Divers, Joanna Newsom’s first album in more than five years, is one of the most hotly anticipated albums of this fall—and now it’s streaming in full via NPR’s First Listen. It’s not exactly the kind of album you can put on in the background while going about your day—as the New Yorker’s Kalefa Sanneh wrote recently, Newsom’s music “is designed to take over a room, or to take over your thoughts, no matter how quietly you play it.” But Divers is good enough that you should be willing to sacrifice your attention span to it for an hour, or a few hours, depending on how many times you hit the play button. (As many critics, including Sanneh, have noted, the album is designed to be listened to on repeat.)
Here, Newsom shows off her talent for both simple, hummable melodies (like the melancholy, stunning “The Things I Say”) and thorny, layered arrangements (tracks like “Anecdotes” and the previously released “Leaving the City” are as intricate as the orchestral compositions on Ys, Newsom’s 2006 EP). But Divers features a few fresh formal experiments, too, like the twangy, country-tinged backing of “Goose Eggs,” and the choral echoes at the end of “Waltz of the 101st Lightborne.” And Newsom’s increasingly refined voice means that comparisons to Joni Mitchell and Kate Bush aren’t likely to end any time soon. Listen for yourself, whether once or on infinite loop.