I will swallow your sadness and eat your cold clay just to lift your long face

Ys by Joanna Newsom

I'll be honest, I chose to review Ys thinking that the small amount of tracks would make it easier. And then I discovered nearly every word in Ys is wrapped in meaning. The album title itself is based on a myth of a seaside town, swallowed by the sea as punishment for its debauchery and sin.

While there are only five tracks, each is based on real events in Newsom's life, dressed up in poetry, references, and cryptic imagery. Each song is amazingly dense; to read lyrics and attempt to decipher the true meaning would require much more than just one listen and reading from the CD booklet. 

Though Newsom freely admits each song is based on her personal life, their "true" meaning is often masked. In an interview with Pitchfork, she states:
Basically I wanted to undertake the task of writing songs about a particular year of my life. Not the task of telling that story in a linear way, or in any way that would make the story explicitly knowable to a listener, but rather, to tell the story to myself. I was starting to see a lot of connections, and I wanted to make them more substantial to myself, or at least explore them. Writing these songs was a way to organize my brain and organize these events and how they had affected me. There were four very big things that happened in my life in this particular year, and so four of the songs are about these things. The fifth song, "Only Skin", was an effort to talk about the connections between the events.
The album is marked by its obvious dedication to detail; every song is perfectly crafted to remain true to Newsom's personal vision and story.

Though many may view the album as decadent, or the common argument that Joanna Newsom's voice is annoying, there are those who will enjoy attempting to puzzle out the meanings, look up references, and study her poetry.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

There are many scapegoats for our sins, but the most popular is providence.