Is it weird that last year’s Divers might be my favorite Joanna Newsom album? There’s stiff competition for that title, to be sure. Newsom’s debut, The Milk-Eyed Mender, is more singular, and the subsequent Ys and Have One on Me boast more formal ambition. On her fourth album, though, Newsom’s approach is much more inviting for the uninitiated. Barring the 7-minute title-track, the songs on Divers are manageable in length (no 17-minute epics about skin this time around) and among her most sonically approachable. It’s a winning tact for an auteur whose work can sometimes be intimidatingly conceptual. That’s not to say Divers is lacking in grandeur, however; it’s as richly arranged as any of her other works, and there’s talk of deep loss and wars against time if you parse through the lyrics closely.
The video for Divers‘ first single “Sapokanikan” reunites Newsom with director Paul Thomas Anderson (Newsom starred in his recent Thomas Pynchon adaptation, Inherent Vice). In it, a handheld camera captures Newsom on a very long stroll through New York City, her expressive face illuminated by sunlight, streetlight and, towards the video’s end, the ominous red and blue of fire trucks. As with the album proper, that simplistic approach is more than enough.