When: Wed., Dec. 16, 7:30 p.m. 2015
In 2010 Joanna Newsom delivered a three-disc breakup album called Have One on Me, a daunting achievement both in its content and length. The singer has pared things down, at least in terms of duration, on her fantastic new Divers (Drag City), but there’s still nothing especially light or easy about it. After a dozen times through, I’m only now beginning to get a handle on her wildly imaginative, detail-rich, occasionally witty lyrics as well as her swooping, carefully sculpted melodies and gorgeous, multilayered arrangements (contributors include Nico Muhly and Dave Longstreth, a pair of the most audacious minds at work within the decaying boundaries that separate pop and modern classical music). On both Newsom’s last album and to a certain extent its predecessor, Ys, I felt a bit lost amid the ambition of her material; the deluge of ideas is so intense that the exquisite beauty and inventiveness end up suffering. Not so with Divers. Her most sure-handed and impressive accomplishment yet, it balances the fantastic and direct qualities of her words and melodies with a dazzling clarity that’s pulled me in like nothing since her 2004 debut. Her writing combines folk-pop and Baroque flourishes, while her singing blends mannered formalism, loose pop phrasing, and otherworldly warbling—and together they elucidate idea-packed miniatures that move from strength to strength with precision and fluidity. I’m giddy about discovering the record’s countless secrets and rewards, but I’m also excited about hearing it spill out live. Opening is the duo of Alela Diane and trusted Newsom collaborator Ryan Francesconi.