Best Albums of the 00s: Ys

Ys - Joanna Newsom (2006)

The second album by Joanna Newsom is the seventh in my chronological review of albums from the last ten years. The 2006 album is called Ys and is pronounced like the plural form of the fifth letter of the alphabet. The album only contains five songs but comes in at just under the sixty minute mark; the shortest track is seven minutes long. It is, therefore, an album in the proper sense of the term and not the collection of singles that has become the norm in the digital age. In addition, Newsom abandons traditional rock instrumentation as she herself is a harpist and four of the tracks feature full orchestration arranged by the man who worked with the Beach Boys, Van Dyke Parks. In this way, Ys has more in common with albums like Pet Sounds and Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks than it does with contemporary ones

To further emphasise this link to the past, the album was recorded using analogue technology and mixed to tape and mastered at Abbey Road studios. Mind you, I’m sure you would have guessed all of this by simply glancing at the album cover. Unsurprisingly, this is not an album that jumps out at you on first listen with its hooks and choruses. Instead, it sounds like a relic of the past that has just been uncovered. Its mixture of folk and classical elements coupled with Newsom’s otherworldly voice might not be for everyone, but it’s certainly worth checking out if you haven’t come across it before. Some brave fellow named Christopher Perdue gets a little lost in the album’s opener. Have a listen to his take on a song named after Joanna’s sister that is only 11 minutes long and doesn’t do the song justice:

Emily (Joanna Newsom cover) – Christopher Perdue


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