My sweet Gelfling

Wow, this album is amazing. I didn't really care all that much for the milk eyed mender, i prefer my twee to be from somewhere in the UK, or just on {K}.

But this is spectacular - It makes me want to play endless hours of D&D in the middle of a winter's field, drenched in icy warm sunlight, drinking that drink from Narnia w/ my close companions the Rooster, the Monkey, the Bear, the Donkey, the little little chickadee and the the momma cow.

I haven't felt like this since i discovered "babes in the wood" by The Steve Miller Band.


Tmoore said...

3. Sawdust And Diamonds

From the top of the flight
Of the wide, white stairs
Through the rest of my life
Do you wait for me there?

There's a bell in my ears
There's a wide white roar
Drop a bell down the stairs
Hear it fall forevermore

Drop a bell off of the dock
Blot it out in the sea
Drowning mute as a rock;
Sounding mutiny

There's a light in the wings
Hits this system of strings
From the side while they swing;
See the wires, the wires, the wires

And the articulation
In our elbows and knees
Makes us buckle as we couple in endless increase
As the audience admires

And the little white dove
Made with love, made with love:
Made with glue, and a glove, and some pliers

Swings a low sickle arc
From its perch in the dark
Settle down
Settle down my desire

And the moment I slept I was swept up in a terrible tremor
Though no longer bereft, how I shook and I couldn't remember

Then the furthermost shake drove a murdering stake in
And cleft me right down through my center
And I shouldn't say so, but I know that it was then, or never

Push me back into a tree
Bind my buttons with salt
Fill my long ears with bees
Praying: please, please, please,
Love, you ought not!
No you ought not!

Then the system of strings tugs on the tip of my wings
(cut from cardboard and old magazines)
Makes me warble and rise like a sparrow
And in the place where I stood, there is a circle of wood
A cord or two, which you chop and you stack in your barrow

It is terribly good to carry water and chop wood
Streaked with soot, heavy booted and wild-eyed;
As I crash through the rafters
And the ropes and pulleys trail after
And the holiest belfry burns sky-high

Then the slow lip of fire moves across the prairie with precision
While, somewhere, with your pliers and glue you make your first incision
And in a moment of almost-unbearable vision
Doubled over with the hunger of lions
'Hold me close', cooed the dove
Who was stuffed, now, with sawdust and diamonds

I wanted to say: why the long face?
Sparrow, perch and play songs of long face
Burro, buck and bray songs of long face!
Sing: I will swallow your sadness and eat your cold clay
Just to lift your long face

And though it may be madness, I will take to the grave
Your precious longface
And though our bones they may break, and our souls separate
- why the long face?
And though our bodies recoil from the grip of the soil
- why the long face?

In the trough of the waves
Which are pawing like dogs
Pitch we, pale-faced and grave,
As I write in my log

Then I hear a noise from the hull
Seven days out to sea
And it is the damnable bell!

And it tolls - well, I believe, that it tolls - for me!
It tolls for me!

Though my wrists and my waist seemed so easy to break
Still, my dear, I would have walked you to the very edge of the water
And they will recognise all the lines of your face
In the face of the daughter of the daughter of my daughter

Darling, we will be fine, but what was yours and mine
Appears to be a sandcastle that the gibbering wave takes
But if it's all just the same, then will you say my name:
Say my name in the morning, so I know when the wave breaks?

I wasn't born of a whistle or milked from a thistle at twilight
No, I was all horns and thorns, sprung out fully formed, knock-kneed and upright
So: enough of this terror
We deserve to know light
And grow evermore lighter and lighter
You would have seen me through
But I could not undo that desire

Oh-oh, oh-oh-oh desire
Oh-oh, oh-oh-oh desire
Oh-oh, oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh desire

From the top of the flight
Of the wide, white stairs
Through the rest of my life
Do you wait for me there?


I mean, wow. I want to hear an album of Newsom/Oldham duets.

the le duo said...

what album? what the fuck are you talking about? who are you talking about? what am I swearing about?

nick said...

Can't you just hear that Albini production? Those drums just sound so HUGE...

casey said...

Suddenly everyone is down with this record. A month ago, all I heard were groans.

And why isn't anyone talking about Van Dyke Parks' Disney-style string arrangements?

Tmoore said...

I dig his arrangements - this whole album is such a lovely work of personal fantasy.

I didn't hear any groans - i heard Ben H, talking it up a month ago, but since i wasn't a fan of her other albums i put it off till yesterday, what a pleasant suprise :)

Emily said...


from emily

Tmoore said...

there we go.

Josh said...

No groans here--both Faith and Alana have been doing cartwheels for months over this, so it's like I had my own personal Pitchfork (with gymnastics)! Haven't heard it yet, but you can bet yr sweet bippy I'm snagging a copy from PP tonight, and I'm rockin' it all the way back to Sin City (at least as much as a harp and orchestral arrangements will allow me to rock). Any album including VDP, O'Rourke, and Albini in the liner notes is sure to heat up all of my happy places, so hopefully I don't off the road. Have you checked out the article on her in the lastest issue of Wire? Schwing! Amazing what growing out hipster bangs will do for a girl. (No offense to all you girls with the hipster bangs.)

Tmoore said...

Great article, i figured her for a bit of a hippy dippy "Like, stars and flowers talked to me, and I said, like, i'll play you a song on my magical harp"

She sounds grounded and friendly - also quite informed:

R: Can you tell me where 'Ys' the title comes from?

