Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Joanna Newsom - Divers

Joanna Newsom

Released 2015 on Drag City
Reviewed by Separator, 19/11/2015ce

After a five-year hiatus following her astonishing triple-LP 'Have One On Me', Joanna Newsom is back with her fourth album 'Divers'. On the album she continues to prove that she can seemingly do no wrong, presenting a collection of 11 meditations on time, love and death that are musically very varied yet still feel like a cohesive whole.

Rather than do a complete overhaul, as she did on 2006's 'Ys' (meandering and lyrically extremely verbose story-songs that evoke a fairy-tale world) and the aforementioned 'Have One On Me' (looking into herself more lyrically and crafting more intricate musical arrangements including piano, percussion, woodwinds etc.), here she creates a perfect synthesis of those two while shortening the songs somewhat. But fans of earlier Newsom epics like 'Emily' or 'Only Skin' needn't worry: she still packs them just as full of intricate rhyme patterns and words you never knew existed.

Opener 'Anecdotes', a war-themed song, sets the mood perfectly, her voice at first high and clear but gradually moving down into her lower register. The whole thing is accompanied by tinkling piano chords and nimbly plucked harp. And the lyrics, ever the focal point, are as unique and striking as ever. A sample:

"And all along the road the lights stream by,
I want to go where the dew won't dry,
I want to go where the light won't bend -
far as the eye may reach - nor end.

But inasmuch as that light is loaned,
insofar as we've borrowed bones,
must every debt now be repaid
in star-studded, sickle-winged night raids?

While we sing to the garden, and we sing to the stars
and we sing in the meantime, wherever you are,
in the folds, and the branches, somewhere out there,
I was only just born into open air."

I could quote these lyrics for hours, but it's better to experience them yourself, to let them become part of you. Although it is a delight from start to finish, other highlights on the record include the Kate Bush-like "Goose Eggs" and the scintillating title track, with its ever-descending harp theme and piano accompaniment, and arguably the most evocative vocal melody on the entire record.

There is no doubt in my mind that this is the best album of this year, and that Newsom is the most gifted musician to grace our Earth these past few decades. No praise I could give this album could ever be enough to properly express my love of it, so I will finish now by imploring you from the bottom of my heart to do yourself a huge favour and check out 'Divers', and her other three records too. It will be a wonderful addition to your musical world, and to your life in general.


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