Last night, apart from attending the Emmys in support of her host husband Andy Samberg, Joanna Newsom released a new song from her upcoming album, Divers — it’s a track that, from its title alone, could serve as an escape fantasy from a saturated city and social scene — like the Emmys! On “Leaving the City,” Newsom croons about “Hay and a clean stall/ And ivy on a garden wall,” and a “black road through the gold fields.” It’s not all easy bucolic escapism, with the beauty of the “splintered light” making the narrator unable to breathe; though this doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s not just a particularly well-written and emotionally complex track about stealing away to a country home with Andy Samberg. But if anyone could write that experience with intriguing poetic opacity, it’s Newsom.
Perhaps what’s most noteworthy about the track is its divergence from what we know of Newsom’s instrumentation. Though on Have One on Me tracks like “Easy” and “Baby Birch,” she’s brought in muted percussion, “Leaving the City” features both a surprisingly direct beat (drummed by Newsom’s brother) and the sounds of almost rock-y electric guitar flourishes (actually coming from a Mellotron M400, which quickly begins to sound just as much like wailing bagpipes as it does guitar). It also, of course, includes a fair share of harp, and is interwoven with some agile marxophone playing. (All instruments, apart from the drums, are played by Newsom).
Newsom said that the album (which is out October 23) “has a kind of tonal variegation to it that’s different from anything I did in the past,” and that’s especially apparent here.