© 2023 Connecticut Public

FCC Public Inspection Files:
WPKT · WRLI-FM · WEDW-FM · Public Files Contact
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

'Have One': From Joanna Newsom, A Generous Thing

Clocking in at more than two hours on three discs, Joanna Newsom's new CD can't help but feel ambitious; what you don't feel, even listening to the songs that unfurl for five or six or nine minutes, is that she's self-indulgent. Have One on Me consists of a series of meditations on the shifting moods within a romance, with songs detailing scenes of riding horses in the country or describing dreams. In part because of the otherworldly urgency of the music, Newsom is one of the few people who can get away with chronicling her nocturnal reveries without sounding like a stream-of-consciousness bore. Quite the contrary.

Newsom sings with a delicate precision, in a high trill. When combined with her piano and her harp and melodies that twist and swirl, she has drawn comparisons to everyone from Joni Mitchell to a wood nymph. She says in one song that she yearns for "easiness," but whether she's talking about her love life or constructing the elaborate architecture of verses that tower like skyscrapers only to evaporate into clouds, Newsom's music is rarely easy.

At one point on Have One on Me, Newsom sings, "Give love a little shove and it becomes terror." In a different song, she repeats the phrase "Love you again" over and over and over until the words become abstract — accented syllables of a certain delirious beauty.

I'm usually pretty impatient with the musings of a meandering romantic, but the more I listened, the more I realized I was wrong to characterize Newsom and her music in this way. It possesses both narrative heft and a slippery speediness. Over 18 songs of art-rock, Newsom proves extravagant, brainy and inexhaustible — just the sort of companion you'd like on a long trip into the uncharted territory she creates here.

Copyright 2022 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

Ken Tucker reviews rock, country, hip-hop and pop music for Fresh Air. He is a cultural critic who has been the editor-at-large at Entertainment Weekly, and a film critic for New York Magazine. His work has won two National Magazine Awards and two ASCAP-Deems Taylor Awards. He has written book reviews for The New York Times Book Review and other publications.

Stand up for civility

This news story is funded in large part by Connecticut Public’s Members — listeners, viewers, and readers like you who value fact-based journalism and trustworthy information.

We hope their support inspires you to donate so that we can continue telling stories that inform, educate, and inspire you and your neighbors. As a community-supported public media service, Connecticut Public has relied on donor support for more than 50 years.

Your donation today will allow us to continue this work on your behalf. Give today at any amount and join the 50,000 members who are building a better—and more civil—Connecticut to live, work, and play.