One of last years most confusing releases for me was Joanna Newsom’s Ys. Almost half a year after first hearing it, I’m still unable to resolve my mixed feelings, or come to any real conclusions abouts. Part of me can’t help but admire Newsom; she’s clearly a skilled harpist and vocalist, and she’s doing something genuinely different than any other musician currently performing. At the same time, however, I can’t help but think this style has been around for hundreds of years; how can one woman simply follow a set of musical guidelines that have been in place for centuries, and suddenly be hailed as great? It just seems so pretentious to me.
I was hoping that Newsom’s latest release, Joanna Newsom & The Ys Street Band EP would bring some sort of enlightenment to me. Unfortunately, it’s only confuses me more. Ys Street Band is composed of just three tracks; two Ys-style tracks(‘Colleen’, and an alternate version of ‘Cosmia’), and one folk song from her debut (‘Clam, Crab, Cockle, Cowrie’). While ‘Colleen’ and ‘Cosmia’ are perfectly enjoyable, I can’t help but feel the same way about these tracks as I did Ys. It’s ‘Clam, Crab, Cockle, Cowries’ that captures my attention. It’s a Sufjan-style folk song, and Joanna performs it beautifully. It’s so sweet, so simple, that it makes the other two tracks seem all that much more pretentious. Why can’t Newsom do more tracks like these?