Joanna Newsom Divers
Joanna Newsom moved from New York City to LA last year, but it’s weird imagining her in either modern metropolis. The 33-year-old’s music feels born of a space—and, especially, a time—far removed from bustle and technology, never more than on fourth album Divers.
“I dream it every night/The ringing of the pail, the motes of sand dislodged, the shucking, quick and bright/The twinned and cast-off shells reveal a single heart of white,” Newsom sings on the magnificent title track, and she paints her peculiar lyrics with such quaint instrumentation—her harp, nimble piano, glorious strings, even chirping birds—she sounds more like a 16th-century minstrel than a contemporary musician. It’s doubtful even her closest touchstones, say Sandy Denny or Joni Mitchell, would voice words like, “We came to see Time is taller than Space is wide/And we bade goodbye to the Great Divide/Found unlimited simulacreage to colonize!” Simulacreage?!
Divers splits the difference between 2006’s overwrought Ys, which spent 56 minutes stacking ideas to the sky, and 2010’s divine Have One on Me, which carefully spread its charms across three discs. Whether they’re twisting like labyrinthine prog-folk (“Sapokanikan”) or staying on a relatively straightforward path (“The Things I Say”), Newsom’s new songs have what they need and nothing more—a sign of an artist confident in her place in the universe, ours or the one she came here from.