It looks like I may be right about Joanna Newsom’s forthcoming album Divers being a more experimental work, because this second single (“Leaving the City”) is truly unlike anything else she’s ever done before. That’s not hyperbole. I honestly can’t compare this to any other song or even just general thematic sound from any album she’s done before. This is a flirtation with rock – a surprise coming from Newsom, but a very pleasant one!
Her weapon of choice – the Celtic harp – still has a strong presence throughout the track, but now we also get some kind of synthy sound (a Mellotron maybe? I’ll be honest, that’s based on quick research with little details. I have no idea what that instrument is), a bit of piano, some heavy drums, and something called a Marxophone. It makes for a very dark and sinister song. I was listening some thunder and wind noises from one of my favorite sites and all combined it gave me chills.
Now I’m pretty sure Newsom did move fully from New York City to LA (she bought a house out here a year or so ago with husband Andy Samberg), so maybe that’s what this song is about? It seems likely. “I believe in you./Do you believe in me?/What do you want to do?/Are we leaving the city?” It makes for an interesting contrast to the lilting playfulness of “Sapokanikan” which was definitely about NYC. I don’t think this song is about LA so much as it is about the move though. I am excited to see if she does have a song about LA though! I mean, she’s from California, but Northern California specifically – a teeny tiny little place called Nevada City. So who knows? I’m just excited in general to see what comes next.
Stop the presses! Joanna Newsom has started making noise again! Gosh, how did I almost miss this one? Well, when an artist goes five years between albums (and doesn’t have any social media accounts or even their own website – just a page on their record label’s site), I guess it takes some time before the news reaches a fan. All I knew over those past five years was that she got married to Andy Samberg and bought a house in LA that Charlie Chaplin used to live in.
And so we have “Sapokanikan,” the first single from her upcoming album Divers!
It reminds me a lot of her very early work, at least vocally. There’s a lot of acrobatics and lilting and wild abandon going on here. Yet lyrically it makes me think of Ys. Though this track isn’t nearly as long as the shortest one on that album, it still has that epic poetic lyrical structure – there’s hardly a pause between verses. It’s really hard to pin down this one. It sounds like this album is going to be more experimental.
It’s hard for me to say what any Joanna Newsom song is about. This is usually because of that epic lyrical structure I mentioned earlier. It usually takes a lot of listens before I get a feel for it. And even then, a Joanna Newsom song requires more research, as she makes a lot of references to history, literature, and myths. Yeah, it’s a little hipstery, but if you can get over it, it makes for great music that transcends the casualness of most rock and pop. I’m sorry, that sounded pretty hipstery too. I can say that Sapokanikan refers to the Native American name given to the land that eventually became Greenwich Village in NYC. So it seems that this song is a musing on the history of the area. If you want a good breakdown, I’d head over to Genius. They’re usually pretty good about this kind of stuff.
As for the video itself, it makes me think of Pharrell Williams’s “Happy” but in NYC, of course. It’s somehow fitting for Joanna Newsom to be prancing and skipping through the big city as she sings. The song certainly doesn’t make me think of NYC, but that just makes it all the more interesting. She should seem out of place and overwhelmed (coming from the little bitty town of Nevada City, California) but she’s not phased at all and seems comfortable as she winds her way through shops and parks. I like it.
This is probably not a good starter Joanna Newsom song for a newcomer – but if you’re a fan and you, like me, have somehow missed out on it, get to listening! And prepare yourself for something very new and different. I’m excited to see what October 23rd brings.