Joanna Newsom’s first album since 2006’s Ys is, in short, a success. Have One On Me clocks in at two hours and four minutes and has a total of eighteen tracks. The three-disc album conveys a masterful work that fills out all of its length with a matching sense of grandeur. Listeners who have heard Newsom’s previous work will note a distinct change in the tone of her voice. It seems to have lost some of the “Appalachian” note-timbres, but that sound in her voice is still present. The album opens with the track “Easy,” which is a wonderful indication of how the rest of the album will unfold. A track built on chord changes more complex than your average pop song; the six-minute song builds through wonderful arrangements of strings and brass along with Newsom’s piano and a wonderful use of the percussion section. And this is only the first of many tracks that follow this nature; most refuse to contain a chorus and choose to progress through a series of different movements instead. Perhaps some of the most chill inducing, in that amazing way, are the many times throughout the album in which Newsom provide multiple part harmonies whose warm sound will carry the listener away.
This album, however, is not an easy listen. It takes the effort of a good listener to truly appreciate the layers Have One On Me contains. If one were to put the album on in the background, it may seem repetitive and the listener might not be able to tell when they have changed songs or where exactly they are on the album. Many of the tracks share a similar instrumentation and time signature, but upon careful inspection it is the intricacies of the arrangements and lyrics that warrant praise. It has been suggested to me that Have One On Me is in fact a concept album, with each of the 3 discs representing a different aspect of a changing relationship (the happy couple, the break up, and the final “F*** You” to the ex), and I can definitely see this as a working idea throughout the album. Even if this was not intentional, the structure of the album has this feeling to it.
The best way to listen to this album is to set aside a two hour block of time isolated from the world, put the songs on, and listen straight through. It is wonderful experience, and perhaps the only way to truly get out of Have One On Me all that is packed, but perhaps not to tightly, into the eighteen tracks.
Key Tracks: “Good Intention Paving Company”, “Have One On Me”, “Soft As Chalk”
Recommended if you like: St. Vincent, Devendra Banhart, and Vashti Bunyan.
WPGU Music Staff Rating: W-P-G
W = Poor
W-P = OK
W-P-G = Good
W-P-G-U = Great!