"Each song is a character," says Marlon Williams of his self-titled solo debut: a remarkably assured and diverse nine-track tapestry, united by one of the most versatile and evocative voices you'll hear this or any other year. "I don't really ever sing out of character. Even if it's a very personal song, once it's written it doesn't belong to me." Recording the record at home, utilizing The Sitting Room in Lyttelton Harbour (New Zealand), Williams' deep-rooted bonds birth an eclectic, yet cohesive set that ranges from acrobatic opener "Hello Miss Lonesome" to the wry coffee house wisdom of "Everyone's Got Something To Say", via Rubber Soul-ful zinger "After All" and "Lonely Side Of Her"'s beauteous barroom empathy. Its author's easygoing gender fluidity is expressed through his revelatory, androgynous reading of the traditional lament "When I Was A Young Girl", previously hymned by Nina Simone and Feist, among others. This ability to truly inhabit his material illuminates Williams' majestic rendering of such diverse touchstones as classic orch-pop ballad "Lost Without You" and conceptual, 1974-vintage nugget "Silent Passage" (originally by Bob Carpenter, a Canadian of First Nations heritage). These covers blend seamlessly with novelistic noir standouts "Strange Things" and "Dark Child" (co-credited to childhood choral pal Tim Moore, now a palliative care nurse), which deliver gallows humor with a widescreen groove.
Having been nominated for 5 New Zealand Music Awards, an Australian ARIA Award and completed sold out album release tours, this Southern Hemisphere star's eagerly awaited international release should see Marlon Williams soar.
Unique among their furrowed brow peers, The Besnard Lakes are unafraid to marry textured, questing headphone sonics to the honeyed pleasure of radio hits past: the rapture of My Bloody Valentine entwined with the romance of Fleetwood Mac. Imagine dreamy Beach House riding Led Zeppelin dynamics, with unabashedly androgynous vocal harmonies.
Channelling their obsessions with the paranormal as well as the dark arts, A Coliseum Complex Museum is populated by cryptozoological creatures (The Bray Road Beast, Golden Lion) while also luxuriating in natural phenomena and beauty (The Plain Moon, Nightingale). These themes are sincere yet good-humoured. The LP's title jokily refers to a landmark-heavy road sign spotted on tour in Texas, the varied emotional impulses within reflected by its environmentally warped artwork.
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In celebration of the ten-year anniversary of this iconic album, Jagjaguwar is proud to present the Black Sheep Boy 10th Anniversary Edition, a three-LP set combining the classic Black Sheep Boy album and its counterpart the Black Sheep Boy Appendix with an all new unreleased album entitled There Swims a Swan: full-band recordings made six months prior to the release of Black Sheep Boy which illuminate the album's roots in the traditional American songbook. Featuring beautiful, emotional readings of songs popularized by such artists as Washington Phillips, Lead Belly, the Louvin Brothers, and Roscoe Holcomb, There Swims a Swan takes the listener on a trip through the songs that inspired Sheff while composing Black Sheep Boy and reads like a run-through of that album's themes. Black Sheep Boy is celebrated for its album artwork as well as its music, and the Anniversary Edition collects that artwork in a meticulously reworked package, combining every previous element of William Schaff's imagery with a large new piece by Schaff depicting an updated Black Sheep Boy. The release also includes lengthy liner notes by Will Sheff walking the listener through the circumstances surrounding the album.
For Okkervil River fans (the most high-profile of whom was recently revealed to be President Barack Obama, who included "Down Down the Deep River" on his 2015 summer playlist), the Anniversary Edition is a loving, comprehensive, richly expanded presentation of a record many consider to be one of the band's best. For those new to the band, this might be the best place to start, the first step on a long road, the opening to a forest you can get lost in.