Album Review: Divers – Joanna Newsom

Joanna Newsom

Divers

[Drag City]

 

At the end of Newsom’s lengthy heartbreaker Have One On Me, the final surrender of the relationship that album laments, Does Not Suffice, explodes from a tender piano ballad into a thunderous wash of feedback. At the end of the intimately acoustic experience that album was, it felt symbolically incongruous, and now five years later feels like a useful linking point to her fabulous new record Divers.

An inimitable talent, with a unique lyrical aptitude and a musical sensibility that elegantly weaves Americana with a variety of folk idioms through through both harp playing and piano playing (which has featured heavily throughout Newsom’s work since her debut, albeit to infinitely less fanfare), Divers sees Newsom’s keyboards, from piano to Mellotron to Minimoog to a variety of organs, becoming central to much of the musical fun here, with arrangements mixing and matching sounds, as well as integrating the harp and keyboard layers together.

From the first swells of Nico Muhly’s orchestral arrangement and delicately fizzing synth touches on Anecdotes through to the point when Time, As A Symptom overloads with contrapuntal vocal lines, this phenomenal album ruminates on time as a function of life, love, remembering and forgetting. The erased maps in Sapokanikan, the restless migration in Goose Eggs, and the sci-fi chanty Waltz of 101st Lightborne are all highlights on a magnificent, touching record that rewards deep listening time and time again.

 

Like this? Try these:

Judee Sill – Judee Sill & Heart Food

Richard & Linda Thompson – First Light

Harry Nilsson – Nilsson Sings Newman

 

Words: Ian Lamont

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