Track Review – Leaving The City / Joanna Newsom

While the first cut from Divers, ‘Sapokanikan’ unfolded gently over the course of six (often arduous) minutes, ‘Leaving The City’ is a more immediate and accessible listen. The marriage of distorted guitars and harp was never going to be easy, but once the drums kick in and Newsom rides the instrumentation with her voice more easily, it becomes clear that ‘Leaving The City’ is the best taste of ‘Divers’ yet. However, much like ‘Sapokanikan’, it has Newsom’s nature-lyrics all over it. Newsom sings ‘bleach the night with dawn deleting in that high sun’ during the breakneck chorus and ‘Through the gold fields / while the fields are plowed’ in the softer verses. The story, about living in poverty in the city and escaping to the countryside ties in with ‘Sapokanikan’s New York referencing, suggesting that Divers will be just as interconnected with stories as her previous albums.

The guitar is an unusual choice as it could easily clash with the soft harp that compliments Newsom’s voice. However, the guitar comes in and fades away at just the right points. When the drums kick in (much like the way ‘Sapokanikan’s drums rushed in) the guitar remains low enough in the mix to be there, but doesn’t dwarf Newsom’s voice, as hard as that is to do already. If ‘Sapokanikan’ was a huge hulk of a song, ‘Leaving The City’ almost feels too short. Newsom crams in a lot in the four minutes ‘Leaving The City’ lasts, but it feels as though it could have done with some brief pauses between the breathless verse-chorus structure Newsom sticks rigidly to. It just needs more, something I never though I would have said considering the scale of some of Newsom’s previous albums.

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