Joanna Newsom Retrospective



Wood nymph.” “Teething infant.” A “faerie [who has] a squeaky voice that sounds like it’s been stepped on.”

These are but a few of the ways journalists and other content curmudgeons have characterized the songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Joanna Newsom. If I didn’t know better, I’d think these writers were describing a woman with the disposition and fortitude of an especially helpless Disney princess.

But no, the object of their dainty diction is a woman who plays brain-melting solos with only one hand on a million-stringed contraption the size of a small dinosaur while the other hand plucks out shapeshifting polyrhythms in time signatures so tangled they demand three or more semesters of calculus to comprehend, as poetry worthy of T.S. Eliot is propelled into the stratosphere by Beyonce-caliber vocal runs delivered with the splendor and swagger of Kate Bush then tethered back to Earth with pedal footwork so intricate it would trip up Michael Jackson — or, at the very least, Justin Timberlake...

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