Welcome to Blessing All the Birds, a feminist fan project focused on the work of songwriter Joanna Newsom. We see Newsom's work as feminist literature and our goal is to provide it the serious critical analysis it deserves, as well as to discuss her unique place in popular culture.
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Posts tagged "Analysis"


I was thinking in the shower just now; the reason why Ys is my favorite album is probably structural. It is very structurally clever, especially from a lyrical perspective. We know Ys is only 5 songs and only 5 characters. And if we couldn’t figure that out on our own, Joanna gave it away in a magazine interview. There’s all of the great mythology, theology, and literary references, but really the key to unlocking the whole thing is in the characters. The multi-faceted nature of the characters is what makes it beautifully complex and orderly at the same time. I feel like when a lot of people give Ys a once through they hear pretty words and nature imagery, but don’t realize how organized it is. If you know what themes go with what characters it all falls into place. This is my interpretation of how that works on a very basic level:

  • Joanna Herself (Narrator): Merope, Water, Divinity, Immortality, Doves, Astrology, Bear, Existentialism, Creativity, Free Will, Christianity, New Testament
  • Joanna’s Lover: Sisyphus, Fire, Mortality, Hell Imagery, War, Soldiers, Wood, Lightning, Earthiness, Craftsmanship, Doubt, Control, Monkey, Classicism, Old Testament, Industry
  • Their Child: Bell, Remorse, Dove, Actual musical cue of a pinging bass note in Emily and Sawdust, failed synthesis, swallowing waves, sin, desire, sex
  • Emily (Joanna’s sister, an astrophysicist): Christ, Science, Astronomy, Knowledge, Love, Comfort, Nature, Paradox, Meteoroid
  • Cassie (Joanna’s deceased friend, whom the album is dedicated too): the cosmia moth, death, night, light, ascension, revelation, successful synthesis, nirvana, heaven, edification, enlightenment, fire and water

All of these things are woven together in such a way that it doesn’t seem like the narrative is being forced upon you. The map of symbolism allows Joanna to step out of linear storytelling. On each layer of interpretation the characters are represented differently, but it is always the same players. Some characterthemes overlap in relation to each other, like doves. (And Merope the goddess is also associated with doves btw) That’s absolutely fascinating to me.

This is absolutely fabulous, although, as always, I am skeptical of biographical readings of Joanna’s corpus. Joanna, to me, is different from “Joanna.” But anyway…we have never done this type of organization as systematically on Blessing All the Birds (even though we have thought about it), but we have previously discussed the overlapping connections manifest on Ys, particularly in regards to representations of femininity and sexuality and desire. Check out our archive

I personally would LOVE/KILL to hear more religious aspects you have noticed (Christ, Old vs. New Testament, etc.) and the schools of thought (Classicism and Existentialism, etc.) you have believe different characters represent. I’m still very vaguely thinking about the psychoanalytic and Freudian impulses throughout Ys. Must. do. serious. research. and. have. more. than. three. times. the. time. I. actually. have.