Joanna Newsom + Neal Morgan @ The Tivoli, 04.03.11

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Can you forgive one of the ultimate pop-culture betrayals: when your favourite contemporary band makes a record that doesn’t bowl you down? Stuart Murdoch of Belle And Sebastian sums up the difficultly in navigating this uncomfortable morass:

“Being ‘contemporary’ with a group can have its advantages and disadvantages. Most of the time you have to wait till the dust settles around a release before you figure out what you think about it. You can forget about what you’re ‘supposed’ to think of it. What it comes down to is how inclined you are to listen to the thing.”

Joanna Newsom is an artist who is a hair’s breadth away from my heart. Milk-Eyed Mender is a startling discovery to make when you’re 15 (“She sounds like a birthing cat reciting Chaucer in a Southern accent! I love it!”) and during the cumulative time I’ve spent listening to Ys, I could have easily read, re-read, analysed and written a decent paper on David Foster Wallace’s most audacious works.

Have One On Me thus scared me: being ‘contemporary’ with a band you adore carries a risk that they’ll disappoint you. It has happened with unfortunate frequency for the past few years. When a dearly beloved band releases a follow up to their opus (which will never, ever be removed from your iPod), only to have it transpire to be a flat, uninspired afterthought, strung together with too-slick-production and insipid, gluey lyrics is a let down of grand proportions. I was thinking this over as I arrived at the Tivoli, reminiscing fondly of Joanna’s earlier songs and curious to see if any the songs off Have One On Me would be galvanised by a live rendition. I personally perceived them, bar the first half of the record, as limp pale imitations of Newsom’s reachable zeniths. -> -> ->

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2 Responses to Joanna Newsom + Neal Morgan @ The Tivoli, 04.03.11

  1. Wallace Wylie March 10, 2011 at 1:11 pm

    I think this review sums up my current feelings about Newsom perfectly. Except for that little optimistic bit at the end. I really can’t handle three discs worth of “Oh Lordy” and other such stuff. I loved her first two albums but “Have One On Me” is just more, and even more, of the same, but somehow with less magic. Maybe one day it will make sense. I saw her live supporting Devendra Banhart a few years ago and it blew my mind. I’m just not sure where she can go. She has, rather precociously, mastered her art too early and I’m struggling to see where she can go. Prove me wrong, Newsom.

  2. Mark F March 17, 2011 at 9:26 pm

    I count myself lucky to have seen her in Glasgow last year; lucky because it appears to be a rare gig where no tuning break for the harp (and awkward audience interaction) occurred. And of course we had the legendary Roy Harper on support instead of her drummer!

    To a point I understand your ambivalence towards Have One On Me (given the brilliance of Ys), but I think there are some very strong compositions scattered around the 3 disks. In California being the most Ys-like.

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