Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Joanna Newsom & the Ys Street Band EP

I hate stop-gap releases. The whole idea of cashing in on the success of a breakthrough record really bugs me. Of course, we all know by now that Ys was one of the best records of 2006 (technically the sixth best according to my little list), so it came as no surprise to see Joanna Newsom releasing a 3 song EP containing 1 new song and 2 re-recorded old ones. What did surprise me is how good the 2 older songs came out in their new versions. Newsom turns The Milk-Eyed Mender standout "Clam, Crab, Cockle, Cowrie" into a beautiful male-female duet that reminded me how much I love not only that song, but that record. The other old song is "Cosmia", the show-stopping finale of Ys. What is interesting is that Newsom and her touring band have taken what is by far the shortest song on Ys (6 1/2 minutes) and stretched it out to over 13 minutes. The added instrumentation is taking Newsom into wonderfully uncharted territory that I am hoping she continues to explore. And it should go without saying that the new song "Colleen" is fantastic, a sprightly little number with Newsom doing vocal acrobatics over plucked banjo, accordion and her intricate harp line. The whole thing will only run you 4 bucks on iTunes anyway, so what's the harm? And how can you resist anything with a title as cheeky as the Ys Street Band?

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