1997, Music

Joya (1997) by Will Oldham

Though I have heard far from all – not even half – of Will Olham’s music, I think it’s safe to say that Oldham is one of my favourite songwriters to debut in the 1990s. He may be my favourite. Something about his lyrics connect we me, even though I don’t always recognize his situations, beliefs and emotions. Like with some of my other favourite songwriters, I feel like I am listening to his soul, like I’m getting through the layer of artifice that most people put up around themselves.

I don’t really know why Oldham actually released this one album under his own name. I have never heard any of the Palace stuff yet – ridiculous, I know, given what I have said above – but this sounds just like Bonnie Prince Billy to me. I guess he just hadn’t come up with his new name yet and Palace was tired. Anyway, it doesn’t matter.

This is a strong set of songs conveying much of what makes Oldham so great. I’ve always found Oldham’s songs take a long time to sink in so I’m not sure I’m comfortable yet saying where I think this rests among the records of his I’ve heard, but I do really like these songs.

The arrangements are typical, if you know his work, as is his delivery. I suspect he is very much a love-or-hate artist, given that some people see his performance and the whole aesthetic as just affectation and nothing else. (Personally, I cannot imagine listening to his songs and feeling that way, but that’s just me.)

There are one or two stretches – do I hear an electric keyboard on one of these songs??? – but for the most part this is a typical Oldham record distinguished by a strong set of songs.

8/10

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