But beneath the sonic differences, "Ys" shares much with Newsom's earlier work, most notably the hypnotizing ebb and flow of her vocals. On "Emily," her bubbly memory of watching constellations fades into a charmingly sincere definition of meteors, meteoroids and meteorites. Most strikingly, amid the fantastical world she explores, she intersperses devastatingly direct lines, as she sighs at a near crawl, "Help me find my way back in / And there are worries where I've been."
Unfortunately, that sense of worry overshadows the album, as Newsom's constant barrage of lyrics and instrumentation doesn't often give her compositions much breathing room. "Ys" is most successful at its simplest moments: The stunning flutters of her harp on "Sawdust & Diamonds" complement her plaintive vocals without the distraction of other instruments. The album's briefest composition, the seven-minute "Cosmia," mostly avoids her fantasy visions, making her personal lyrics ("I'll sleep through the rest of my days / If you've gone away again") all the more powerful and direct.
-- Catherine P. Lewis