Bonnie Prince Billy- The letting go

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Though Will Oldham began his musical career while in his early twenties, he's never exactly sounded young. From his first releases as Palace Music, Oldham's whiskey-soaked vocals and lyrical obsessions with death, sex, and religion have made "maturity" something of a non-issue. And yet, with his most recent couple of releases as Bonnie "Prince" Billy, the aesthetic antiquity of his earliest recordings seems to have slowly given way to a more mundane sense of age. On The Letting Go, the humor, dread, and resignation that inform Oldham's music are presented in blissfully unfiltered form, and whether the proximity one feels is to person or persona is ultimately irrelevant; either way, The Letting Go feels close.

With its pristine recording and prominent female backing vocals, opener "Love Comes to Me" evokes Oldham's 2003 album Master and Everyone. Thankfully, the sound of The Letting Go proves to be more inviting and striking than that of its predecessor, as Oldham and Faun Fables vocalist Dawn McCarthy invariably find their way to beautiful moments-- even when the songs themselves aren't particularly engrossing. A late autumn stroll through the woods might not be the most exciting metaphor for an album, but it's a rare treat to hear something this organic and cozy.

In fact, The Letting Go is so confident that its strangeness could easily go unnoticed. But this is, in many ways, one of the weirdest records Oldham has ever released. McCarthy's vocals never really coalesce into a distinct relationship with Oldham's-- she slips in and out of harmonies, backing parts, doubles, and absences. The album's arrangements are similarly elusive-- the string swells and ominous drums on "The Seedling" wash incongruously against McCarthy's vocals. And yet, nothing ever seems jarringly out of place. Pitchfork review

Domino NM