Joanna Newsom returned to Jimmy Kimmel Live (she did “Sprout And The Bean” years ago) to do “Me And You, Bess” and “81.” Watch:


(via CoS)

Have One On Me is out now via Drag City.

Comments (31)
  1. Nice to see Bud Light finally getting some network exposure.

  2. Yeah, well, I don’t get it. I don’t understand where the magic is. I know that she’s critically acclaimed, and Pitchfork gave her a major rating, but I still don’t get it (I tried). I can’t imagine myself sitting on my living room’s sofa and putting on that music. I find it annoying, and completely uncatchy. Sounds like some random stuff that someone is trying to put a melody on, along with some random playing on the harp, and failing to do so in any meaningful way. I know that this is not the case, since a lot of people really like her music, but speaking for me personally, I just don’t get her. Maybe I’m too used to only rock music.

    • I think the problem is that you thought you’d get it because she is critically acclaimed and that because Pitchfork gave her a high rating that you should get it.

  3. Agreed! I have never seen anyone actually order or drink a Bud Light so I wasn’t sure they were still around, but there they were. Good for them! The little company that could despite all of the cutthroat competition out there from minuscule breweries.

  4. Do not get the appeal of Joanna Newsom.

    At. All.

    • Yeah I don’t understand either. Because it’s really EASY to play the harp and SO over used these days. Not to mention playing songs that fit amazingly well with original lyrics that illustrate thing that is being sung about so descriptively beautifully that one can just close there eyes and be engulfed in the moment. Not to mention she she’s classically hot. I just don’t get the appeal either!

      • The thing i don’t get is that people come on all of the links relating to her and say that they don’t “get it.” I could really care less. Apparently I’m one of the lucky ones that do.

      • Sorry, but your sarcasm doesn’t work. Consider the following:

        I’m Greek. Traditional Greek music (which is considered a very good form of music by some critics) is also played by fewer people these days, and they also play instruments that no one else can play.

        This doesn’t make that music listenable though. The fact that they go the route of the extravagance doesn’t make them any good. Same with Newsom, just because she plays the harp, that almost no one else in the scene knows how to play, doesn’t make her an enjoyable act for me. All I hear when I listen to her is drivel, I can’t find any catchy melody. I can’t imagine myself singing her songs in the shower. Not in a million years.

        As for the lyrics, I can’t even understand what she’s saying. The way she changes her voice to sing (her real voice is not as high pitched) makes it very difficult for me to understand any of her lyrics. Add on top the fact that I’m Greek, and English is not my main language, is making things worse.

        >she’s classically hot

        I’m a straight female, so this is not an advantage to her music for me. Maybe her beauty makes her music sound different to you, but to me it has no effect.

        I don’t doubt that some people like her music, it’s just that her act would never get through to me.

      • wow! I’m awesome.

  5. The thing about her music is that you need to actually listen to it. Not everyone is going to “get” it. It is the most sincere and original album of the year, period. Speaking of Pitchfork, their headline for this performance was “Joanna Newsom Brings Funny Faces to Kimmel”. Seriously. Yeah, that’s what she brought. Anyone wondering when that site lost all credibility could start there.

  6. That ‘You and Me, Bess’ was fantastic. And so was ’81.’ Both performances were fantastic.

  7. If she gets as much hype as some people on here are saying, I “don’t get” the hype either. If she is only popular because she can play harp, that’s a sad reality. It makes you wonder if she would be as popular if she played an ocarina or a recorder. In terms of her music, I listened to ‘You and me, Bess’ for the first time today and I found myself a bit…confused. As the song progressed, it unfolded and some clarity or structure emerged. It was like a flower just bloomed…..I’d have to listen to more of her music to understand it well enough to provide an unbiased opinion though. As of now, I’d classify her with Björk. Not everyone “gets” her music either.

  8. So I’m one of those crazy obsessed Joanna Newsom fans who considers her my favorite artist of all time. But the funny thing is, the first time I heard Joanna I hated it. I had downloaded the Milk-Eyed Mender back in 2005 and after one offensive listen, let it rest on my hard drive for nearly a year. When I decided to give her a re-listen, I strangely found it slightly more listenable. With each of the initial listens, I wasn’t completely into it, yet something that I couldn’t pin down drew me back. Soon enough, her music “bloomed” for me and began to resonate with me in a way that no other artist ever did before.

    Even with “Have One on Me” her most accessible album yet, it wasn’t until listen 6 or so that I was really into it. There’s just something about her music that makes it take shape very gradually, and slowly reveal itself to you. Though unfortunately many will be impatient and write her music off, she’s truly making albums for the long run. After dozens upon dozens of listens all three of her records are still incredibly fresh and compelling. Especially with so much disposable music these days, Joanna Newsom is one to be treasured.

