Conventionality has never been one of Joanna Newsom’s watchwords.
Her last record, ‘Have One On Me’, was a triple-album song cycle and
‘Ys’, before that, was split into just five epic fairytales for the harp, the
longest of which lasted 17 minutes.

With that in mind, Newsom’s fourth is, at first glance, something of a surprise: ‘Divers’ is a single LP containing eleven songs,

all around the five minute mark, and preceding its release there was a lead YouTube single showing nothing more eccentric than the singer wandering
around New York.

Even ‘Divers’’ opening song starts with the most traditional of cadences, and for a brief moment there’s a hint that the last five years of Newsom’s life,Reviews which has taken in acting,

modelling and latterly marriage, might have mellowed her idiosyncrasies.

Thankfully, however, they haven’t, and ‘Anecdotes’

quickly blooms from an elegant wartime lullaby to something far more satisfyingly knotty: Newsom introduces characters,

converses with an obscure species of forest bird about the nature of remembrance, Reviews and underpins it with a handful of deliciously moreish five note melodies as sumptuously arranged as they are compositionally simple.

And from there, ‘Divers’ barely lets up, intellectually, musically and emotionally.

Over the next 50 minutes, Newsom presents a series of songs as complex, delicate and intertwined as she’s ever written: ‘Sapokanikan’

cites Shelley’s ‘Ozymandias’ to frame its story of native Americans who inhabited Manhattan island before the Europeans arrived,

‘Waltz of the 101st Lightborne’ is a terrifically catchy sea shanty that mixes,

a historical voyage with the theory of relativity, and the title track is a devastatingly beautiful ballad where diving for pearls is an allegory for tragically unrequited love.

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