Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Album Review: Marlon Williams - Make Way For Love (2018)

Marlon Williams is a difficult artist to categorise. His terrific voice and throwback musical style has seen him compared to the likes of Roy Orbison, Brian Wilson, Scott Walker, Richard Hawley, and Anohni. Plus a few other less obvious artists of a similar ilk. A recent Spinoff (website) profile even placed him in the same (local/New Zealand) realm as the great Maori show bands of the Fifties and Sixties. All of these reference points are certainly hard to argue with, if the evidence offered on Make Way For Love is anything to go by.

Officially, Make Way For Love is studio album number two for Williams, a follow-up to his eponymous debut of 2015, but there’s also been a live album (Live at La Niche, 2014), and during what might now be called his “early years”, he featured on a handful of releases as part of Christchurch band, The Unfaithful Ways. And not forgetting, of course, the highly acclaimed award-winning collaborative efforts he was involved in alongside local roots/country music luminary, Delaney Davidson.

It’s probably fair to say then, that at just 27 years of age, the Christchurch-born, Ngai Tahu descendant, has already crammed a whole heap of living into a relatively short timeframe. And that, in itself, is one of the key reasons Make Way For Love is such an absorbing piece of work. A broad range of life experiences helping to shape a compelling set of stories/lyrics, which nestle comfortably up against more obvious factors like his rather unique honey-drenched vocal delivery and beautifully crafted retro guitar-stylings.

There’s a couple of Davidson co-writes on the album, but mostly this is Williams baring his soul in the wake of his relationship break-up with Aldous Harding, who is no stranger to a bit of soul baring herself. In fact, heartbreak is easily the most prominent theme on the album, and one of the best tracks is a duet he performs alongside his ex-squeeze, ‘Nobody Gets What They Want Anymore’, which rather poignantly, was recorded after the relationship broke down.

Style-wise, retro-pop flavours rule throughout, and by that, I think I mean the strong influence of old-time crooning. But also in terms of instrumentation and song structure, with the majority of tunes ticking the unwritten three-to-four minute rule which tends to define pop music, be it retro, brand spanking new, or otherwise. Mostly, Williams keeps things simple and uncomplicated, which further emphasises the old-school elements at play.

Based on past listening, I had expected a far stronger country or bluegrass presence on Make Way For Love, and while it’s still there, and at the core of most things Williams does, it isn’t there in any in-yer-face kind of way, which ultimately means the whole thing defies any real genre-labelling. Which is pretty much where I came in …

Highlights: the aforementioned duet with Aldous Harding, the hook-laden ‘What’s Chasing You’, plus the title track/closer, which really does rather effortlessly invoke the spirit of those Maori show bands of yester-year.

No comments:

Post a Comment