    • I would say the first disc of “Have One on Me” can be rightfully considered her most accessible (and some of her best work)–the other two, for me, fall extremely flat and feel pretty impenetrable.

      Maybe I just love grandiose statements on record, but I think “Ys” is one of the best things I’ve ever heard. There, at least there was an anchor to the sprawl, always a lilting melody to come back to, always some story to become enraptured in. It takes patience, sure, but there are dynamics to it that are sadly missing on the bulk of “Have One on Me”. It’s a very hard album to listen to, as a whole. I absolutely love the first disc–maybe the rest will unfold and “bloom” for me as well. I really hope it does. But almost seven months in, no such luck…

    • I’m not crazy obsessed, but I had a similar experience. It sat on my hard drive for a long time until a friend played a song from it, and I fell in love.

  9. It’s awesome that her music touches some people on her because that’s the point. I certainly don’t get it and obviously there are many people here in the same boat but for those it makes happy great. I guess really just believe that you can’t let any publication tell you what you need to like. What is good is what enchants your ear. If someone tells you that something is amazing but after a few listens you still don’t like it that doesn’t mean there is something wrong with you.

  10. liyxam1  |   Posted on Aug 14th, 2010 +6

    joanna newsom is the shit and anyone who disagrees is a racist unicorn

  11. I think you guys are not giving her music a chance on account of it being something that pitchfork hypes up too much, which is unfortunate. On the first few listens, it might be difficult to get the appeal, but to me at least the subtlety is what makes it interesting. She isn’t a rock musician, or even “indie-rock” so to try and understand her music through this lens misses the point. She is a classically trained folk harpist and her music has more in common with the timbres, textures, and harmonic complexity of jazz and classical than with guitar-pop. Neal Morgan’s tasteful, dynamic percussion really comes out live as do Ryan Francesconi’s sophisticated arrangements. Her singing voice can sometimes sound harsh, and her album concepts are often overly ambitious/pretentious, but if you can look past that she makes some wonderful, complex music. It’s not pop pleasure central. Her music almost seems like poetry reading with gentle accompaniment. My advice to stereogum readers is to not be so reactionist against what pitchfork thinks. Just because you disagree with pitchfork doesn’t make you a free thinker in the world of independent music. Backlash against Pitchfork is becoming as much of a hipster cliche as agreeing with it.

    • >It’s not pop pleasure central. Her music almost seems like poetry reading with gentle accompaniment.

      I guess this is the core of my problem with her music. The fact that she’s really a poet, and the actual music is an afterthought. To me, this is not music. To me, this is just poetry (and I don’t doubt that she’s a damn good poet), delivered in a slightly different way than other poets do. But this doesn’t make it “music” to me. It makes it poetry++, but not music. For me, music has to have a hook. It has to have a recognizable melody where I can come back to, and remember the song for.

      This is why my favorite forms of music are actually shoegaze and chillwave: because the lyrics are often unintelligible. I often want the voice to be just another instrument. I don’t see the point — unless in very few songs, where the voice/lyrics must be strong, e.g. on a song about revolution — to have this human voice destroying the music. Why is it that the singer and his/her lyrics must be heard more than the rest of the instruments? I don’t get that. 99% of today’s music put the human voice on top of the music. I personally hate that. I find it very selfish.

      This is why I don’t get Joanna Newsom. Because I’m looking for melodic music, and instead I’m getting overpowering voice/lyrics — in a fashion that is much more audible than it is even in cheap pop.

      Again, I don’t doubt that Newsom might be the best poet today with her poetry++ project (meaning, singable-like poetry, with a bit of music on the background). But that’s definitely not what I consider listenable music personally. It doesn’t do it for me at all. I can’t stand it, when I have to view her as a musician instead of a poet.

      • If we look back to the early history of music, we see that a lot of music was around mainly to facilitate stories and poetry. The lyre and flute (and later the harp) were used by traveling minstrels to add emotional heft and greater entertainment value to their heroic stories. This was the very beginning of folk music, and what I believe Newsom attempts to reference with her style. Her lyrics often tell epic stories (“Monkey & Bear”) or resemble traditional poetry (she actually covers Robert Burns’ “Ca’ The Yowes Tae The Knowes” with just her harp and voice live).

        During the folk music revival of the 1960s, musicians such as Bob Dylan and Pete Seeger used music that resembled the backing of traditional folk songs to talk about contemporary issues. Art, a category in which music is included, is all about expression. Since music often attempts to express more than menial thoughts or feelings, and the guitar-bass-drums instrumental setup of most “Rock” music is usually too simplistic to articulate the complex thoughts or feelings that the musician wants to express vocals (which must carry lyrics to convey more meaning than just adding another instrument) are a very necessary addition. In early Rock’n'Roll, musicians had not begun to tap the vast range of expression available through rock music and usually sang something along the lines of “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” Classical music was often written by brilliant composers who could convey complex emotions with their large ensembles so it does not require a voice to articulate meaning. With classical music however, it is not as easy to comment on social issues like the Vietnam War.

