For the longest time I’ve described Will Oldham’s music as the sound of a bewildered encounter with the eternal feminine. I don’t know if that fully stands anymore, but it does accurately describe obvious classics like I See a Darkness.
But Lie Down in the Light is far more celebratory than baffled, which is a nice change of pace. I fully agree that women are a deeply confusing species, but the duets with Ashley Webber are a nice way to move past that heavy feeling of being sledgehammered by life and love.In fact, these duets – I confess I don’t know if that’s the official technical term for this sort of thing – form some of the best moments on this album. “So Everyone” is almost hellishly uplifting, especially for a song that – I think – is about sex in public. Or not. It’s hard to tell with these artist types.
The real kicker, the real proof of the death of the old whiskey and doom Oldham, is “You Want That Picture”; an awkwardly-phrased snapshot of the last parting accusations between two lovers that breaks into a “it’s totally cool ’cause everything ends and everyone dies” chorus. But even that’s still cheery, bright and summery.
There are worse things than the death of sadness. As obviously perfect as I See a Darkness is, it’s not the best salve for fragile mental states. There are far better ways to deal with depression and anxiety than listening to the title track on repeat for hours, to be sure.
As a whole, Lie Down in the Light is a beautiful summer barbecue, surrounded by friends and family. As the lights turn down and fireflies emerge, you realize that you’ll think of this moment right before you die and it will lift the weight. The album closes with “I’ll Be Glad.”
Love is nice.
And it is.