This is Joanna Newsoms first official recording to be self-released. It was recorded in 2002 and released the same year. Recorded and produced by then boyfriend Noah Georgeson, this EP has a stripped back, sparse sound. Eight tracks of pure bliss, five of which were re-recorded for debut album The Milk-Eyed Mender released two years later.
'Erin' features withdrawn vocals and the 50/50 of Joanna Newsoms childlike vocals and her enduring harp sound which flows with perfection. This is basically indie-folk. The tracks here are very raw, thus incredibly appetising to hear since her matured sound formed on 2006's Ys. 'Cassiopeia' has some very original Joanna Newsom vocals. Instead of the molded flat sound present on some of the other tracks on Walnut Whales, Joanna uses her vocal range to her advantage. She sounds like a six year old wandering the garden.
The Milk-Eyed Mender has several stand out tracks, one of which is the harpsichord track 'Peach, Plum, Pear'. The version on Walnut Whales is far more melancholy and less melodramatic. It's played on an electric keyboard here. The progression is exactly the same but on this EP the tempo is slower. The lyrics are different and it;s interesting to hear the song in it's intended form.
'Clam Crab Cockle Cowrie' is again more melancholy than the re-worked album version. It has a colder feel and it Joanna sings strong, giving the listener something to focus on. The harp sound is extremely raw and isn't played to perfection, but has that passion listeners crave. 'Flying A Kite' is the same. This is one of the few original Joanna Newsom tracks that have not been re-worked for an album. This is played on a piano and has some magnificent lyrics. The general mood starts off sour but as her vocals become uplifting, the piano instrumental follows. Her vigorous vocal is enlarged by the hard hitting piano notes.
The next track is called 'The Fray', it has a very memorable harp riff which sounds very ethereal and medieval. Her vocal sounds 'cute' and it's desperate in places. When her vocals raise in volume, the harp raises in pitch. The track is fantastic and I'm surprised she didn't use this for The Milk-Eyed Mender. 'En Gallop!' has the same feel as The Fray, just with more venom and energy. It's one of the quieter and withdrawn vocal tracks Joanna has released.
'The Book of Right On' is absolutely adorable. Her vocals sound fresh and work with the both harp riffs happening. She has great ability to compose, bordering modern classical music. Her vocals are not effected and sound miniature compared to the blaring harp sounds. Her vocals were of course bumped up for the album version and the harp is much faster and smoother. it's one of the best tracks on this EP and on it's one of the standouts on her debut. This EP is fantastic and showed great promise.. Inevitably leading to a successful and well received debut album. These early recording are enjoyful, they really are raw and passionate. The underproduction can be felt by the lack of layers and lack of alternatives to vocal/instrument on each track. This was covered on her debut album.