Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Will Oldham has always been insanely prolific, but his résumé has gotten downright ridiculous over the past three years: He's collaborated with Tortoise, Björk, Scout Niblett, Matt Sweeney, Sage Francis, Sun Kil Moon, and Dawn McCarthy of Faun Fables, among others. And there's his lead performance in the movie Old Joy, not to mention his popping up on Wonder Showzen and opposite Zach Galifianakis in the alternate video for Kanye West's "Can't Tell Me Nothing." In fact, it's easy to imagine Oldham's solo work being diverted or diluted by all the extracurricular activity. And yet here's another Bonnie "Prince" Billy album—and it's casually, almost predictably magnificent. But that doesn't mean Lie Down In The Light is Oldham as usual: The songs are full, lush, even sparkling, and their teeming arrangements—woodwinds, electric piano, summer-afternoon copulations of banjo and violin—are the best of his career. The biggest upgrade, though, is his voice; rarely has Oldham enunciated and emoted so breezily, pouring his elegant fiction and metaphysical verse into sculpted melodies. Oldham hasn't strayed so far from his mumble-stumble folk formula since 1997's off-kilter Joya, although Lie Down remains loosely rooted in his roughhewn melancholy. But there's an openness, a confidence, and a careful happiness to the album that's a joy to behold. Perhaps instead of detracting from his solo output, Oldham's excessive artistic flirtation over the past few years has recharged his batteries.


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