In a more-than-crowded music industry, Joanna Newsom has cemented herself as a truly unique force of art with the release of her fourth album, Divers. In this latest offering from the California-native, she refines her unusual, soaring sound to produce a more accessible dynamic; however, the record is still packed with haunting complexities.
As a harpist and ornate lyricist, Newsom has consistently pushed conceptual and production boundaries in folk music. Divers explores the transcendence of love and loss over space and time. In a recent interview with Rolling Stone, she said the album in part examines "the question of what's available to us as part of the human experience that isn't subject to the sovereignty of time."
Although Newsom is no stranger to brilliant lyrical storytelling, /Divers/ is her most controlled and impressive vocal performance to date. Unlike the jarring or jumpy vocal style that characterized her early career, such as in The Milk-Eyed Mender, this new album offers more resonant notes and precise sounds.
Her versatility is on full display as rich orchestral pieces ghost between simplistic, whimsical tracks. On “Anecdotes,” the first song on the album, layers of strings and woodwinds swell to evoke a sense of ebb and flow. This complements the lyrics by discussing the difficulty of controlling the direction of time. She sings, “And time, in our camp, is moving / As you'd anticipate it to / But what is this sample proving? / Anecdotes cannot say what time may do.”
As the compositions blend into each other seamlessly, Newsom provides continuity, harmony, and unconventional depth whilst providing heavily thought-provoking and philosophical lyrics. The listener’s ability to get lost in the endless layers of emotional intimacy is what ultimately makes Divers a success.
"Anecdotes," "Leaving the City," "Time, As a Symptom"
Most Memorable Lyrics:
"There's old trick played/ When the light and the wine conspire/ To make me think I'm fine/ I'm not, but I have got half a mind/ To maybe get there" – from "The Things I Say"
Staring out at the glowing lights of a cityscape at 4 a.m. with a blanket draped around your shoulders.
Listen if you like:
poetry, soul searching, and unconventionality.