This article originally ran in 2015 and has been updated.
Ever felt overwhelmed by an artist’s extensive back catalog? Been meaning to check out a band, but you just don’t know where to begin? In 10 Songs is here to help, offering a crash course and entry point into the daunting discographies of iconic artists of all genres. This is your first step toward fandom. Take it.
Joanna Newsom has built up one of the most consistently strong, divisive, and discussed discographies in indie rock. Beginning with 2004’s The Milk-Eyed Mender, Newsom emerged onto the scene as not just one of the era’s most captivating and distinct voices, but as one of its most challenging. Between her childlike melodies, literary references, extra-long tracks, and pastoral lyrics, Newsom inspires extreme appreciation or repulsion in listeners, with little middle ground.
Newsom has only released three albums since 2004 — her last full-length project was 2015’s Divers — yet each has been met with widespread critical acclaim. All three circle through countless influences, putting together wildly divergent styles into a cohesive output. Her albums are often daunting tasks, from 2006’s 55-minute, five-song Ys to 2010’s two-hour triple LP, Have One on Me.
Throughout her career, she has become a well-known pop culture figure as well, appearing in films and generally serving as the decade’s most famous harpist. Her reappearances onto the music scene are sporadic, but each time she returns with an immensely surprising yet rewarding collection of songs that inspire excitement and top year-end lists.
To celebrate her birthday today (January 18th), we’re revisiting our 10-song introductory guide to Newsom’s world, covering her history and showcasing the varied entry points into her discography. Dive in below.