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Will Oldham, the artist formerly known as Palace, has never been concerned with creating pop music. Oldham's forte, murder ballads, anti-spirituals, dead-sea chanteys, and lost-love songs, has always been "difficult", forcing the listener to confront some rather unseemly topics. Say this about Oldham, however, despite his quirks (cracking vocals, shambolic instrumentation, baroque language), at its best, his music is bracing and, often, very beautiful. That said, I See a Darkness
, his second LP since abandoning the Palace moniker, is the most accessible, gorgeous, and moving record of his career. Instead of the gothic, low-fi country feel of many of his projects, Darkness
comes off sounding like an early-1970s Neil Young album, comprised of a stately piano backbone and fleshed out by loose-fitting guitar strums. Stylistically, Oldham mixes things up on Darkness
and his full band sounds, for once, well practiced and well recorded. Sure, Oldham is still singing about the blackness of his soul, but in between--in small bursting moments--there are bits of light, hope, and a suggestion that maybe--just maybe--there may be redemption through love. That message, presented in these carefully constructed, gently offered songs, pushes this recording beyond the usual, curious appeal of Oldham and into an entirely new realm of greatness. --S. Duda