Head to NPR for a great podcast session with Joanna Newsom, where she spins some songs near to heart and answers questions about Van Dyke Parks, her songwriting process, and the influence her chosen artists have had on her writing.
It’s a great listen for most of its 37 minutes, but when she got talking about Lindsey Buckingham, we were all over it. She begins with telling us how she is introduced to new music (alas, not Stereogum) and moves on to Lindsey:
Definitely I rely on good friends to put music in my hands. Lindsey is an obvious choice for me, ’cause I’ve been pretty obsessed with Fleetwood Mac for years. There was a year in high school where I made a rule that I’d only listen to Fleetwood Mac. It sounds insane … but I’m not making that up. I think it’s a group of actual geniuses … I also love solo Lindsey Buckingham. And this record I was really nervous about. Any time someone’s been making music for that long, I start to be nervous that they’re going to start making an awrful record or two. But this Lindsay record is always at least interesting, and usually, in my opinion, really really good.
A woman after our own hearts. Here’s the tracklist for what DJ Joanna spun, with some of her elaborative commentary.
1. “I Think It’s Going To Rain Today” – Randy Newman
“The string section in the middle is probably the most perfect string section ever written in a pop song. The song is one of the most perfect pop songs ever written. [The string section] moves really gracefully and without feeling pastiche. It moves from achingly romantic feeling to this sort of angular, really strident, new American music sound … a certain sort of chromaticism you immediately relate … Van Dyke Parks produced the record, which is another reason I love it.”
2. “Laurel Canyon Boulevard” – Van Dyke Parks
“I handed [the process] over for him to make arrangements, although it took many many drafts for it to get to something we both resonated with. I handed him a manifesto of what I wanted the record to sound like. But he definitely wrote the arrangements.”
3. “Monkey And Bear” – Joanna Newsom
“[Parks] knows the meaning of the songs … it’s not terribly important that my intended meaning be explicitly knowable to the listener, but I think that for this kind of collaboration, it was important that Van Dyke understood a lot of the understory because he was committed to sort of reiterating and reinforcing and substantiating the story with his scores.”
4. “Shut Us Down” – Lindsey Buckingham
5. “Next Time Around” – Sandy Denny
“If you asked me what appealed to me about each of those songs, I’d have too many other things to gussy about other than [the fact that the songs don’t have typical verse-chorus structure] … One of her incredible gifts was just an unbelievable melodist. I don’t think there are many other people making music … like this. Almost like Paul McCartney … and the interval separating each progressive note of her melody is so incredibly deliberate. It’s like carving out a sculpture. It manages to feel fluid and intuitive, yet from a compositional perspective it is just unbelievably ambitious or interesting and reaches such incredible heights.”
6. Joanna Newsom – “Only Skin”
Tune in to the podcast for the story of how her music got to Will Oldham and the folks at Drag City, her thoughts on Steve Albini, and how she came to accept the unique quality of her voice. Mostly, tune in to fall even more deeply in love with her.