Yes, the Springsteen-nodding title of Joanna Newsom & the Ys Street Band is witty, but it's fitting, too: Newsom's Ys touring band backs her on this EP, and these three songs have a much more live feel than Van Dyke Parks, Jim O'Rourke, and crew gave that magnificent album in the studio. With a song from Ys, a song from The Milk-Eyed Mender, and a previously unreleased track, Joanna Newsom & the Ys Street Band plays like the past, present, and future of Newsom's music, all given an earthier, less precious feel that still displays how artful her music is. The EP kicks off with "Colleen," a prickly, feral-sounding new song that, with this arrangement anyway, feels brighter and more immediate than Ys' songs, albeit nearly as densely packed with words, melodies, and ideas. "Clam, Crab, Cockle, Cowrie" channels the sunny, avant-Appalachian feel of The Milk-Eyed Mender effortlessly; and in the EP's context, its relatively simple sweetness acts as a palate cleanser between the heavier fare of the more complex songs surrounding it. Joanna Newsom & the Ys Street Band closes with an epic, 13-minute-long version of Ys' final track, "Cosmia"; opening with banjo, clarinets, harp, theremin, and accordion and closing with a string coda that keeps going and going, the song's will o' the wisp moods and movements are just as spellbinding here as they are on Ys, but more intimate and tangible. A beautiful miniature of Newsom's work, Joanna Newsom & the Ys Street Band is a tour souvenir that all her fans can enjoy.
-Clam, Crab, Cockle, Cowrie
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