Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Thoughts on the newest from our man Will Oldham


That I, of all people, have waited this long to get the new Bonnie "Prince" Billy, The Letting Go is surprising. (I buy this guy's rather superfluous live albums, after all.) However, it is finally mine, all mine, and seeing as how there are at least two people on this blog who I know care about this, well, lemme lay it all out for ya.

This is Oldham's third great album qua album (the first being Viva Last Blues, the second being Superwolf). Previously he had great albums qua "universe-of-its-own singles collection" (Lost Blues, which I will always swear by), and great albums qua "freaky atmospheric pieces" (Days in the Wake, I See A Darkness). Then there are the "very good" albums, mostly consisting of what I would call the "middle period" (Joya, Ease Down the Road, Master and Everyone), and the "good" albums (Hope, Arise Therefore, Guarapero, There is No-One What Will Take Care of You). Admittedly I have not heard everything put out by this man, but I can safely say the remaining stuff is mostly weird side projects (did anyone hear the Tortoise record? Now, for the superfans who pass that test, did anyone like it?) This isn't a permanent canon, either; sometimes I really have a hankering for Joya, sometimes Hope hits the spot.

Now that my little nerdboy discography is out of the way, we can get to this record. I say it's a great "album album" for several reasons: first of all, it's the best produced album he's done (unless you count the country polish of the Sings Greatest Palace Music record, which shall not be spoken of again). Second, there are no bizarre distractions as there are on other BPB albums. So, no creaky voice, no throwaway stoned songs, etc. This might disappoint some people, because along with that stuff goes a lot of the offhand humor and goofy wordplay (sadly, no "horny horns" or "spank you mercilessly"s this time around, but we do get something about "your inner croco shout," whatever the hell that is). There's also not too many creepy sexual bits. So--no sex, no horny horns, no voice cracking--is this really a Will Oldham album?

Well, yes, because it's alternatively beautiful songs and well-written song songs. This is what I've really been a fan of all along (so, I have a soft spot for "epic" sing-alongs like "Horses," "New Partner," "O Let it Be," "Agnes Queen of Sorrow," etc). For the former, beautiful type, see "Love Comes to Me," "Strange Form of Life," "Lay and Love," "Then the Letting Go." For the latter, "Cursed Sleep" is really all you need, it is that awesome. There's plenty of overlap between the two types, too. Plus, he's got this woman singing with him, Dawn McCarthy, who records under the name "Faun Fables." Their harmonizing is excellent; Austin, I suspect you will especially like this part. I never thought Oldham was much of a harmonizer, but after the Superwolf record and seeing him perform those songs with Matt Sweeney, I now know better. That boy good. There are a couple of songs I don't really care for in the middle of the album, but they're interesting and well done nonetheless. The bottom line is, you will sing these tunes, you will think about these words, you will certainly want to lay in bed with someone and listen. Now, go forth ye and line Will Oldham's pockets with your CD money!

8 Comments:

Blogger The Sheriff said...

Scantron, Thank you. I've learned much more about Will Oldham from your post post

4:22 AM  
Blogger Scantron said...

This might as well become a general music thread. Robot, I'll turn your attention towards the new Blood Brothers album, out today. Watched the video for the "Laser Life" single on Youtube, very catchy, strangely poppy. Austin, good news, there's a new Dan Bejar project coming out, Swan Lake, with a dude from Wolf Parade and the lead singer of Frog Eyes. So, if they were the Beatles, they'd put out an album called Yelp! Other than that, I'd highly recommend the new TV on the Radio, or at least download the single "Wolf Like Me," which is quite excellent. Anyone else heard anything good?

3:19 AM  
Blogger The Sheriff said...

I would reccomend the new Emily Haines album, if not wholeheartedly. It's a great listen but it must be admitted that she shines most in the rock-your-socks-off type stuff for metric.

7:34 AM  
Blogger Josh the Hippie Killer said...

There's this new artist I'm really into, not sure if you've ever heard of him. His name is... (hold on, let me check)... Justin Timberlake. You should really cop his new album!

1:59 PM  
Blogger Scantron said...

Hey, he's bringing sexy back, so I can't knock him.

11:19 PM  
Blogger Robot said...

I did find the new Bonnie Billy album in Spain but an amount of money that exceeds the yearly wages of 100,000 North Koreans (about $25). I have watched both his new single and the new BLood Brothers'(thanks pitchfork!) on the YouTube of Google Corporation Industry of Bringing Love and Peace and Technology to the World. They were both terrific. I look forward to all of you sending me copies of these new albums (including the new Emily Haines) via the post.

Change of artform. I am in London at the moment and saw a play last night that was right down our collective allies, though particularly yours, Scantron. The play is the newest from that fine old humanist Tom Stoppard. Its title is "Rock and Roll," but in general I'd say it's a play about the intersections of Rock n Roll (especially the Czech band The Plastic People of the Universe, and Syd Barrett), Marxism, Czech independence, the Soviet Union, and Sappho (the play includes a scene where they translate from the Greek). If any of yáll can get a hold of a copy of the script, I would. Because Stoppard's plays consist almost entirely of talking, there's really no need to actually go and see them.

9:56 AM  
Blogger Scantron said...

You know, that's very strange you should mention Stoppard, because his play Travesties is showing in San Fran and has come highly recommended to me as well. It's the story of Joyce, Lenin, and the founder of Dadaism all being in Zurich around the same time. This one sounds great; I know Stoppard is friends with Vaclav Havel, the Czech PM and huge Zappa fan (it could be that the Plastic People of the Universe are named after a Zappa song...) I will keep my eyes open for it.

11:01 PM  
Blogger Robot said...

They are named after the Zappa song. You may also know that Zappa was appointed to be the Minister of Culture (or something like that) in the first Havel government, I think.

8:15 AM  

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