why stop there?

-Jay Cullis

Check out Ott Rising, a story by Jay Cullis


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