Tuesday, November 14, 2006

You Know, Pitchfork Really Isn't So Bad

After giving 4 stars to Weezer's 'Make Believe'—which is literally the worst album I've ever heard—and then giving 5 stars to YET ANOTHER Bob Dylan record, I thought Rolling Stone had really completely sold the last of the few journalistic credentials it had left, and cemented its position as a transparent arm of the Recording Industry, in all of its most frightfully conservative capitalist baby-boomer aspects. Its job now seems to consist in giving rave reviews—seemingly without going to the trouble of listening to the material first—to established moneymakers, and ignoring altogether everyone below, say, the level of fame associated with performing on Saturday Night Live. If nothing else, the LAST thing they seemed capable of doing, under any circumstances, was publishing a negative review.

Well I stand corrected. It turns out they do sometimes give out bad reviews, but only to masterpieces.

Just when I thought there wasn't any deeper for them to dive in the waters of irrelevance.


Blogger Cary said...

This may be a surprising post, coming from me.

First, let me say that I totally agree with your assessment of the RS review. It's completely asinine.

On the other hand, I absolutely don't know what to make of the Newsom record. It's obviously not pop music, which is fine. Greg and I were discussing the fact that Ys is closer to a Barber/Rorem-Anderson/Bush hybrid than anything else. But I just don't know how successful the record is as any kind of record, pop, pseudo-classical, modernist or otherwise.

To be sure, my blockages about lyrics probably prevent me from really digging in here, and I certainly hope that I will come to embrace and love this record in time as I did with The Milk-eyed Mender.

But my first listen left me doubtful that that can happen. Hopefully I'll change my mind, as Newsom is undeniably a major talent, and I want to love her every step of the way. If nothing else, I give her credit for not resting on her laurels.

How's everyone (anyone?) else taking to it?

1:55 AM  
Blogger Will said...

I feel compelled to give it a few more listens before I make any sort of declarations about it, but after a first exposure, I'm at least sure that I like it. It is different, in more than just the obvious ways, from Milk-Eyed Mender, but no less poignant, I'd say. I have a lot of half-formed, more academic thoughts that I'll test against my future listens and share later, but I know, for sure, right now, that I was emotionally shaken by it, and that gut-blow first reaction ultimately counts for more (for me) than any analytical defense I might concoct in the wake of more studious listening.

Final word, for now: given what I knew, going in, about the arrangements, and the lyrical content, and the thematic inspiration, etc., I really wasn't expecting to have an emotional response at all. I was predicting the music would be as spindly and shy and inscrutable and other-worldly as the cover art suggests. So to give it its first spin and feel at many points like I was hearing a cathartic and soul-baring document, one that was very often rattling my bones with its passion and sincerity, was a major and wonderful surprise for me.

12:43 PM  
Blogger Cary said...


I was an idiot for having weighed in so quickly. I'm learning how to hear the record now and have listened to it almost non-stop since getting it. It remains a departure from MEM, which is a good thing, and consequently I don't expecct that it will resonate with me in the same way. But I'm hearing all of the melodies and musical ideas that I couldn't make sense of on first listen. And I'm singing along to them to, which I thought impossible at first.

12:17 AM  
Blogger Tyson said...

I don't have the album yet, but I did just go see her perform last week. She played Bridges and Balloons, then the new album in its entirety. My initial reaction was positive, but maybe a little quizzical. I liked it, but it was very odd hearing drums (and saw) with harp. To say nothing of song-length. Kind of surprisingly, I was less than wholly positive on the lyrics, which I loved on MEM. I dunno. The whole experience really made me want to listen to the record again, on headphones. Probably a good thing

7:24 AM  

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