Joanna Newsom – Divers


Joanna Newsom - Divers (Drag City) 2015


So it would seem to be true / When cruel birth debases, we forget / When cruel death debases / We believe it erases all the rest / That precedes / But stand brave, life-liver / Bleeding out your days / In the river of time / Stand brave / Time moves both ways”. Like with most things in life the end is normally a moment that sheds some light and sense of clarity. “Time, As Symptom”, the song that closes Newsom’s latest album, denounces the fear that fuels Divers. It’s the fear of not having enough. The greedy and insatiable nature of the human being that, in this particular case, is not right nor it is wrong. If there’s one thing that is certain is that it comes from a place of profound and honest love. But it also emphasizes that unquestionable presence of a courageous heart. In those terms Joanna Newsom manages to link herself with a crushing number of people all over the world, and that’s probably the biggest accomplishment of Divers. If connectivity is the most relevant and pivotal element in art, then Divers is an utterly successful artistic manifest. It’s highly personal, but can easily be transported to a more public place. After all, these two spaces intersect. They have a deep relationship of their own.

Joanna Newsom was, since the get go, very vocal and clear regarding the concept that compelled her to write Divers, her fourth studio album. Her marriage to comedian Andy Samberg and the fact that it meant accepting death in her life (the good and old inevitability, or what many believe to be the Promised Land) was the spark that led to this burning fire. It’s really not the first time that death plays a big role on Newsom’s artistic vision, but it’s undeniably that the road taken in recent times wouldn’t be possible in the past. Not only she displays the emotions, but also the skill to process them and truly convey them.

Is this the most accomplished record in Newsom’s career? Is it her most ambitious artistic endeavor? The passion can easily blind one’s perception, even if we promptly acknowledge it, but when it burns so hard it will be hard to be bothered with logic and reason. It is dramatic and serious, but doesn’t shy away from dancing around like an eccentric and a free bird that it is. It dreams and fantasies even when the fear insists on casting a shadow.

There were many people who lend their skills to this album – Nico Muhly, Ryan Francesconi, Dave Longstreth, Dan Cantrell, Kevin, Barker, Peter Newsom, Neal Morgan, and the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra – and the most important fact is that they didn’t really help Newsom on her mission. They dived with her into a trip where time seemed to stand still (is that the album’s biggest victory?) and joy, sorry, fear, happiness, love, and courage, seem just a mere scratch in the surface of what’s really the depth of Divers. “See how the infinite divides / And the divers are not to blame / For the rift spanning distant shores / You don’t know my name / But I know yours”. If there’s ever a need to illustrate brilliance, then Divers will have to take a step forward and accept the strong spotlight.

Words by Tiago Moreira
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