Joanna Newsom ‘Divers’ – let it guide you

Joanna Newsom has a whole group of fans who sit over her lyrics and dissect them for hidden meanings, references and stories. They will be rewarded, as Newsom herself said in a recent interview (via The Guardian) that she knows this and therefore doesn’t slack on her lyrics.

But I assume that there is another group of fans who like the other oddity of her music which has a lot to do with another thing she said in an interview with NPR:

I hope that it’s possible, in the sense that the thing that is most important to me, truly, is that the melodies be good and pleasing and beautiful. And I know beautiful is a very loaded and sometimes problematic word. But I want songs to be substantial and have a strong core of well-written melody and exciting, interesting chord progressions — these things that are very immediate, and don’t require digging or analysing in order to “get,” whatever that means.

Newsom’s music is dense as is Nabokov’s prose, whom she mentions as a literary inspiration. And as much as I read Nabokov, I listen to Newsom: with the faith and trust that despite all the twists and turns and skips through themes, images and ideas, I will find my way back and see a story appear in front of me as if watching an impressionist creating shadows, sun spots and movement by obtuse sparks of colour.

In a way, this faith and experience of listening to „Divers“ (and „Have one on me“) feels like the viewer feels when watching the somewhat monumental „Russian Ark“, a one-shot-journey through a museum in Russia (specifically the Russian Hermitage Museum), living through centuries, rooms full of art and the hidden stories of people who once may or may not have lived there.

The storyline is hectic and slow and breathless and sometimes even plays with the viewers desire to look further whilst the protagonist – or rather, our narrator and guide – rather contemplates or watches someone watching art. However, at no point in the whole 96 minutes does the viewer fatigue or bore as the imagery is of such beauty and the camera work is so intricate and well choreographed, that you glide along and all the subtleties, all the stories, they tag along but never fully form until after the movie has ended. It will stay with you and you will return but the ride doesn’t have to be exhausting if you ease into it.


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