Universal acclaim - based on 35 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 30 out of 35
  2. Negative: 1 out of 35
  1. Yes, Ys is a demanding listen, but it's also a rewarding and inspiring one.
  2. The beating heart of Newsom's tales, at turns whimsical and melancholic, enchant with a simple calculus: A woman, a harp and a story to tell. [Dec 2006, p.190]
  3. An album that sounds unlike anything else.
  4. It’s to her great credit that Newsom (literally) plucks artistic triumph from the jaws of cloying whimsy.
  5. 80
    The emotional peaks are so sharp, the wordplay so juicy, that all excesses are redeemed.
  6. If you give it a chance (or maybe even a dozen chances, if you can stand it), and don't immediately dismiss it because it's by Joanna, I’m sure you’ll find something to love.
  7. In a bid to make a startling epic work, she's concentrated on the form and neglected the content.
  8. It’s a vivid and beautiful painting that you can walk into; a magic window into another world that I'd be happy to get lost in, and never come back.
  9. Ys is one of those rare sophomore albums that shatters exceedingly high expectations.
  10. There is still something unsettlingly Renaissance fair-meets-Wind in the Willows about her music, yet something lovely lives there as well. [24 Nov 2006, p.109]
  11. Listening to Ys is like dreaming with eyes open, a detached lucidity in which clarity inevitably follows.
  12. 60
    While it is technically flawless and masterfully executed, it makes for awkward listening. [#74, p.102]
  13. 90
    It is Newsom's voice that provides the stunning balm to bind this strange beauty together. [Dec 2006, p.118]
  14. So much that is sprightly about the debut is subsumed here by ambition, to be kind, and privilege, to be brutally accurate. [Feb/Mar 2007]
  15. Newsom has managed to lessen the twee factor of her last record... in the process crafting an album as bewitching as it is odd.
  16. Unfortunately, the grand concept appears to have been a bit too ambitious for the 24-year-old Newsom and her associates to pull off, since what she plucks and sings in her little-girl-lost warble never seems entirely integrated with the hovering orchestral parts that sound like bleed-over from a symphony rehearsal in the room next door.
  17. Ys is an exceptional piece of art in the broadest sense - give it the chance to grow on you.
  18. The people who hear this record will split into two crowds: The ones who think it's silly and precious, and the ones who, once they hear it, won't be able to live without it.
  19. She has issued a treasure. She has floored us again.
  20. For my money, Newsom has demonstrated more nuance, depth of feeling, and originality than a hundred bedazzling pop divas.
  21. From the lavish orchestration courtesy of Van Dyke Parks to the richness and sheer abundance of language at Newsom's disposal, Ys is a supreme achievement.
  22. Utterly entrancing. [Dec 2006, p.141]
  23. Hard to stomach. [19 Oct 2006, p.134]
  24. The narrative plot of each song retains the best features of Newsom's previous work, and is gloriously wordy. Here might be the album's one weakness, since it's simply hard to understand a line like "Scrap of sassafras, eh Sisyphus?" when it's set to rhythm, to say nothing of back-and-forth dialogue.
  25. The album is a precious--in every sense of the word--masterpiece.
  26. 90
    Throughout the album, Newsom's language is more colorful than on Mender; at its best, it works as music even on the page. [Dec 2006, p.95]
  27. While Ys is ridiculously overwritten, over-performed and self-contained, her fables always sublimate into the hot fog of real emotions just before they calcify.
  28. For those willing to let go a little and drift, Ys can be an amazing journey, especially when Parks' strings and Newsom's harp lock into a seductive dance, or when her voice catches one of the fleeting snatches of melody and rides it until it escapes.
  29. It may well be the most off-putting album released this year. After playing it, there seems every chance it is the also the most astonishing.
  30. No album will ever move you quite like it, and if it weren't for a slight misstep, it would be perfect in almost every way.
  31. It's like being stuck in the seat next to a chatty, batshit backwoods pixie for an 18-hour plane ride.
  32. 100
    For the 56 minutes that "Ys" lasts, all the doubts evaporate. Every elaboration has a purpose, every labyrinthine melodic detour feels necessary rather than contrived. Tempting as it is to fixate on the gilded reputations of her associates, this is unequivocally Newsom’s album.
  33. The full orchestra doesn’t smack of overproduced grandiosity, which is a nice surprise. Less surprising, of course, is the album's incredible lyrical density. [#15]
  34. 90
    She surpasses the level of comparatively hook-heavy songwriting set with The Milk-Eyed Mender by evoking a dramatic weight people will still be talking about years down the line. [Nov 2006, p.137]
User Score

Universal acclaim- based on 328 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Negative: 38 out of 196
  1. Dec 11, 2010
    Magical. Flawless. One of the best albums I've ever heard, it's like a very well told tale, and Joanna is very creative, and not boring atMagical. Flawless. One of the best albums I've ever heard, it's like a very well told tale, and Joanna is very creative, and not boring at all. Even though no one mentions it, "Cosmia" is beautiful, and, for me, the best track. "Sawdust & Diamonds" is also just as pretty. No single back track in this album. Full Review »
  2. kishaandra
    Apr 13, 2010
    Ys is, at the very least, a heartfelt and poetic work of art set to music. Structurally, it only meanders as far as to elaborately support Ys is, at the very least, a heartfelt and poetic work of art set to music. Structurally, it only meanders as far as to elaborately support its overarching themes of searching and loss. It's a wonder Trouser Press has managed to be included in the selection of reviews for this album, as the meat of the review places Ys in a context in which Newsom has never claimed to be: both the aftermath and revival of some long-gone, overthrown 70s movement. It should be noted that, quite ironically, Trouser Press's review of the album itself meanders into an almost entirely irrelevant music history before finally throwing down a biting adjective or two toward the actual album itself. But to those who are interested in seeing both the appealing and potentially repelling qualities of Ys, figure this: her voice is unusual and hard to down at first, but is nevertheless an endearingly contribution all its own to the emotions expressed in Ys. The lyrics are elaborate, but indirect, having - at times - an almost riddle-like quality to them. The orchestration ranges from quiet to largely theatrical. The album, to me, is ambitious and unpretentious, and demands its listener take an active role in unearthing its secrets, rather than passively watching it unravel all on its own. Full Review »
  3. g
    Nov 17, 2006
    album of the year... if Darwin is to be believed, newsom's record will survive as a classic for hundreds of years. seriously its THAT good