Sound: Joanna Newsom is easily the greatest songwriter of the decade. "Have One On Me" marks her 2010, triple disc release and stands as her strongest work to date. Known for her lengthy, poetic songs and harp playing, Joanna trades in the harp for a more varied array of instruments. To name a few, Bulgarian Tambura, Kora, Mandolin, Harpsichord, Cornet, Kaval, Viola Da Gamba, etc. It's a stunning and varied set of instrument that the singer/songwriter utilizes and it works to her advantage. "Have One On Me", sound-wise, is like nothing I have ever heard.
Describing the sound is a major task itself. (It would take pages and pages to go over the album's sonic highlights.) Between the tribal drums of "Soft As Chalk" to the gorgeous harp work on "Jackrabbit", every song presents something new. Not something you get out of your standard singer/songwriter album. // 10
Lyrics: Each piece on the album is pure poetry, plain and simple. Newsom is known for her lengthy pieces, which holds true on the title track (It runs almost twelve minutes, with hardly one instrumental pause.) Newsom took courses on poetry recitations which proves to benefit her compositions as she is able to remember and recite long songs.
Again, because of the album's sheer length, it is difficult to discuss every single piece Newsom has written, but it should be noted her expanded range of topics compared to her previous albums. Whether singing about heartbreak ("Does Not Suffice") or "Have One On Me" which is about Lola Montez's affair with King Ludwig I of Bavaria. Odd material yes, but nothing like I have ever heard the likes of since Kate Bush.
Vocally, Newsom has drastically improved since her previous albums. While not possessing a strong voice like that of Florence Welch, she is unique in her delivery, emphasizing certain words and phrases for maximum poetic effect. And her timbre is certainly one of the most unique, for Newsom possesses a baby-like voice, which again, I have never heard the likes of. A stunning work of poetry. // 10
Overall Impression: While some would call her overly ambitious for releasing a triple disc, "Have One On Me" was truly worth the $25 I paid for it. I could say a million good things about this album, but I suggest you take a listen for yourself and make your own opinions.
"Soft As Chalk" and the title track are favourites, though I couldn't imagine trying to isolate songs from the album. It's simply stunning. // 10