Joanna Newsom’s 2004 album, The Milk-Eyed Mender, was released at a time when music blogs were reaching new levels of popularity within certain sections of music and online communities. During this time, songs from nearly every high profile indie rock release seemed to find their way onto music blogs (often, to the chagrin of the music industry, far before slated release dates). Newsom’s songs were no exception – she was often something of a hot topic on blogs like Stereogum, My Old Kentucky Blog, Brooklyn Vegan, Gorilla vs. Bear, and numerous others. Over a relatively short time these music blogs became the arbiters of taste among a select reading audience, helping to propel many up-and-coming indie rock artists, Joanna Newsom among them, into the public consciousness. In this essay, I will examine the phenomenon of Joanna Newsom’s music interacting with the blogosphere, specifically the circulation of Newsom covers performed by a variety of artists. Considered collectively, these covers tell us something about Joanna Newsom’s songs and their relationship with a community of highly engaged fans. With a closer listen to these cover songs and their different arrangements, we can explore the ways in which these songs find a new life, opening up structures and themes that may not have been present in their original recordings. At the same time, such an analysis gives us an opportunity to see how her songs may be appropriated by artists who find something in them that fits within their own milieu or style – perhaps telling us something new about these artists and what drew them to these songs in the first place. These covers may also work as a stepping-stone for casual listeners to encounter Newsom’s music in a more palatable way.
The chapter available for download here is the post-print version.
Visions of Joanna Newsom
Pepper, Shayne, "Joanna Newsom Covers in the Blogosphere" (2010). Communication, Media and Theatre Faculty Publications. 3.