Joanna Newsom - Have One On Me

Album Review by Chris Cusack | 10 Mar 2010
Album title: Have One On Me
Artist: Joanna Newsom
Label: Drag City
Release date: 23 Feb

Most musicians will never have to follow an album like Ys. Unwinding across three discs, the epic Have One On Me develops the ideas bubbling within its intimidating precursor's five songs and bravely explodes them in all directions. Whilst Kingfisher, Autumn and the eponymous title track are perhaps most reminiscent of the baroque folk modality of that aforementioned 2006 release, Jackrabbits pursues a more conventional singer-songwriter approach and elegiac closer Does Not Suffice summons elements of gospel.

Credit must go to the savvy instrumental augmentations of collaborator Ryan Francesconi. Equally, the idiosyncratic lead vocal has softened, bringing the listener closer to the messages within. In contrast to the previous uniform reliance on harp there are five tracks based around piano. Amongst these, Good Intentions Paving Company is a particularly upbeat, propulsive triumph. The lush and frankly gorgeous 81 also deserves praise in its own right.

As a work of art, this stands up as well to literary criticism as it does musical. The poetry throughout flits from analogous sensitivity to passionate literalism with highlights including “the universe is getting loose / sodden spread from some leaden disuse” and “I only want for you to pull over and hold me until I can't remember my own name” respectively.

Whether being swept up in the delicate instrumentation or contemplating the meanings within, it is, at times, a transcendental experience. Some four years in the making, Have One On Me will continue to reveal aspects of as-yet-undiscovered beauty for that long again. [Chris Cusack]