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20 Watts Reviews Joanna Newsom’s Have One On Me by Irina Dvalidze

Joanna Newsom releases her third studio album Have One On Me

PREVIEW: VISIT Joanna Newsom’s MySpace
WE GIVE IT: 16/20 Watts

Joanna Newsom has been well known for her exceptional songwriting skills, quirky persona and harp proficiency. While she may not be every music lover’s ideal match, this undeniably gifted Californian can be credited for rescuing the harp medium from hotel room lobbies and your grandmother’s dinner-table music library. While claiming credit for all those achievements, it has been over 4 years since her last studio album.  Luckily, after several false alarms, the wait is finally over with Have One On Me.

All we can say is that the time was well worth it, with an album spanning over three discs and two hours and eight minutes. If nothing else, the release is completely massive, containing a mindboggling amount of pieces. What is even more interesting about the album is that it actually puts all of this space to good use. It has variety, great beats, memorable melodies and more importantly, it is never boring. Quite an accomplishment for a two hour album.

Newsom’s voice is absolutely captivating. It is unusually refreshing, with a capacity for both extremely vocal notes and mellow/raspy jazzy arrangements. Tracks “Good Intentions Paving Company” and “Easy” are a perfect example of Newsom’s range as an artist. She maintains her signature avant garde qualities retaining a mass appeal.  The entire album is incredibly melodic and natural. It is a light, simple listen dominated with hushed tones and low tunes, only occasionally laced with high notes where necessary.

Lyrically minimalistic, the record relies  primarily on melodies for range.  The lyrics are secondary to the melodies to such an extent that they become unnoticeable at times, merely supporting the melancholy tunes that captive the listeners.

Have One On Me balances a variety of sounds, all of which are evident throughout. Newsom gathers a bevy of sounds– you can hear everything from smoky, room cabaret tunes to Japanese influenced melodies, to what sounds like a much needed update to Lord of the Rings soundtrack.

The entire release stays true to Newsom’s artistic capabilities while retaining her commercial appeal. It is full of simply beautiful music that doesn’t require much effort from the listener. It flows through smoothly as a nice backdrop to a relaxing day.

–Irina Dvalidze

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Editor’s Pick #199: Golden Shoulders’ “Mountain” by 20watts
If the O.C. was still around, Golden Shoulders would dominate the soundtrack

If The O.C. were still around, Golden Shoulders would own the soundtrack

PREVIEW: DOWNLOAD Golden Shoulders’ “Mountain” from goldenshoulders.com

Calling Alexandra Patsavas!  I think I just discovered the most teen-soap-ready California-pop ever penned.  It has the jangly guitar line — the cooing back-up vocals — the urgent mid-track crescendos — it’s basically like a more obscure version of half the tracks on The O.C. Mix 2.

The song is “Mountain” and it comes to us, unsurprisingly, from California: the Nevada City collective Golden Shoulders have been writing ’70s-tinged retro-pop since the early 2000s.  The band has no set line-up, apart from frontman Adam Kline.  Joanna Newsom spent some time with them, as did Marc Snegg, the founder of Grass Roots Record Co.  And if that Joanna Newsom tie isn’t enough to pique your interest, consider this: Golden Shoulders play all of their shows without electricity  (no mics, amps, etc.), a feat that few other bands can claim to have attempted.

Fans of Nada Surf, Rogue Wave, The Thrills and The 88 — you will dig this.

— Caitlin Dewey, editor in chief