Artist – Album: Bonnie “Prince” Billy – I See a Darkness
Released: 19th January 1999
Sounds Like: Billy learns to stop worrying and love the darkness
I See a Darkness is a sparse, bleak folk set, steeped in melancholy and anxiety. The subject matter involves fear and mortality (just look at the track listing: ‘Another Day Full of Dread’, ‘Death to Everyone’, ‘Today I Was an Evil One’ and ‘Black’); even the album cover is nightmarish, a creepy skull egg against a pitch black backdrop. Bonnie “Prince” Billy (a.k.a. William Oldham), though, seems quite comfortable and content to embrace the shadows, and it is this restful acceptance of the bad things that makes it such a wonderful record; an album that you can listen to repeatedly without having to succumb to the despair it details.
The album kicks off with ‘A Minor Place’, a deceptively cheery shuffle that welcomes the listener in to Oldham’s mindset, declaring the fact that he’s been to this depressed place or condition but that he likes it. Stylistically, the following track, ‘Nomadic Revery’, more accurately sets the tone for the rest of the album, starting with hushed minor chords on the piano and Oldham’s plaintive vocals, before giving way to multilayered voices, electronic guitar, simple drums and a repeating chant of ‘Oh all around’.
The title track comes next, an exceptional confession to a friend of the bad turns his mood can take and the strength his friend can give him. Johnny Cash covered it respectably enough, but this is the single greatest statement of Bonnie “Prince” Billy’s sound and manner. Other highlights include the country tinged ‘Today I Was an Evil One’ and the lovely album closer “Raining in Darling”.
I See a Darkness is a stunningly well realised collection of sad songs that somehow always hits the spot, regardless of the mood I’m in.
Albumaday... rating: 10/10
1. A Minor Place – 3:43
2. Nomadic Revery (All Around) – 3:58
3. I See a Darkness – 4:49
4. Another Day Full of Dread – 3:10
5. Death to Everyone – 4:31
6. Knockturne – 2:17
7. Madeleine-Mary – 2:31
8. Song for the New Breed – 3:24
9. Today I Was an Evil One – 3:52
10. Black – 3:46
11. Raining in Darling – 1:54
Listen to ‘Nomadic Revery (All Around)’: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TWDgvrTjacs