J: Yeah, I can say where that came from. Basically it's a reference to the island in Breton mythology that existed off the coast off, I forget what it was called, begins with a D, somewhere of the coast of Brittany. But it was a city built upon an island, surrounded by a wall, and the basic story was that the wall was breached and the city was flooded, but there are several myths surrounding that. The most common is that the king built the city as a present for his daughter, and then the daugher proceeded to decline into a state of complete hedonism and decadence, and the poepple of the city followed in her footsteps. And the most extreme version of the story that I've heard involved her taking a new lover every night. And when she's done with him, putting this mask on him... Oh, I guess she puts the mask on him in the evening, so she doesn't even have to see his face throughout. But the mask has these prongs that come out when she's done with him, and kill him. And then she throws his dead body over the walls of the city and goes about her business. And then one day a man comes to call on her, and she falls in love with him because of his great beauty - and some versions imply that he's the devil - and other versions imply that he's this messenger of righteousness, come to visit her punishment on her. But she falls in love with him, and he convinces her to take the keys to the city from her father, and she either unlocks the door, or he unlocks the door to the city. But regardless, it floods. And her father the king escapes and tries to take her with him on the back of this magical horse that can run on water, but a saint - I think - refuses to let her go, every time he lifts her onto the horse, she's forced to get off again, and is forced to stay and perish with the city. And then she becomes a harpy figure who lures sailors to their deaths with her singing.
But my reasons for choosing it as the title for my record are many. I chose it because there were five or six different layers of meaning, from superficial or circumstantial, down to extremely specific. And I don't want to align myself too closely with certain parts of the story, because some reasons for choosing that as the title have nothing to do with the story itself but more to do with my thinking surrounding the story, like, one thing I was thinking about at a certain point in the process was the inquiry into the places whre Christianity came and erased a true story. Because I think when you read through this myth, you can see remnants or shadows of what it may have been in its original form, which of course would have been a pagan, Druid myth. And you can almost feel, although they're just out of reach, you can perceive distantly these spots where you can feel there used to be something else there. The story used to be different. And I think in a way maybe this record connects with what I imagine to be the actual pre-Christian myth, than I do connect with the Christianised, sterilised, morally upstanding of the myth that remains. But certainly I relate it also to the themme of the city going under the water, cos that's a pervasive theme throughout this entire record, of songs reachig their resolution - some of them don't resolve, but they reach a climax, or, they reach a point where something goes under the water, something drowns of sinks or floods, or changes beneath the water, and the water is a huge force of changing and starting over, and destruction. And also there's a big theme of fecundity and harvest and fertility, and also the excess of those things. I associate water with that as well - a flooding idea. And also, the original thing is that I was dreaming about the letter Y and the letter S, and I knew that I wanted the record title to contain those two letters - it just felt immediately right. That had to be what it was, no matter what.

Josh said...

Yeah, I've thought the same thing in regards to her intellect. I stumbled upon an interview with her on one of the music critic websites (unfortunately, I can't remember which one). It was conducted right after she released Milk-Eyed Mender(so she had to be around 22), and I was blown away by her ability to convey these very complex thoughts and observations so seamlessly and effortlessly. She seemed to possess the wisdom of someone twice her age. And these were responses to face-to-face, on-the-spot questions, too. Anyway, I'm pumped to listen to the album; it's really the only release I've been looking forward to this fall. (Yeah, semicolon!) I was relieved when I read that you were digging it, because I was afraid it was all just hype (see Boys and Girls in America). BTW, my word verification is "urknasm." Sweet.

greg davis said...

im not really feeling this album yet.
too long winded and rhapsodical for me. plus i dont like the consistency of the arrangements. almost always harp / voice / strings or chamber orchestra. not enough variations / usage of sounds for the ambition / palette used here. also im not a lyrics guy, so im probably missing a big part of it.

if i wanna hear van dyke parks' good music, ill listen to his 'song cycle' from 1968. way better than Ys.

orourke and albini are just name recognition for the album.

im also still not won over by joanna's voice. but then again i only liked a few songs from milk-eyed mender.

so i have to let out a little GRRRROOOANNNNN here too.

having said all that, joanna is a talented woman and props to her for such an ambitious sophomore record. but this one's just not for me...

Anonymous said...

i'm into this record, but particularly sawdust and diamonds, it's a serious work. the consistency of the arrangements is worth it perhaps just for the fact that it could produce a center piece like that. it emphasises the pondorousness of the lyrics. plus she's singing about a fire moving across a prairie, which always hits close to home. the lyrics are central, and the record wouldn't stand up as well without them. by they way, who needs oldham/newsom duets when you've got one with bill callahan? Albini and O'rourke just highlight the fact that its a drag city endeavor (smog as well?...), but i think she did get it mastered at abbey road...


casey said...

I'm leaning heavily in Greg's direction.

I love the gold leaf, though. I actually had to delicately separate each page one by one. That's not an experience you get with every record.

Tmoore said...

The album packaging is superb - well worth the extra 4 bucks for so, if more albums had this sort of craftmanship, people might buy them more often.

I agree w/ the lack of variety musically, but would have to say that if lyrics aren't your bag than this one is definitely not for you... it's entirely lyrics, the music is just buttressing for the stories she's telling - still her stories are lovely and the music i find equally affecting.

I was also pleasantly suprised to hear Bill C - though he wasn't in there long enough for my liking.

along w/ Jason Molina, he and Oldham are my holy trinity of "Fuck this shit, i'm taking a long drive and smoking a pack of cigarettes."

nick said...

her first ep, walnut whales
is available for download over at