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Friday, March 25, 2016

Mike's Picks #2

Joanna Newsom - Divers
On her first album since 2010's Have One On Me, Joanna Newsom finds herself simultaneously returning to her roots while still taking risks and artistic leaps.  Since Have One On Me was a two hour, triple album, and it's predecessor Ys packed five songs into 55 minutes, the more traditional structure of Divers is a breath of fresh air (although I wouldn't complain too much if it were a three hour, quadruple album, B-side albums exist for a reason.)

Newsom blends her distinct style of Appalachian folk with a dynamic, almost Kate Bush-like sense of space.  Synthesizers, tape loops, piano and orchestral flourishes are all over this record, but the main stars are still her withered, scratchy vocals and, what sets her apart from practically everyone else in today's popular music scene, her skills as a harpist.  On the album's opener, "Anecdotes", a simple call and response riff between piano and harp gives way to the more grand, multi-instrumental style she has used over her more recent work, acting as a link between her past and present sound.

While many long time fans may find her new fame hard to swallow (in the time between albums, she had a role in the Paul Thomas Anderson film Inherent Vice and married SNL alum Andy Samberg) the music speaks for itself.  It may not be as raw as The Milk-Eyed Mender, as challenging as Ys, or as theatrical as Have One On Me, but all of those elements are here.  If I were to suggest a starting point for new listeners, it would be this album.

Key Lyric:
But inasmuch as that light is loaned,
insofar as we’ve borrowed bones,
must every debt now be repaid
in star-spotted, 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...

(Although this album is still on the new music shelf here at the library, it was released in October, so I don't expect it will be there for much longer.  Still, come to the library and give it a shot.  It's well worth your time.)

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