down in the green hay where monkey & bear usually lay
UPDATE: So, allegedly, this leak came from a secret directory hosted over at Pitchfork. Oops. How come I never got the invite for that thing?
Someone had told him the bear had been sneaking
away to the seaside caverns to bathe.
And the thought troubled the monkey,
for he was afraid of spelunking down in those caves.
Also afraid what the village people would say,
if they saw the bear in that state.
--Joanna Newsom, from "Monkey & Bear"
Someone sent me Joanna Newsom's Ys this evening, and it's absolutely everything I hoped it would be. Van Dyke Parks' impeccable orchestral arrangements never overpower Joanna's songs; her voice and harp still sit front and center, right where they belong. I won't turn this in to a boring album review, but my favorite song, after about 5 listens, is "Monkey & Bear." Its beautiful (and at times playful) woodwind and string arrangements, coupled with Joanna's whimsical lyrics, recall something from another time...a 1940s Disney cartoon, maybe. I'm sure some people will be bothered by the length of the songs ("Monkey & Bear" is 9:28), but Joanna's unique narrative style and distinctive phrasing leave me completely enchanted and enthralled throughout. This album tugs at the heartstrings like nothing since the first time I heard The Milk-Eyed Mender. But like with Mender, I'm never fully able to grasp how Joanna's able to do it. Without question one of my favorite releases of the year.