Layers upon layers: Joanna Newsom’s fourth album is – as we’ve grown to expect from her – intricate, dense and heady. Its melodies, grand themes concerning history and time, and esoteric textures (a lot of keyboards, along with chamber arrangements) take a while to sink in. But sink in they do upon repeat listens.
Newsom strikes a balance between folk and the crazy full-blown orchestral arrangements of Ys. The oomph of Sapokanikan, for instance (named after the native settlement that once stood approximately where Greenwich Village sits) is derived from old-timey piano, martial drumming, bouzouki, trombone and recorder. It has a jaunty pace, as if you’re tripping along beside her attempting to follow her meaning.
Divers ends with a collaboration with City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra yet also has an abundance of reprieves from Newsom’s busyness: the comparably accessible harp song Leaving The City the lo-fi rainy-day folk of The Things I Say a gently deconstructed Same Old Man (Karen Dalton’s version).
Newsom’s working with a darker palette of colours here, and in all respects – her ideas, musicianship and vocals – is evidently a master.
Top track: Sapokanikan
Joanna Newsom plays the Queen Elizabeth Theatre on December 14. Win tickets here!