        Popular music has evolved a lot over the years and so have the lyrics that accompany it. Musicians like Bob Dylan have made Rock’n'Roll yearn for a wider range of lyrical topics. Nowadays, we often take for granted the well written lyrics we experience in contemporary music. Contemporary musicians are attempting to explore outside the boundaries of guitar-bass-drums-vocals and filtered through a post-modernist lens that (instead of creating an entirely new sound) leads us to post rock and Joanna Newsom.

        My point is that the voice is more than an instrument and should be appreciated as such. It does have an interesting timbre that is different from person to person, and there is definitely a place for vocals without lyrics (a cappella etc). The voice can be an extremely evocative instrument, but to make truly great rock music (art) that has something to say we almost always need lyrics. Musicians today don’t usually have the large ensembles and theoretical knowledge to articulate their feelings without words.

        In shoegaze, the vocals seem to be distorted and low in the mix for artistic effect. MBV for example are making an artistic statement about noise vs. melody. They are expressing a thought/feeling without words being really necessary. The words just help to contextualize the specific meaning of their songs, and add an abstract quality.

        For all you tl;dr folks skipping to the end, my thoughts here can be summed up by saying that lyrics are necessary for contemporary music to express thoughts and feelings, and that better lyrics often lead to better art. They are important to have audible because then we can hear the commentary that the music makes and place it as a cultural document. When the lyrics are inaudible, this is also an artistic expression that figures into cultural relevancy. I find that pitchfork often judges too heavily based on how culturally relevant music is. Groups like MBV that expressed the disconnected feelings of the independent music scene of the early 90s, and modern musicians like Joanna Newsom reflect the folky zeitgeist of the late 00s and also the yearning for music outside of the guitar-bass-drums narrative, so they receive large amounts of critical acclaim from sites like pitchfork.
        Great lyrics should not be the only focus of your music, but too many modern groups think that they can make powerful music with the lyrics buried in the mix.

        • >If we look back to the early history of music, we see that a lot of music
          >was around mainly to facilitate stories and poetry.

          This is true. However, I don’t really like most of this music. It’s the reason why I can’t stand the traditional music of my own country too. It has too much attention on the lyrics, and less on the actual music. I need music to get “high” without drugs. But I can’t do that when the music is overpowered by a whining singer. Which is why I like Classical music, I guess. The humans shut up, and you can enjoy the actual music.

          This is of course not always true. There are some bands, that their vocals are incorporated to the song’s melody so much, that they don’t get in the way — in fact, they drive the music’s melody. For example, Franz Ferdinand. The White Stripes. These, I can take.

          >lyrics are necessary for contemporary music
          >to express thoughts and feelings

          Yes. But.

          My problem with the subject at hand is that Newsom is doing the same mistake as the other groups you’re mentioning doing the exact opposite: she puts too much attention on the lyrics, and NONE on the music itself. It’s one thing to say that “lyrics are important”, but another having an artist putting ALL the attention on the lyrics and have non-existent music. This works both ways in your critique.

          >too many modern groups think that they can make
          >powerful music with the lyrics buried in the mix

          Wild Nothing’s album was very powerful to me this year, and I don’t understand a word of what he sings under all that reverb. The emotions created by his music, the feelings of longing of another time, are very strong. To me, his music speaks to me, even if his words aren’t.

          Then again, I’m a visual person (I’m a filmmaker), not someone who needs words and blah-blah. Music creates images to my mind, and transports me to past experiences. But I have to do that with music itself, not vocals. The vocals *distract me* from getting transported. Here I have this human getting in the way with his/her whining about some sh*t again. That’s how I feel about it. And I think it explains why I don’t like Newsom’s music. Because it doesn’t work as music for me. Maybe it works as poetry, but not as music. Her voice and singing gets in the way. Especially when there’s no music to speak about in the background anyway.

  12. lord knows things would be more interesting if we lived in a world were everyone agreed about everything. reminds me a bit of kate bush. nice phrasing.

  13. This is absolutely beautiful music. I am not sure I would ever have this playing in my car, etc. but it is hard to argue against it being awesome.

  14. woozefa  |   Posted on Aug 19th, 2010 0

    i think it’s great that she decided to show up in black and white for the first song.

  15. She is a beautiful young lady who is not afraid to do her own thing musically.
    Soft as chalk is wonderful it flies all over the map yet remains connected somehow.
    The harp playing in the book of right on is right on.
    I would love to ride on her back during any of her performances to experience the gift she has been given.

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