Ys

by Joanna Newsom

Released November 14, 2006 via Drag City

Reviewed November 4, 2021

Top tracks (based on community voting)
Only Skin (79%), Emily (71%), Cosmia (37%)

Whether regarding a relationship, motivation, or a tangible human being, death pervades every corner of Ys, the album that redefined Chamber. The title came from a dream of Joanna Newsom’s before realizing on this side of reality, that it’s the name of a long-destroyed mythological city. Before even beginning, this is an indicator of the emotional weight Newsom has had to carry and the anticipated toll it may take on the listener to experience her catharsis. It’s immediately felt, not only in her grating delivery, but in her elaborate metaphorical storytelling, too: “Monkey & Bear” sounds like an intimate, theodical folktale parents would recite to their children. This is emphasised with the bulk of the album’s instrumental repertoire connoting pre-10th century performances. Newsom’s impeccable harp-playing, obscure variations of the mandolin or banjo, and other gorgeous supplementary orchestral string arrangements instil a sense of purity that music had hardly captured before. Purity in death. I wonder how simple it feels. Though, I shan’t ponder further, for I know what I’ll hear when my mind bathes in time’s eternity and departs from my skull. It will be Ys. – Cam (10/10)


Joanna Newsom’s second album is one of the most beloved records of the 2000s and for good reason. Ys is one of the finest examples of understanding compassion in musical history. Using fairy tale-like stories to illustrate ideas needed in the real world has been a staple since the beginning of time, and Newsom perfectly embodies that sentiment. The mix of old-world instrumentation and fantasy-tinged lyrics really accentuate the record’s concept to its fullest extent. Emotions that are usually locked away become present in honest tales. These tales sit with you, and make you reflect inward, long after the record is over. To want to change. Newsom crafted some of the most engaging, layered and dynamic songs ever written on Ys, formally inviting her to the conversation with artists like Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell. But, there will only ever be one Joanna Newsom and Ys is her undisputed masterpiece. – Jared (10/10)


Cam: 10/10 | Jared: 10/10 | Hadley: 8.5/10 | Dominick: 8.5/10