Haunting and plaintive, New Zealand’s Marlon Williams is the goth-country heartthrob you never knew you needed.
His most recent album, Make Way For Love (2018), dropped in January chronicling his breakup with fellow folk artist Aldous Harding (you can hear her share vocals on the aptly named “Nobody Gets What They Want Anymore”).
Williams sounds like he belongs in another time — not the trendy Americana stomp-clap “vintage” sound that Mumford popularized, either. He’s a crooner, through and through; sometimes country or blues, sometimes surf-inspired 50s rock n' roll, sometimes straight bluegrass, Make Way For Love showcases versatility and development as an artist.
With inspiration sourced from boho parents, a Ngai Tahu Maori upbringing, Catholic education (complete with a stint touring in a choir), and a penchant for the darker sounds in American country songs, Williams’ sound marries of highly contrasting elements.
While the album isn’t exactly narrative, it definitely seems to have a story threaded throughout. It’s a breakup album, no doubt; you can’t get around it. But Williams weaves a story that chronicles his grief without placing blame. There’s hints of jealousy (“Party Boy”) and the agony of not being able to pick up the phone and talk to your person (“Can I Call You”). The upbeat ballad “I Know a Jeweller” even suggests a failed engagement (“make me a ring for the one who’s too afraid to try”). Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but heck. There’s a song called “Love Is A Terrible Thing.” Can you blame me?
“People tell me, ‘Boy, you dodged a bullet’… but if only it had hit me / then I’d know the peace it brings / It’s just mind over matter / Head over heart / Love’s a terrible thing.”
I happen to be very into sad breakup albums, but if you wanna see Williams in all his glory, it’s definitely worth checking out his pre-2018 stuff. If you’re a fan of ‘Wild, Wild Country,’ you’ll be right at home — several of his older songs were used in the first few episodes.