Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Joanna Newsom

The thing that both her fans and her detractors consistently neglect to mention in the whole debate about her voice is that Joanna Newsom actually has really incredible pitch. I haven't listened to The Milk-Eyed Mender all the way through yet, but, considering the freak-folk aesthetic doesn't turn me on in the slightest, I was surprised by how much I was digging it. Which I probably wouldn't have had the descriptions of her vocal stylings (check out #12 in this link) been accurate in their hyperbole of annoyance. I was expecting not just screeching, but tuneless screeching, a kind of Florence Foster Jenkins / outsider music / so-bad-it's-gone-past-good-and-back-around-to-bad-again thing. But . . . she really just kind of sounds like the bastard love child of Bjork and Colin Meloy, between the chewy, childlike diction and those belted notes right on the threshold of the chest voice/head voice break. But, her intonation is laser-sharp, which makes up for a multitude of vocal-quality sins. Like I said, I haven't listened to the album in its entirety yet, so I can't speak to the quality of the lyrics or the cumulative effect of all the songs taken together as an artistic statement, but I'm here to tell you that it's completely safe to venture into the milky waters!

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