Beautifully crafted in its arrangement and narrative, Joanna Newsom creates a World on Divers that is both wonderful and despairing. This surreal juxtaposition lends a dreamlike quality to a record that ultimately feels as much like an enchanting fairytale than anything else, yet remains deep enough explore the profound musings that delicately tickle the hearts of its listeners.
Newsom expresses her concerns over the fatal flaw of true love — how the elation is forever tainted by the lingering fear of death, the one certainty that can take away everything. But upon this bleak realisation, Newsom also considers the positives that come with it, and if Divers was to contain just one underlying message, it’s that the prospect of death is simply another part of the beautiful mystery that is true love. Things get lost with age, and with progress, but there is a certain warmth that comes with that.
Newsom displays these meditations to great success with her usual blend of folk and avant-garde; the elegant harp playing is a constant joy to listen to, accompanied by playful piano and strings that are delicately arranged, often understated. Whilst her vocal style is certainly an acquired taste, Newsom sings not just with grace, but also a playful quality that only adds to the mythical ambiance that makes Divers so endearing.
Music of such dainty character will inevitably turn certain audiences away, which is a shame because frankly, Divers is a triumph; a whimsical journey that is simply too intriguing to disregard.
8 out of 10
There’s something ingratiating about music sincerely in its own world, doing its own thing, and doing it rather well. It invites its listeners in to experience life through a different lens. Joanna Newsom’s Divers is commendable in its ability to weave such a realm.
Painstakingly arranged, the album’s rich and delicate tone — comprising of an admirably composed blend of old and new — cultivates a deeply mythical lullaby for its listeners to lose themselves in. The composition and mood are gorgeous. That said, I would be lying if I said it took me anywhere exceptionally lovely for an extended period of time. “Divers” and “Time, As a Symptom” deserve mention as some of Divers’ finer moments, but they do pass.
My respect for the craft of the album outweighs the extent to which I was affected by it. There is a great deal to love about Divers; I just happen not to. It’s a sad, beautiful, and mushy world for tired minds to find refuge in. ‘Floating away on a barrel of pain,’ Divers proves a folkloric lens with a melancholy, blurry tint. It didn’t quite sail away, but there’s too much right with it not to place it among the better releases of the year.
7 out of 10
Joanna Newsom has painted a vivid picture with Divers. From the opening track, the album invites listeners into a world of timbres and genres, evoking nostalgia and curiosity that holds interest throughout the album and melds with her distinctive voice incredibly naturally.
The subtleties are what polishes the album the most, combining a wide variety of traditional instruments, with modern timbres and techniques keeps tracks fresh and interesting for the majority. Clearly a lot of time has gone into the production of the album and song writing, providing something more to pique one’s interest and engagement with each track.
With all this said, the genre can lend itself to sounding a little twee, and while Joanna Newsom largely avoids this, it toes the line for brief moments and this is where the momentum drifts slightly. Divers makes for an interesting listen and fills me with an appetite to see her, no doubt atmospheric, live performances. I can certainly imagine returning to it for a pensive hour of listening.
8 out of 10