Artist: Marlon Williams
Album: Marlon Williams
Label: Dead Oceans
Release Date: 02/19/2016
Building on a promising career begun in 2007, this self-titled debut from New Zealand native Marlon Williams is an assured record of country and folk-flecked sincerity.
Album opener “Hello Miss Lonesome,” is a raucous introduction. Furious acoustic guitar strumming matches driving drums with Williams’ rich voice rising above the tumult. By the time some electric distortion is added to the rave-up, the ride is almost over, but at least that gives listeners a chance to catch their breath.
The country rock of “After All” slows the album’s pace from a breakneck run to a healthy jog, but keeps the crunchy distorted guitar for a track that wouldn’t feel out of place on a late-‘60s Byrds’ album. However, it’s the somber single “Dark Child” that feels like the most modern representation of Williams’ musical vision.
“Each song is a character,” the 25 year old singer has said. And to take him at his word would be to view the narrator of “Dark Child” as a pretty shady individual indeed, or at least one hounded by shadows. Though Williams’ begins by singing of a “little blonde haired blue-eyed boy,” the tunes’ final lines tell a much bleaker story. “Although the news came as no surprise,” Williams utters. “I always hoped I’d never have to bury a child.”
This complete immersion into the material being sung continues on the album’s second half. A cover of “When I Was a Young Girl” even finds Williams assuming the role of a different gender amidst finger-picked guitar and operatic vocals straight out of the Jeff Buckley playbook.
With only nine tracks, this disc crams a bunch of ideas into its 35 minute running time. If future recordings feel equally expansive, listeners should have little trouble getting swept away.
– Michael Cimaomo