Will Oldham, a.k.a. Bonnie “Prince” Billy, isn’t shy about his adoration for the music of R. Kelly. I recall reading at one point or another that “Ignition” was his favorite song. And he’s even covered “The World’s Greatest.” So, it should probably come as little surprise that his newest album features a track titled “You Remind Me Of Something.” The surprising part, however, is that it isn’t an R. Kelly song, but rather an Oldham original. Still, Kells’ `freakin’ weekend’ spirit has no doubt found its way into this album, not so much stylistically, but in its upbeat essence. This is the most vibrant album Oldham has released in quite some time.
Bonnie “Prince” Billy’s 2006 effort The Letting Go was by far one of his most beautiful collections, yet it was also a chilly and dark album, with the wintry air of its Icelandic origins seeping in. By contrast, Lie Down in the Light is a sprightly and bright indie folk album with a sustained momentum and an arsenal of impeccable melodies. Once again, Oldham’s output is nothing less than stunning.
The album kicks off with the melodic and scruffy “Easy Does It,” a lovely combination of acoustic plucks and violin, with Oldham’s voice sounding its most friendly and folksy. Yet the song hits its peak when a honky tonk piano comes barreling in, capping the perfect little folk tune. “You Remind Me Of Something” (not the R. Kelly song, remember?) has a minor key melody, and retains a bit of the chill from Oldham’s prior album, yet with a sublime and spiritual chorus of “you remind me of something/ a song that I am/ and you sing me back into myself.”
On “(Keep Eye On) Other’s Gain,” Oldham builds up a dense and powerful sound, yet no doubt an uplifting one, and “You Want That Picture” teases the listener with a fuzzy guitar riff before easing back into a laid-back acoustic tune. Thankfully, the distortion does return during the soaring chorus, and in “Where’s the Puzzle,” Oldham & Co. hammer out a groove similar to the full-band arrangements on Iron & Wine’s The Shepherd’s Dog. There are no party bangers or slow jams on Lie Down In the Light, in spite of Oldham’s R. Kelly fandom, but given the joy and warmth that permeates this album, he’s most certainly found his ignition.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.