Plumbiferous Media

Have One on Me – Joanna Newsom

Feb 28th 2010
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Have One on Me - Joanna NewsomJoanna Newsom
Have One on Me
Score: 93

After three critically-acclaimed albums (and two early self-released LPs), Joanna Newsom released her newest album, Have One on Me on the 23rd. Have One on Me combines the best parts of Newsom’s earlier albums with some new creative and musical twists. It’s at the same time Newsom’s longest album and her best album overall – she’s taken her immense creativity and applied it to a huge number of concepts to create just over two hours of immensely interesting music. As such, Have One on Me is nothing short of excellent.

Have One on Me makes good use of the familiar sound of Newsom’s harp, whether combined with a variety of instrumentals for the rich sound found on “Have One on Me” or left alone with Newsom’s voice for the sparser (and yet incredibly rewarding) sound Newsom has proven herself to be so good at creating. The sweeping, rhythmic sound which this provides to the album creates a sort of serenity which contrasts beautifully with Newsom’s occasionally surprising vocal twists and turns. With Have One on Me‘s eighteen tracks, Newsom uses a wide variety of instrumental approaches to create songs that are recognizably hers, without ever slipping into repetition or boring the listener.

There are distinctive vocalists – and then there’s Joanna Newsom, whose unique vocal style is often the main focus of any examination of her music. Newsom’s style is delicate with a carefully considered complexity, innocent without seeming childish, and always just strange enough to intrigue a listener’s ear without slipping into abstraction. Along with her vocal style, Newsom uses a singular pattern of inflection which makes every word quirkily melodic – it’s jarring when it needs to be, but for the most part it allows Newsom’s music to flow at the pace she chooses, however normal or strange that may be.

Newsom is most fond of telling stories filled with sometimes odd but always brilliantly clear imagery, and she’s done just that on Have One on Me. Pictures like “a brace of jackrabbits / With their necks all broke” contrast sharply with the “paralyzed daisy” of “Easy,” but Newsom uses both to paint the fantastic pictures that stream through Have One on Me. There are occasional references to reality (often history) in Newsom’s story, most notably “Have One on Me” itself, which quite colorfully tells the story of Lola Montez, Countess of Landsfeld. As such, though Have One on Me is certainly interesting simply through its musical elements, with the addition of Newsom’s creative way of storytelling, it becomes truly compelling.

Have One on Me is two hours long and spans three LPs. By all rights, this should be too long, and for just about any other musician, it would be. But for Joanna Newsom, who’s just at home with the eleven-minute “Have One on Me” as she is with the sub-two minute “On a Good Day” and who made her last album, Ys, a masterpiece with a total of five tracks, it’s not. Instead, Have One on Me is an experience – two hours of Newsom’s creativity, lovingly poured into eighteen varied tracks. It’s just as impressive taken in small parts as in its two-hour entirety, and as a whole it’s an excellent step forward. At this point, an excellent album from Joanna Newsom isn’t a surprise – but it’s certainly a pleasure

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