Joanna Newsom.

I’m listening to the aptly named Joanna Newsom sing her crazy songs. Her new album, Ys, borders on total brilliance. Newsom is a harpist and her incredible voice, wavering and pitching and heaving in the waves of her music, sounds like the harp she plays. The songs are orchestrally constructed, full of sweeping violins, plucking chords, and a rare backup chorale. It’s almost as if Newsom came down to our unholy earth and blessed us with these tidy morsels of overwrought, delightful Viking lust.
Kind of a cross between Kate Bush, Bjork, Sufjan Stevens, and a range of new music recording artists, the new album is phenomenally produced. Steve Albini, who produced some of my all-time favorite bands (The Pixies, Godspeed You Black Emperor!, Superchunk, The Breeders, Fugazi, PJ Harvey and others) also produced one of the tracks on this little masterpiece. Newsom signed with my fave new label, Drag City, and she worked with Jim O’Rourke on the mix. It’s a bit of total turtle soup: there’s Jews Harp, electric guitar, harpy harp, cymbals, and a cameo of a singer that sounds like Nick Cave (it’s Smog’s Bill Callahan). The whole thing is just rattling around in my tin brain. It’s a rock opera for sad men, a siren call for mermaids, a plaintive cry for long commutes and desperate sonic youth.