(Great) lyricists who are similar to Joni Mitchell?
March 18, 2013 9:46 PM   Subscribe

Could anyone recommend me musicians-cum- poets/songwriters who are as talented as Joni Mitchell?

Or artists who can generally be classified as wordsmiths; such as: Brandon Boyd (Incubus), Jason Mraz (though I much prefer his older stuff), Justin Pierre (Motion City Soundtrack), Kelley Jones (Stereophonics) etc. for example.

posted by ethelwulf to Media & Arts (39 answers total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
Joanna Newsom springs immediately to mind.
posted by town of cats at 9:47 PM on March 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

Patti Smith has published volumes of poetry in addition to her songwriting. She's a little harder edged than Joni Mitchell, but in my opinion it's for the better.
posted by Sara C. at 9:49 PM on March 18, 2013

*just realised that I missed Steely Dan out in my list of examples
posted by ethelwulf at 9:49 PM on March 18, 2013

Daniel Bejar (Destroyer).
David Berman (an actual poet) fronts Silver Jews.
posted by outfielder at 9:51 PM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

Conor Oberst is my favourite working lyricist. I started with the album I'm Wide Awake It's Morning (by his band Bright Eyes) and have gone on to enjoy every one of his albums over multiple music projects, bands and solo work.
posted by hamandcheese at 9:52 PM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

Based on the examples you gave, I gather you are young. You need Bob Dylan in your life, specifically, "Blonde On Blonde".
posted by davebush at 9:52 PM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

I would add Laura Nyro.
posted by ?! at 9:57 PM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

Leonard Cohen
John Prine?
posted by ODiV at 10:05 PM on March 18, 2013

Amelia Curran is amazing.
posted by oulipian at 10:06 PM on March 18, 2013

Are you familiar with Rickie Lee Jones? The track Satellites from Flying Cowboys (1988 - lyrics) might be a good place to start.

Or perhaps Last Chance Texaco from her self-titled album (1978 - lyrics).

She's collaborated with (and covered) Steely Dan. She also worked with Tom Waits and if you haven't started digging into his catalog then I wholeheartedly recommend him, too.
posted by juliplease at 10:26 PM on March 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

Laura Marling is ridiculously talented, very young, and has been compared to Mitchell. Similarly to Joni Mitchell, Marling is a great, evocative lyricist (especially for her age) and has a beautiful voice. (Linked song is the Joni-est of hers I can think of off the top of my head, but she's about to put out her fourth LP, so there's some good pickings to look through there.)
posted by threeants at 10:27 PM on March 18, 2013 [4 favorites]

One of the elements shared by a lot of Steely Dan and Joni Mitchell songs is lyrical density. Think of the sheer number of words in a bar of "Reeling in the Years" or "The Last Time I Saw Richard". Elvis Costello's got it. And in a completely different vein, Fiona Apple has a touch of that quality too.
posted by Lorin at 10:28 PM on March 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

Ani DiFranco
posted by Abinadab at 11:01 PM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

Leonard Cohen
Josh Ritter
Bob Dylan
Ani DiFranco
Gord Downie (Tragically Hip)
Fiona Apple
Adam Duritz (Counting Crows)
Woody Guthrie
Hawksley Workman
posted by backwards guitar at 1:50 AM on March 19, 2013

Fiona Apple, I love her lyrics.
Although they are a band, I think Death Cab for Cutie (fronted by Ben Gibbard) also fit the bill.
posted by like_neon at 2:08 AM on March 19, 2013

Yeah I've gotta agree with everyone else who said Fiona Apple. Also gotta add Fruit Bats. Totally underrated and brilliant lyrically.
posted by ferdinandcc at 4:15 AM on March 19, 2013

