Joanna Newsom: Divers

Gorgeous, multi-faceted fourth from US harpist-composer.

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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.

Rob Hughes

Freelance writer for Classic Rock since 2008, and sister title Prog since its inception in 2009. Regular contributor to Uncut magazine for over 20 years. Other clients include Word magazine, Record Collector, The Guardian, Sunday Times, The Telegraph and When Saturday Comes. Alongside Marc Riley, co-presenter of long-running A-Z Of David Bowie podcast. Also appears twice a week on Riley’s BBC6 radio show, rifling through old copies of the NME and Melody Maker in the Parallel Universe slot. Designed Aston Villa’s kit during a previous life as a sportswear designer. Geezer Butler told him he loved the all-black away strip.