Start Making Sense

On the beauty but hollow humanity of micromanaged Mac rock

Probably a few folks at this gig set out the next night for McCarren Park Pool, this summer's designated zeitgeist venue, hosting a show headlined by Neko Case and opened by the outstanding Martha Wainwright but ultimately stolen by Joanna Newsom, an outrageously polarizing harp goddess who sings incredibly long—her upcoming new record, Ys, which is pronounced "Blearrrrrgh," is about an hour long and has five tracks—and incredibly intricate lullabies for past, present, and future acid casualties. It's undoubtedly mesmerizing, whether you're a superfan swooning at wide-eyed lyrical imagery like "a tuneless hound dog choking on a feather" or an ardent detractor wincing at her voice and observing that it can sometimes sound like, well, uh, that. Not to sneeze on anyone's pillow or anything, but both Joanna and Sufjan are massively talented and even more massively ambitious, building whole empires of intricate magical realism, breathtaking to regard from overhead, but strangely static the closer you get to the ground, lacking the danger and hostility inherent in actual places containing acutal people feeling actual emotions. I wouldn't live there if you paid me.

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