Bridges and BalloonsJoanna Newsom
The Sprout and the Bean
There always seems to be one new band or artist floating around in the world of pop culture that seems specifically manufactured to piss me off. Every time I crack open a Rolling Stone
I find some band topping the charts that is so horrible it brings on an overall drop in my level of faith in humanity. Recently I have moved on from bitterly ranting to anyone who would listen about She Wants Revenge, and have found a new band to hate.
Panic! At The Disco, aside from having an awful, generic, train hopping name and playing a sickening brand of emo mall pop with cutesy Nightmare Before Hot Topic pseudo-goth undertones (and not to mention lyrics seemingly ripped from the worst livejournal ever written), are made up of mind numbingly stupid band members. I understood as I was reading the interview with their guitarist-lyricist that he was only 19, but I know plenty of 19 year olds in bands and I’m pretty sure none of them would cite Blink 182 as their biggest influence. Or refer to MXPX, Third Eye Blind and Counting Crows as some of their favorite bands. Or have “Kiss Me” by Sixpence None the Richer as their ringtone. Or count a literary hoax as one of their favorite authors. And I’m pretty sure the kids that I know that are 19 or younger, if they happened to like Joanna Newsom would not say “I just got into this girl who plays harp and sings really strange.”
Just the tone of that comment got so under my skin, the dripping of hipster cool, like he was letting me in on some underground secret or something. But then I thought about it, and I guess for a lot of people reading Rolling Stone
… Joanna Newsom probably is a secret. So maybe my anger doesn’t really stem from anything Panic! At The Disco has said or done, but more the fact that a boy band with guitars is being profiled in Rolling Stone
in the first place, while someone as talented as Joanna Newsom toils in semi-obscurity.
They say in film that the greatest critique is to not say anything, but to just make a better movie. So I’ll end my diatribe now and just abruptly shift into how wonderful Joanna Newsom is. I’m sure a lot of people already have these two songs; they’re both from her 2004 album The Milk-Eyed Mender
, but hopefully some of you haven’t had the pleasure and I can pass on to you one of the most unique musical treasures of the last couple years.
“Bridges and Balloons” is a song that seems to have reached that instant standard status Jeff wrote about last week
. It’s already been covered by a number of bands, including the Decemberists, and it’s easy to see why. I might not be smart enough to keep up with a lot of her lyrics, but my lack of literacy doesn’t dull the emotional connection she’s able to create in both “Bridges” and Milk-Eyed Mender
's single “The Sprout and the Bean”.
A lot of writers and reviewers tend to try to define Joanna by her quirkiness. Yes, she plays the harp and assorted other unconventional instruments; yes, her lyrics can be bizarre; and yes, she possesses a distinctly odd singing voice, untrained and childlike (and, I think, kind of sexy. But maybe I’m just sick.) but all of these things are inconsequential. What makes Joanna special, what sets her apart from her avant/anti/psych-folk peers and light years ahead of flavor of the month bands like Panic! At The Disco is that she simply writes great songs. Enchanting, magical songs, that will feel timeless for years to come, even if it’s not her “really strange” voice that’s singing them.
to buy The Milk-Eyed Mender