Photo courtesy of Papermag
From "Easy," the album's first track, it's immediately obvious that Have One on Me is not like Joanna Newsom's other work; it's much easier on the ears. In other words, it's less weird.
As the title suggests, Have One on Me is inviting-- it's Newsom's most accessible album yet. The added orchestration makes songs like "Good Intentions Paving Co." lush and catchy, while those with just harp or piano accompaniment ("Go Long," "Occident") remain simple (although simple is a relative term when it comes to Newsom) and charming. Her voice is sweeter, more refined. In general, things are a lot quieter than they were before. Prettier. Tamer.
For some, this change will come as a betrayal. To the fans who revere Joanna for her off-the-beaten-track sound, Have One on Me may seem too processed, too easy. One review on iTunes likened listening to Newsom's last album, Ys, to "getting your milk straight from the cow. Ys was a nice fantasy package of the world in her head. This one just feels like pen to paper... nothing to wind around your finger." There is more thought on Have One on Me, for better or worse. It’s clearly carefully planned and more filtered, and at times there is a hesitation in Newsom's voice as if she's just become aware that she's performing for an audience.
But while Have One on Me is a deviation from her previous material, the album is a triumph. Each song is remarkably beautiful and captivating in a unique way. The album shows true progress for Newsom as an artist, and promise for what we can expect from her in the future.
Tonight NPR will be streaming Newsom’s concert live from Washington, D.C. Tune in here at 9 PM ET.