New Zealand singer Marlon Williams delivers a breakup album with all of the conflicting emotions of the real thing | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

New Zealand singer Marlon Williams delivers a breakup album with all of the conflicting emotions of the real thing 

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click to enlarge Marlon Williams

Marlon Williams

Steve Gullick

On his gorgeous second album Make Way for Love (Dead Oceans), New Zealand crooner Marlon Williams engages in a rite of passage for most singer-songwriters—the breakup album. The ubiquity of such endeavors often means the results are pretty indistinctive, but numerous things set Williams’s version apart from those of other artists. For one, there’s the sophistication, fluidity, and melodic grace of his phrasing; his post-Roy Orbison warble imbues many lines with a gorgeous shimmer that seems to struggle with his emotion-laden lyrics. Equally impressive is that rather than the simple write-offs of pure moping embraced by so many singers, Williams’s songs convey the cocktail of anger, resentment, and release that accompanies many breakups. Several tunes express sadness and yearning for a reconciliation. He pleads “Come back, let me wear you like a beautiful dress” on “Beautiful Dress,” and vows eternal patience, singing “But if you ever find the middle / I’ll be waiting when you do” on “The Fire of Love.” Other songs offer different perspectives, from Zen-like acceptance in the title track to bile in the standout “I Didn’t Make a Plan.” In “What’s Chasing You,” a sorrowful song exploring the sort of communication breakdowns that leads to romantic failures, he adds another layer of complexity: it’s a duet with singer Aldous Harding, his ex-girlfriend and the subject of much of the album’s material.   v

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