Artist of the week: Joanna Newsom
Though born and raised in a family deeply devoted to music (her mother was trained to be a concert pianist, her father was a guitarist, her brother played the drums and her sister the cello), no context can fully explained the tremendous musical sensibility showcased by the expansive work of the harpist, keyboardist, vocalist, songwriter and actress known by the name of Joanna Newsom.
After releasing a couple of EPs, Joanna Newsom released her full-length debut, The Milk-Eyed Minder in 2004 via Drag City, a record initially championed by like-minded musicians such as Will Oldham and Cat Power, but quickly praised by critics and indie fans all around the world. Though initially connoted with the freak folk movement, her avant-garde sensibility, original Appalachian take on folk music and abrasive voicing quickly made her an artist hard to pin-down. Her following records, 2006’s Ys and 2010’s triple Have One On Me, reinforced her unique position in popular music with long, intricate and sprawling suites and narratives that continually grated against her generation listening habits.
Her brand new album, Divers, is, by far, her most manageable record to date: eleven songs that do not shy away from her trademark elaborate sonic textures and storytelling, but somehow manages to turn her philosophical meditations into pop gems that demand to be listened by a larger audience. A tremendous and haunting artistic achievement.
João Pedro da Costa is a web studies scholar and a music fan.