BBC Home

Explore the BBC


2nd October 2014
Accessibility help
Text only

BBC Homepage

Contact Us


Like this page?
Send it to a friend!

 
features /  music feature
editor content by: editor
joanna newsom and the new weird america
joanna newsom and the new weird america
real player to access audio and video on collective you need real player.
Here comes New Weird America.

Onstage at the ICA, Joanna Newsom cuts a singular figure. Playing songs from her Milk-Eyed Mender LP, she blends a delicate, deranged voice with lapping harp technique and otherworldly charm. Newsom and other breakthrough artists like Devendra Banhart are the tip of an emerging New Weird America scene.

Listening to Banhart’s folk wit and warble on his second full-length XL release, Nino Rojo, immediately opens up familiar and distant forms of classic songwriting, recently sparking interest in a set of intriguing acts from across the water. You can follow his lead to the self-titled debut by Philadelphia-based Espers, who share a “combined interest in folk and acid rock”, conjuring the mood of Donovan, Comus and The Incredible String Band.


Devendra Banhart and CocoRosie

Similar song-oriented material from CocoRosie, Josephine Foster and reissues of long-forgotten acts like Vashti Bunyan and Linda Perhacs have steadily gathered a wider audience for this genre. But they also act as a primer for the more weathered underbelly of strange cosmic music that is created in home studios, in downtown NYC warehouses and at countryside hangouts…

Acts such as Sunburned Hand Of Man, Six Organs Of Admittance, 500mg, No-Neck Blues Band and Jack Rose are tying together the threads of primitive acoustics, free jazz and hipster psychedelics before distributing them on homemade CD-Rs and limited vinyl runs. Michael Gibbons, who records as 500mg, acknowledges that “all these artists are pursuing very personal music and making very human sounds.”


Joanna Newsom, in session at the ICA

When journalist David Keenan addressed this particular musical eruption as New Weird America, he was making a reference to the Old Weird America that originally influenced pioneering 60s fingerpickers John Fahey, Robbie Basho and, more famously, a young Bob Dylan.

As John Moloney of Sunburned Hand Of Man elegantly concludes: “This musical direction is part of a destiny and we always consider ourselves lucky that we can do what we do. There is a much bigger picture behind what we do and it’s evident in what we do. It’s a bit more of a master plan or a divining rod than a direction. We're drawn to what we do by unseen forces.”


James Rutledge 05 November 04

suggested listening

joanna newsom the milk-eyed mender (drag city)
www.dragcity.com/bands/newsom.html
devendra banhart rejoicing in the hands (xl)
www.xlrecordings.com/devendrabanhart
espers espers (locust)
www.espers.org
cocorosie la maison de mon reve (touch & go)
www.tgrec.com
josephine foster & the supposed all the leaves are gone (locust)
www.100songsising.com
marissa nadlerballads of living and dying (private)
www.marissanadler.com
sunburned hand of man rare wood (spirit of orr)
www.sunburnedhandoftheman.com
six organs of admittance dark noontide (holy mountain)
www.sixorgansofadmittance.com
500mg vertical approach (eclipse)
www.eclipse-records.com
no-neck blues band sticks & stones may break… (revenant)
www.revenantrecords.com
jack rose two originals of (eclipse)
www.eclipse-records.com
 conversations
Read members' comments.
  joanna newsom
4 comments | last comment Oct 13, 2006
  joanna newsome
48 comments | last comment May 6, 2006
  Elf Music
19 comments | last comment Mar 16, 2006

see also
devendra banhartdevendra banhart session

devendra banhartdevendra banhart
album review

xl recordings
label profile

cocorosie
album review

other sessions

hebden and reid
session

jamie lidell
session

secret machines
session

nathan fake
session

liars
session

broken social...
session

animal collective
session

arctic monkeys
session

cocorosie
session

green man
sessions

herbert
session

the rakes
session

by the daily growl
by the daily growl
on bbc.co.uk/music
music

music archive
Watch music sessions and interviews from 2002 to 2008.
books

books and comics archive
Author interviews and reviews from 2002 to 2008.
bbc.co.uk/music
music rock and indie


About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy