Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Wading in Further...

So after everyone's enthusiastic recommendations during the Best of 2008 days, I finally picked up Bonnie "Prince" Billy's Lay Down in the Light, and it's gorgeous. I can't stop listening to it. So thanks.

It's actually my first Will Oldham purchase. Just hadn't gotten around to it before this. So my question is, where to next? Keep in mind I'm not that interested in particularly tuneless lo-fi mumbly stuff (so I'm probably looking more at B"P"B and not Palace stuff right?). How is the new one?


Quinapalus said...

I personally haven't gotten around to the new one yet, though I've heard positive things.

It's sort of hilarious that someone who isn't a fan of tuneless, lo-fi mumbly stuff would decide to look into Will Oldham in the first place! But I actually sort of know what you his most tuneless and inaccessible I've never been able to tolerate him either.

You're someone who might actually enjoy his controversial "Greatest Palace Music" from a couple of years back, in which he took a bunch of his old Palace songs and did big, lushly arranged versions of them with Nashville studio musicians. I'm not a fan of the whole thing, but I'd say about half of it is fantastic. (Pitchfork was so flummoxed by it that they suggested with all credulity in their review that Oldham was playing a brilliant, labyrinthine practical joke on his fans, by purposefully making slightly corny, but still listenable, versions of all his old songs...which is of course absurd.)

I don't actually agree that you should stick to BPB and stay away from Palace though...there's plenty of lo-fi tuneless BPB stuff, and some Palace stuff that's actually pretty bouncy and melodic and fun. Besides Lie Down in the Light, my two all time favorite Oldham releases (and the only ones I come back to again and again) are Palace's "Viva Last Blues" and BPB's "I See a Darkness", which in some ways is like the evil twin of "Lie Down in the Light".

texplush said...

So glad you're liking it!

I think Viva Last Blues is my favorite (there's a full band and upbeat songs, as well as my personal favorite song of his - New Partner, and the a lot of the ever classic Oldham voice-crack-which-is-on-pitch). I See A Darkness is probably the one that will end up in the Library of Congress. Both are bonafide classics. I also like Days In The Wake, but it's a little more lo fi.

That being said, since you seem wary of the old stuff, the new one - Beware might actually be a good next step. Not nearly as good as Lie Down, it still is very lush and has big arrangements. Some really great songs and generally in the same vibe as Lie Down if maybe more country. I'm still digging in...

Though Drischord will disagree, I would stay away from Master And Everyone.

Eric said...

Q- I recognized that irony and was almost being tongue in cheek when I wrote that. But basically, I heard some Palace or whatever stuff at one point in college and didn't find it remotely appealing (granted my palate was a lot narrower back then-- the only new stuff I liked was Elephant 6, because it sounded like the Beatles), so I kind of wrote off his stuff until everyone's write-ups made me want to check this one out. And I absolutely love it.
It's not that I have no tolerance for lo-fi mumbly stuff, but I have very limited interest in the white bearded dude with acoustic guitar genre. So I'd want something that takes it somewhere more interesting is all. This record DEFINITELY does that. I'll put those other ones on the list.

drischord said...

I actually don't think BPB is nearly as mumbly as his label-mate, Smog, who's another great artist. (Although now that guy is recording under his given name, Bill Callahan, aka Mr. Joanna Newsom.)

Tex is right-- I love Master and Everyone-- but it is very mellow and reflective. Good for a late night staring out the window kind of thing.

I just got Beware in the mail yesterday and have not heard it yet. I will report back, although I should note that on non-Kittybrains Collective sites, it's getting better reviews than Lay Down in the Light.

But really, there isn't a BPB album that I'd avoid in your case, except for his "Superwolf" album w/ Matt Sweeney. I love it myself, but it's definitely more far out and mumbly.

Also, Q, I'd actually say Lay Down's dark companion piece is The Letting Go, which was underrated by some of this Collective. But in fact it might be Beware, which it sounds like none of us have heard. But it's sitting in my car right now and I will listen to it when I go out today.

texplush said...

the lyrical content on Beware is definitely darker, but the music itself is closer to Lie Down than anything else he's done. Still, I think Lie Down is better.
D - i bought mp3s from Amazon (8.99 y'all!) so i don't know - who produced it? was it Mark Nevers again?

Eric said...

All of this will depend on which one I see first in a used CD store (it's hard to change!) but I'll keep all this in mind.

Incidentally, I LOVE the song that Q posted WAY back like a year ago, So Everyone, about public BJs. The entire song is kind of a masterpiece but one of the parts that gets me is after that first time they trade lines on "Oh lady" "Oh boy." Just so perfect.

In fact, the interplay between the vocals of she and him (pun intended) on the whole album are such a highlight. "You Want That Picture," in particular.

I think what I was getting at with the lo-fi mumbly stuff is that one thing I have less patience for is that wispy fragile music that feels like it's going to fall apart. I don't necessarily dislike that in all cases, but I have little patience for it (and it's a staple of the aforementioned White Bearded Dude With Acoustic Guitar genre), but this music has weight and heft and life and that's why I like it a lot.

Quinapalus said...

Dris, I never could really get into the Superwolf album as a whole, but I always did think the final song "I Gave You" was about as fine a quiet, sad folk song as Oldham ever wrote.

I never listened to The Letting Go. Before Lie Down in the Light I was thinking that BPB was starting to have some severely diminishing returns, and I had more or less tuned out by that point.

texplush said...

I'm with Q on the Letting Go. Never gave it a chance.
as for Superwolf, "My Home Is The Sea" is in my top 10 Oldham songs.

drischord said...

Tex, to answer your question about Mark Nevers, no he doesn't produce this album. That's credited to Neil Strauch. I'm not familiar with him.

Anyway, I listened to this twice yesterday, and my initial reaction is that it is better than Lie Down in the Light. Don't get me wrong; I think Lie Down is great (although not on the level that Tex does.) But this is an overall bigger, more rowdy, more unpredictable affair. This Onion review sums it up pretty well.,25161/

I also recommend that everyone on here go out and listen to The Letting Go. It's really great, albeit dark, and it's garnered some of the strongest reviews of any Will Oldham album ever. (Probably not quite as strong as I See a Darkness, but that album really set the stage for his Bonnie "Prince" Billy persona.)

Eric said...

re: The Letting Go. I can understand the idea of getting diminishing returns from a very consistent artist. It's like how Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga got some of the best across-the-board reviews of Spoon's career, but the reality is that it was kind of a palerretread of stuff they had done before, lots of times. It was just that it had bigger mainstream exposure.

But anyway, that's why I'm kind of excited to listen to be able to move in with fresh ears.

drischord said...

I think that's an apt comparison. I complain about Spoon a lot for that reason. Thing about The Letting Go was that it followed 4 records that people thought were worse than I See a Darkness:

1. Ease Down the Road (still very good and worth owning, but probably his weakest overall)

2. Master and Everyone (very dark and minimalist; it's my personal favorite but I acknowledge that a lot of people don't like it compared to his more jovial, uptempo stuff)

3. Greatest Palace Music (confused a lot of people; turned off Quinapalus in particular)

4. Superwolf (noisier and more bizarre than what had followed)

Then you had The Letting Go, which probably sounds more like I See a Darkness (the consensus apex of his canon; good luck finding it used) than anything else he's released. I think that similarity was what brought out the glowing reviews as much as anything.

drischord said...

Also, Eric, where do you buy used CDs anymore now that everything on St. Mark's seems to have closed except for Sounds? (Admittedly haven't been there in half a year.) Stoop sales? The much-ridiculed Other Music?

In LA there's sadly only one real music store left-- Amoeba. Granted, it's massive and has basically everything, but still, it's the only one.

Eric said...

Other Music may be snobby (and used to employ Panda Bear of Animal Collective!) but their used section is largely unparalleled in terms of its consistency and quality. If I was going to find I See A Darkness used, it would be there.

St. Mark's is basically dead. Sounds is kind of a shadow of its former self and the loss of Kim's (which I would argue probably had the best used section in the city) was a huge blow. There's a much smaller Kim's on first avenue, with a teeny tiny music section, though their used section is impressively consistent in quality. I guess now that they have much less shelf space for CDs, they are more picky.

BUT! The one ray of light is Academy Music on 18th Street. They not only have a great used section (and the best collection of classical stuff in the city, not that I buy much of it) but also a really good budget section. But their regular used prices are low too-- only about 5-7 bucks usually, as opposed to the 10 and 11 bucks that Amoeba seems to be charging for regular used stuff.

Beyond that it's stoop sales and thrift shops. Most of the CDs I buy these days only cost two to five bucks.

Quinapalus said...

I'll have to check out Academy Music, I've never been there. I can't stand Other Music, and even the Virgin Megastores are going under. I always liked browsing there more than shopping, but they had a selection of DVDs I couldn't find anywhere else.

Dris, I actually like a lot of Greatest Palace I said in my comment above, I think about half of it is fantastic. I certainly don't know what I ever said about it to make you think I "in particular" was turned off by it.

drischord said...

Sorry about that Q. I remember a strong negative reaction from you when we were living in Park Slope w/ Matt Wells. Maybe I'm wrong, but you seemed pretty low on it at the time. I remember a particularly strong reaction to I Am a Cinematographer. But obviously:

a) Your opinion could have changed since then or

b) I've mis-remembered the whole thing.

Quinapalus said...

Really? No, I actually kind of like the rollicking Cinematographer on that album. I do still find that version of New Partner to be practically unlistenable though.

texplush said...

So, i've dug in a little deeper to Beware and I'm happy to report it's pretty awesome.
The first two tracks and the last two tracks are as good as anything on Light for sure, and may rank very high in the cannon in general.
The middle section has some less catchy material that delves into darker, more cryptic, subjects (hence, i believe, the more critically acclaimed nature that D refers to).
There is one song that is a bit cringe-worthy to my ears (You Don't Love Me), which may ultimately place this below Light in my ranking.
But like I said, if you were a fan of Light, you'd be a fool to ignore this record.
Absolutely wonderful arrangements and some of the best melodies (and vocals!) that BPB has produced.