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Friday

Through her lyrics about irritable canaries and mollusk weddings, harpist singer/songwriter Joanna Newsom reminds us that the best poets and musicians are at least a little crazy. Newsom’s creativity goes unchecked on her second full-length album, Ys, which features the heavy-hitting studio team of producer and arranger Van Dyke Parks, recording engineer Steve Albini, and mix technician Jim O’Rourke. Here, Newsom—whose unpredictable voice sounds less like a caw than it did on 2004’s The Milk-Eyed Mender—packs allusions and vivid imagery into each line of the album’s five songs. She references the goddess Athena, “sprung out fully formed,” and later lilts, “I have washed a thousand spiders down the drain/Spiders’ ghosts hang, soaked and dangling/Silently from all the blooming cherry trees/In tiny nooses, safe from everyone.” Newsom still harbors a love for alliteration, as heard in lines such as “scrap of sassafras, eh Sisyphus?” on “Only Skin,” but she isn’t reaching for the rhyming dictionary as often as she used to. Having shed a degree cutesiness, Newsom has developed a more mature sound that still retains a sense of wonder. Rather than infringing on Newsom or her harp, Parks’ orchestral arrangements add layers of supportive strings; unable to travel with such a large backing group, however, Newsom will have to rely on her own bizarre charm and skill to woo showgoers. While some may find it difficult to hang in for songs of Ys proportions—the shortest track, “Cosmia,” is over seven minutes long—watching Newsom remember all those lyrics is entertainment in itself. Newsom performs with P.G. Six at 9 p.m. Friday, Nov. 17, at the Black Cat, 1811 14th St. NW. $10. (SOLD OUT) (202) 667-7960. (Kim Rinehimer)