I need to get this out early in my review because I'll be dying to say it at every turn for the next hundred or more words: Ys is the one of the (if not the) best albums of 2006. It's an hour of excitement, beauty, creepiness, fairy-tales and witches brew, and most importantly, simple and pure perfection.
Joanna Newsom is one daring woman. The whole singer-songwriter-with-a-harp-and-a-voice-like-a-child-elf thing was enough to talk about when Milk Eyed Mender came out. She conquered the "what the fuck is this?" questions, and for some, she was a brilliant songwriter. People heard her voice and either loved her or hated her. This time Newsom goes a step further and as if you haven't heard already, made a 55-minute record that consists of 5 songs. Yes, that means there are a few songs on the lengthy side. But for those of you who are scared of a 16-minute song, do not fear. You won't notice, you won't care, and most of all, like said before, you won't care. The songs are too engaging and too wonderful to give a shit. They are more like stories that twist like Chubby Checker. And if you've never given Joanna a chance after hearing "Sprout And The Bean," then at least listen for Van Dyke Park's wonderful arrangements.
The sound of Ys is fairly consistent. Think of this: watch Snow White on mute and try to think of music that could explain its mood, story, and overtly visual creepiness. The music is somewhat cartoonish, but in the best possible way. That sounds awful to you? Well I can't imagine anyone making fun of any song on Sgt. Pepper's, but songs like "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds," "She Leaving Home," and "Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite," invoke the same beautiful playfulness that is so cleverly implemented in Newsom's brilliant harp infused stories.
It seems as though there aren't many people who think Joanna Newsom is "okay." You either love Joanna Newsom or you hate her. It's life's biggest debate. Hell, I haven't talked to my brother since February because of this great dispute. He's a hater. I'm a lover, and this Thanksgiving we will be talking to each for the first time. I'm sure we'll have a lot to talk about when I give him Ys. It's the best album of 2006. Period.