If Joanna Newsom were a Jeopardy answer, the question might be: “Who is the most highly-regarded indie rock harpist in the world?”
Since the age of four, she’s been plucking strings, a talent she pairs with a memorizing voice on the four albums she’s released through the label Drag City. Newsom’s music is millennial baroque, a rich and graceful sound punctuated by hyper-intelligent lyrics. On Divers, her newest record, songs feature allusions to things like Ozymandias and the Lenape Native American tribe. These wide-ranging references ultimately serve as a clever prism through which she speaks about universal themes like love and mortality.
[jump] There’s really no wrong way to inhabit Newsom’s music, whether you’re sharing first kisses in a dorm room or taking the scenic route on a drive down the coast. The world she has built across albums like Have One On Me and Ys is an expansively serene and cerebral soundscape. That said, the best way to experience Newsom may be at one of her shows, where you can bear witness to the power of her voice and the elegant melodies she coaxes from the mighty innards of her harp.
It’s not a surprise to learn that she will follow her show at the Fox Theater in Oakland with a performance at Big Sur’s Henry Miller Library next month. The landscape of Big Sur is attuned to what makes Newsom's music so extraordinary: it’s profound, and palliative, and evergreen.
To celebrate Newsom's arrival to the Bay — and to introduce the uninitiated to her sound — here is a very biased list of the best songs from each of her four albums.
Joanna Newsom plays at 7:30 p.m., Sunday, March 27, at The Fox Theater in Oakland. More info here.
“The Book of Right On” from The Milk-Eyed Mender (2004)
“Cosmia” from Ys (2006)
“In California” from Have One On Me (2010)
“Pin Light Bent” from Divers (2015)