Richard Thompson
posted by Daily Alice at 4:15 AM on March 19, 2013

James Taylor. His greatest hits have been so overplayed they don't stand out, but to me, he's definitely a wordsmith. Take a look at Walking Man, One Man Dog, and his first album, to start. You can get a lot of the suggestions you're getting in this post at the public library, if you want to check them out before you spend any money.
posted by lemniskate at 4:22 AM on March 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Loudan Wainwright.
posted by PinkMoose at 5:00 AM on March 19, 2013

nthing Leonard Cohen, who is among the very few who is taken seriously as a poet outside the context of songs, and who manages to deliver spoken word performances of some of his songs (A Thousand Kisses Deep on the current tour) without sounding like a douche.
posted by slkinsey at 5:21 AM on March 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Jane Siberry. Although I'm less a fan of her recent stuff, she's gotten a bit too new-agey for me. But her albums "The Walking," "When I Was A Boy," "Bound By the Beauty" and "Maria" are all totally amazing in my opinion.
posted by dnash at 5:41 AM on March 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Dar Williams.
posted by zahava at 5:41 AM on March 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Mary Chapin Carpenter - try Stones in the Road (song and album) first. She made her name as a "country" artist, but she's never really been country. She's a lyrically smart singer/songwriter through and through.

And she's on tour with Shawn Colvin, who is also an answer to your question.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 5:58 AM on March 19, 2013

Josh Ritter. Link goes to a story-song about a mummy that comes to life, only to mourn the fact that he will inevitably outlive his true love. It's only the tip of the iceberg - he has written tons of amazing lyrics.

Also, Richard Shindell. That link goes to a story of the universe manipulating traffic to safely deliver a nun to her charitable destination. Again, it's only one of many.
posted by jbickers at 6:03 AM on March 19, 2013

Nick Cave. Here's a link to a youtube playlist of a lecture he gave called Secret Life of the Lovesong.
posted by merocet at 6:06 AM on March 19, 2013

Josh Ritter Josh Ritter Josh Ritter!

His lyrics are beautiful and indelible. My favorites are "The Temptation of Adam" which is one of his more narrative songs (about finding love in a nuclear warhead bunker) and "Bandits" which is mostly fun wordplay.
posted by ocherdraco at 6:29 AM on March 19, 2013

I can't believe no one has mentioned John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats yet.
posted by dorque at 6:42 AM on March 19, 2013

I really like Vienna Teng's lyrics. Also the Weakerthans, though they're a slightly different genre.
posted by nonasuch at 7:25 AM on March 19, 2013

I would add Neko Case, Aimee Mann and Rufus Wainwright.
posted by pixiecrinkle at 7:52 AM on March 19, 2013

Oh, and not sure how I forgot Lucinda Williams.
posted by pixiecrinkle at 7:53 AM on March 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Will Oldham, aka Bonnie 'Prince' Billy.
posted by Quonab at 8:06 AM on March 19, 2013

Okkervil River

Tori Amos
posted by John Cohen at 8:30 AM on March 19, 2013

Billy Bragg.
posted by Madamina at 10:20 AM on March 19, 2013

The Indigo Girls
posted by gt2 at 8:33 PM on March 19, 2013

I love you all. Seriously. Never thought I'd receive that many suggestions!

I am familiar with DCFC (I liked them up till Plans), Aimee Mann (though I much prefer her groove in Till Tuesday), Counting Crows and Rickie Lee Jones.

I've heard of Tori Amos, Leonard Cohen, Rufus Wainwright, James Taylor, Fiona Apple, Anni Di Franco, Elvis Costello, but have never given any of them serious thought, though I shall now. Thank you!

I don't so much what genre your suggestions may fall into btw, so long as it's not metal! Well I'm alright with power metal, just not any of that screamo-type stuff.
posted by ethelwulf at 10:47 PM on March 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

patty griffin.
posted by thatgirld at 2:42 PM on March 20, 2013

Smog (ignore horrible fan-made video; song has nothing to do with football) (aka Bill Callahan)

And yes, the incredible Bonnie Prince Billy, mentioned above.

To my mind, these are the two best songwriters of the past quarter-century. However, I'm not a fan of anyone on your list so take it with a grain of salt.
posted by dobbs at 4:13 PM on March 20, 2013

I'll add the wonderful Marissa Nadler and Nina Nastasia.
posted by dobbs at 4:27 PM on March 20, 2013

A wonderful live, single take of Nina Nastasia.
posted by dobbs at 4:46 PM on March 20, 2013

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