Joanna Newsom - "Divers" (Singles Going Steady)

The title track from one of this year's best albums, Newsom begins "Divers" with a soothing oath that sounds like it could double as a hymn.

Brian Duricy: The title track from this year's best album, Newsom begins "Divers" with a soothing oath that sounds like it could double as a hymn. Spinning a tale of love distanced by both time and the physical span of the sea, it reaches its emotional crest with the gorgeous proclamation "A woman is alive, a woman is alive", evoking the climactic "I am the happiest woman among all women" from Ys's "Only Skin". Lyrically, she's as accessibly dense as ever, with layers happily lapping like waves that just invite you to dive in. And this is to say nothing of the music, which melds the harp with a backing xylophone and classical piano that offer up instrumental representations of the sea and land. [10/10]

Steve Horowitz: The sound of Newsom’s voice always inspires a laugh. This is good because it disarms conventional listening and makes the music warmer and more intimate. While Newsom is known for the literary nature of her lyrics, the sense of what she’s singing about gets lost in the tapestry of instruments so that only certain words like “love” and “night” make a deep impression. This is music to get lost in and bears repeated playback. The video itself is stunningly beautiful and allows Newsom to face front and center without seeming vain. She is part of the scenery and apart from the action; a goddess, a confidant, a cloud. Damn. [8/10]

Kevin Korber: I think I get what Joanna Newsom’s aiming at for years; “Divers” is complicated and wistful all at once. As with a lot of Newsom’s work, though, I can’t help but feel that this is complexity for its own sake. This is pop music as a museum piece, as something to be studied from afar and “appreciated” rather than loved. Doesn’t that, in turn, negate the purpose of pop music? Having said that, listening to “Divers” may make you appear to be really smart, presuming you can stay awake for all of it. [3/10]

John Garratt: I'm hearing a slight musical parallel to Peter Gabriel's "San Jacinto". The main difference is that this song doesn't go anywhere. And I still think her occasional goose honks are just a way for her to get attention. [4/10]

Paul Duffus: This is exquisite. Maybe it's the nautical theme, maybe it's the gentle sway created by the track's beautiful arrangement, but it reminds me of the more melodic moments on The Sea and The Bells, the classic album by Rachel’s. 'Divers' is that good. It's been a long time coming, but on this evidence Newsom’s new album will be an essential purchase just like all her others. [10/10]





Masaki Kobayashi's 'Kwaidan' Horror Films Are Horrifically Beautiful

The four haunting tales of Masaki Kobayashi's Kwaidan are human and relatable, as well as impressive at a formal and a technical level.


The Top 10 Thought-Provoking Science Fiction Films

Serious science fiction often takes a backseat to the more pulpy, crowdpleasing genre entries. Here are 10 titles far better than any "dogfight in space" adventure.


'The Kill Chain': Why America Might Lose Its Next Big War

Christian Brose's defense-nerd position paper, The Kill Chain, inadvertently reveals that the Pentagon's problems (complacency, inertia, arrogance) reflect those of the country at large.


2006's 'Flat-Pack Philosophy' Saw Buzzcocks Determined to Build Something of Quality

With a four-decade career under their belt, on the sixth disc in the new box-set Sell You Everything, it's heartening to see Buzzcocks refusing to settle for an album that didn't try something new.


'Lie With Me': Beauty, Love and Toxic Masculinity in the Gay '80s

How do we write about repression and toxic masculinity without valorizing it? Philippe Besson's Lie With Me is equal parts poignant tribute and glaring warning.


Apparat's 'Soundtrack: Capri-Revolution' Stands Alone As a Great Ambient Experience

Apparat's (aka Sascha Ring) re-imagined score from Mario Martone's 2018 Capri-Revolution works as a fine accompaniment to a meditational flight of fancy.


Chouk Bwa and the Ångströmers Merge Haitian Folk and Electronic Music on 'Vodou Alé'

Haitian roots music meets innovative electronics on Chouk Bwa and the Ångströmers' Vodou Alé.

My Favorite Thing

Weird and Sweet, Riotous and Hushed: The Beatles' 'The White Album'

The Beatles' 'The White Album' is a piece of art that demonstrates how much you can stretch, how far you can bend, how big you really are. The album is deeply weird. It has mass. It has its own weather.


Sarah Jarosz Finds Inspiration in Her Texas Roots on 'World on the Ground'

By turning to her roots in central Texas for inspiration on World on the Ground, Sarah Jarosz has crafted some of her strongest songs yet.


Hinds' 'The Prettiest Curse' Is One of Victory

On The Prettiest Curse, Hinds create messy pop music that captures the vibrancy of youth without being childish.


12 Essential Performances from New Orleans' Piano "Professors"

New Orleans music is renowned for its piano players. Here's a dozen jams from great Crescent City keyboardists, past and present, and a little something extra.


Jess Williamson Reimagines the Occult As Source Power on 'Sorceress'

Folk singer-songwriter, Jess Williamson wants listeners to know magic is not found in tarot cards or mass-produced smudge sticks. Rather, transformative power is deeply personal, thereby locating Sorceress as an indelible conveyor of strength and wisdom.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.