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Joanna Newsom: Have One On Me (2010) Album Review

By Jordan Stead

Rating: 4.5/5

Image: Gl0sgl0w on flickr. License: CC Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic

Joanna Newsom’s release of her third album in 2010, Have One On Me, saw the abandonment of the fantastical orchestral accompaniment that roared in Ys (2006) with the more singular sound of Newsom’s harp, piano, and voice.

This time, Newsom has returned with a broken heart and a story to tell. Produced after the end of her relationship with songwriter and folk musician, Bill Callahan, HOOM explores the devastating realms of unrequited love, anguish, and letting go. With tracks such as ‘Easy’ or ‘Jackrabbits’, the quiet crackling in the backdrop and the occasional break in Newsom’s voice convey the artist’s grieving process.

In my opinion, the most poignant point of the album is the track ‘Baby Birch’— a song that expresses Newsom’s grief for the death of her and Callahan’s baby. The unusual quietness commands full attention to Newsom’s lyrics while she paints a landscape of what could have been, with the finale of the track erupting into a bittersweet cacophony of acceptance for the situation: ‘Be at peace, baby, and be gone’.

Do not be fooled, however. A riptide lingers beneath the album’s quiet intimacy. Newsom’s fury rears its head in tracks such as ‘Go Long’, in which her use of the story of Bluebeard’s wives details the struggle of misogyny in her relationship. ‘In California’, with its gradual increase in longing for home and comfort — a longing for what was once familiar. The ultimate deadweight of Newsom’s relationship with Callahan completes its arc in the last track ‘Does Not Suffice’ when Newsom’s damning lyricism can truly be heard. The song ends with a loud, abrasive instrumental, symbolising the bittersweet collapse of the relationship.

This entire album feels like peering into Newsom’s diary. Storytelling is what she does best. I feel that no other artist makes me still my breath while they detail with incredible lyricism the experience of love and grief. All of Newsom’s albums surround these themes in some way, but HOOM stands out with its total confessionalism.


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