Joanna Newsom puts a lot of herself into Have One On Me

Boy, does Joanna Newsom put herself into Have One On Me. The thing clocks in at over two full hours of music spread over three six-song albums, which is, like many things, a blessing and a curse. The blessing is that it’s over two hours of Joanna Newsom (my wife). The curse is that it’s over two hours of Joanna Newsom.

See, because I love her music. I love the eccentricity, the harp, harpischord and piano playing, and the occasional squeals and vocal idiosyncrasies. I loved Ys when it came around, for all its cabaret underpinnings and 10+ minute songs. The thing is, though, even for Newsom’s vocal supporters, enough is just enough. Have One On Me is technically sound, the songwriting is stronger than it has ever been, and the artist has even toned down her infamously divisive vocals. The songs generally stick to the style of Ys, where many songs are lushly orchestrated by strings and other instruments that seem to jump in to accentuate certain lines or specific lyrics. It’s lovely, but after the umpteenth song that hits the six minute mark, it all starts to turn into one big ball of Newsom. Nearly every song on its own individual merits is great (like the delicate “In California”), but three albums’ worth is too much to digest.

It’s too bad there’s really nothing wrong with the music, as it were. It’s just that all this quantity of music is so daunting; even spreading the music out among three CDs doesn’t alleviate the anxiety that comes with listening to such a behemoth.

So, over time, I fully expect many of the songs on Have One On Me to click, and I’ll be able to listen to larger chunks at once. For now, though? It seems like Newsom overstuffed her newest a bit too much.

Joanna Newsom – “Good Intentions Paving Company” [MP3]

Joanna Newsom – “In California” [MP3]

Purchase Have One On Me

4 comments to Joanna Newsom puts a lot of herself into Have One On Me

  • I missed the part in the instructions where it said the listener was required to sit through it from start to finish. Although there are some thematic links between the CD’s, in effect you have 3 new CDs and you’re free to choose which one you’d like to listen to. Hope this helps!

    Jon Reply:

    I personally tend to listen to music in a completist way. I understand that there are three CDs, and they’re separate, but it’s still one package of music, and I feel that it wouldn’t be fair to just ‘skip’ two thirds of it at a time. It’s kind of hard to articulate. But either way, even if I decided I only want to deal with the first of three CDs, for instance, I’d feel like I should be experiencing the rest of the package.

    It’s hard to put into words, but that’s just my opinion. Thanks for the comment, anyway, it totally helped.

  • Kenny

    1. Love the blog.

    2. I’ve decided to pretend it’s three different albums and I’m focusing on just one at a time. For now, I’m only listening to the second album. That “Baby Birch” song is incredible.

    Jon Reply:

    Thanks! Appreciate it.

    And I still need time to fully ‘get’ every song; “Baby Birch” is pretty neat, though.