Mixtape – Joanna Newsom

For all the Vampire Diaries fans out there, don’t worry, I have a FOUR PARTER Damon mixtape in the pipeline that I’m gonna unleash next week.

But if you’ve been following my blog, I haven’t had the time to put the finishing touches on that yet because I’ve been running around like a madwoman at the amazing WOMADelaide festival!

There was an actual Spidey Sense moment last night!

"Swinging Girl with Spider" by Joelie Croser


The singer I had been dying to see, USA’s Joanna Newsom…

…discovered what a lot of outside artists discover when they come to Australia for open air concerts – our bug issue!

She had a self-deprecating and charming personality, and between songs told us how a huge spider had been crawling close to her feet when she was playing the gigantic harp that is her trademark instrument. I personally would have cut off mid-song and gone running for the hills…

I don’t like spiders (like Trevino!)

Joanna is definitely deserving of the ‘She ain’t no MJ Watson’ title that only special women are anointed with here at Spidey Sense.

My full Joanna Newsom review on the WOMADelaide blog:

Joanna Newsom has the voice of an angel, ethereal and otherworldly, which is kind of fitting given that the singer’s trademark instrument is a harp.

But every now and then her voice flutters into gravelly, devilishly sexy notes, giving her a hard edge no angel has.

The otherness of Joanna’s singing was shot through with her obvious delight in discovering new things that her voice can do.

If you’ve never heard Joanna’s distinctive voice, it can sound strange and foreign, and that would probably be the case even if you’re from her native USA. But it grows on you like a rash and has a timeless quality, somehow both as innocent as a young child and tinged with ancient knowledge. 

Her fingers danced across the harp, plucking with different levels of intensity to create different dynamics, accompanied by a multifaceted and talented group of instrumentalists. She was almost a harpist with her words too; her lyrics stringing together beads of unusual syllables, alliterations, coos and throaty, husky notes. It’s like the vocal range of a delicately bubbling stream to a flashflood and back again washing over you.

We were taken aback by the size of her harp, which clearly dwarfed Joanna even from our vantage point, close to the back of the copious rows of people camped out around the main WOMAD stage. We were so far back that we couldn’t get a good picture of Joanna sitting under the ever-changing WOMAD dome, now shrouded in a purple filter, which was perfect for setting off her regal charm, which we got snapshots of in between songs.

One random question that popped into our heads: “Is playing the harp and singing at the same time kind of like rubbing your belly while patting your head?” We like to think that we can walk and chew gum at the same time, but this looked hard, and from interviews we’ve read with her, apparently she has the callouses on her hands to prove it.

But what we loved most about this angel? How down-to-earth she was, seen in the way she self-deprecating joked about her uninvited guests up on stage: “There’s bugs up here, y’all!”

Now for the mixtape part of the blog…

Here are some YouTube clips of Joanna performing over the years so that you can hear the sheer beauty of her music yourself.

Something interesting about Joanna is that in 2009 she developed vocal nodules and couldn’t speak or sing for two months. Her voice on her first album compared with what it is now is remarkably different. She sounds smokier now, and can get lilts and unsettling tones I didn’t notice on her first album, where her voice was a little sweeter. I like both Joannas equally though, because her uniqueness shines through no matter what.

About Cherie

My name is Cherie, and I’m an Australian Occupational Therapy Student who hopes to help people with any condition that inhibits their ability to participate in valued occupations, tasks, activities, as I believe they’re an essential part of identity, happiness and health. My favourite occupation is hiking, which enables me to move past through the forest literally and metaphorically! View all posts by Cherie

2 responses to “Mixtape – Joanna Newsom

  • André

    Nice, she really does have an unearthly voice. But I admit I am nearly dying for new TVD. 😉

  • EuroChild

    I freakin’ love Joanna Newsom.

    Lists of bands I’ve MISSED this year who I would have KILLED to see:

    Joanna Newsom
    The Melvins
    Iggy & The Stooges
    John Butler Trio
    LCD Sound System
    Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros
    Little Red
    Crystal Castles
    Blue King Brown
    The Vines
    Gypsy & the Cat
    Sum 41

    Dammit! Dammit! Dammit!

    I really don’t think half of those will be coming back to Australia, let alone Adelaide. I reckon I well and truly missed my chance to see Deftones.
    Is there a nearby brick wall for me to smash my head against?

    At least I have a good chance of seeing Lowrider (they’re an Adelaide band). Seriously, you need to see them some time. There edited radio versions are the bees knees, apparently there live shows are even better.

    But are Iggy Pop & The Stooges ever going to tour again? Or are they going to do the same thing as Jane’s Addiction & Faith No More last year?

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