It’s five years since we last heard from Joanna Newsom, during which time she’s contributed to The Muppets soundtrack, married actor-comedian Andy Samberg and also appeared in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice.
Divers finds her fully rejuvenated. At just under an hour, it’s relatively compact compared to 2010’s three-disc precursor, Have One On Me. But it’s still a dense, rich folio of words and textures, driven by allusive lyricism and rapturous arrangements. Newsom has long since moved away from purely harp-centric songs, her unmoored ambition now realised via Mellotron, piano, woodwinds and (as on the lustrous Time, As A Symptom) the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra. There are many moments of wonderment here: the billowy erudition of Sapokanikan, which locates the spiritual heritage between old and new Manhattan; the semi-classical Waltz Of The 101st Lightborne; the autumnal Appalachian folk of Same Old Man. Lest we forget, she remains a remarkable singer, her swooping voice carrying strong echoes of Kate Bush and Mary Margaret O’Hara. Thrillingly diverse from top to bottom, Divers is a surefire contender for album of the year.