Joanna Newsom is THE most singular artist on this list. There is no one else like her - proudly weird and virtually indescribable, Newsom is the type of artist who if you love, you really, really love. That's a small number of people, I'd imagine as Newsom's ambition and her quirks have proven irksome to some people.
I love Newsom and Ys is a triumphant record in every sense of that word - triumphant. It's as grand a record as has been released this decade in scope and in execution. Ys is also a record that I've been accused of not actually liking. People who hate us "music snobs" are quick to point to an artist like Newsom who they'll say critics and snobs only pretend to like because it's "cool" to do so. That's fucking stupid. Am I saying people don't do that? No, some probably do, but I can promise you I love Ys. I love it a lot.
One point of contention is sometimes Newsom's voice. Some have called it childlike, but fuck that, I happen to love it. There's a Carol Channing aspect to it that is actually quite appealing to me. Another thing I love about Newsom is the fact that she sets out to make records. Those tend to be my favorite records of all. It goes for Okkervil River as well - you can tell that each and every thing they do on record is absolutely necessary. Ys was without a doubt conceived as a record. There's a clear, albeit askew, vision on Ys that most records don't have. I appreciate that. In this iTunes age, it's refreshing when an artist is ballsy enough to write a five song suite that takes sixty minutes to unfold.
And then there's the music. To put it quite simply, Ys is beautiful. It's meticulously orchestrated (conducted by the legendary Van Dyke Parks) and as far as the lyrics, Ys plays out like a kind of fucked up Disney musical. Nothing is as it should be on Ys and that's what makes it so great. Every eccentricity adds to the mythology of Ys and to try and compare it to any other record is a fool's errand as it is wholly its own and its a wonderful, wonderful thing.