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The Milk Eyed Mender - Flying Out


The Milk Eyed Mender

Drag City

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During an interview at a kitchen table in Soho sometime last month, Will Oldham mentioned Joanna Newsom as one of his favorite storytellers. At the time, I'd only passingly listened to her two self-released EPs, and was more familiar with her keyboard work with San Francisco's The Pleased and harp contributions to the Deerhoof/Hella side project Nervous Cop. But that's changed with the release of her first long player, The Milk-Eyed Mender. Here, the words to her meandering stories-- disarming in their formal purity, but still highly individualized and eccentric-- elaborate on an aesthetic that evokes French coins, dark maroon leaves, shafts of wheat, and ostrich feathers as much as it references them directly.
Born in Nevada City and currently residing in San Francisco, Newsom's yarns summon a deep, rustic South. A line in the buoyant "Bridges and Balloons" uses e.e. cummings neologisms and Omoo's breezy prosody to impart the tale of a winter's day on a fallible ship: "The sight of bridge and balloon/ Makes calm canaries irritable/ They caw and claw all afternoon/ 'Catenaries and dirigibles/ Brace and buoy the living room/ A loom of metal, warp-woof-wimble/ And a thimblesworth of milky moon/ Can touch hearts larger than a thimble." In "Sadie", the title character is asked to accept a pinecone and a bone, talismans to ward off death. Really, they're the gentlest tokens that mark the beginning of a relationship, and later reaffirm the love despite an inevitable move towards taciturnity.
Newsom's wonderfully detailed romanticism ("Your skin is something that I stir into my tea"), homespun wisdom ("Never get so attached to a poem, you forget truth that lacks lyricism"), idiosyncratic flourishes ("See him fashion a cap from a page of Camus"), and insights into the prosaic ("There are some mornings/ When the sky looks like a road") infuse each track with the weightiness of an embroidered travel narrative and a private field-recording. Pitchfork 8.0
Artist: Joanna Newsom
Title: The Milk Eyed Mender
Label: Drag City
Cat #: DC263
Year: 2004
Format: Vinyl LP


Bridges and Balloons
Sprout and the Bean
The Book of Right-On
Inflammatory Writ
This Side of the Blue
"En Gallop"
Peach, Plum, Pear
Three Little Babes
Clam, Crab, Cockle, Cowrie

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