Matt Sweeney & Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy
It should come as no surprise at this point that Will Oldham is crafting melodies and musings that slowly crush the heart under their weight. He’s been doing so for as long as I can possibly remember. It doesn’t make the outcome any less admirable, though. Likewise if there were a guitarist that could be counted on to ferret darkness from the strings and sap tenderness from the air with seeming ease, Matt Sweeney would be a high ranking name on a short list. On Superwolves he threads bare teeth growls, radiant fingerpicking, and highlife (with help from Moctar and Madassane, no less) without ever feeling a hint of whiplash. The pair have been formidable, if fleeting in their output, yet it feels like Superwolf is somehow a seminal record for listeners of all ages. If it graced your life, it became the soundtrack to something pivotal — some moment of change, some break up, some birth, some death, some homecoming, or some seismic emotional shakeup. It was that kind of record, and still is. In that regard, its a seemingly impossible record to follow-up. At the very least its a daunting task for the pair to approach.
For years, it never seemed like something that was in either artist’s mind. Will and Matt have never been ones to rest long, and by all implications their debut came like lightning and left the same way. The strike was hot, but a few embers lingered as singles reminding listeners of the power that persisted in their pairing. Superwolves achieves the improbable, following the debut with an equal weight, a blow that’s felt from the opening strains of “Make Worry For Me,” a hackles-raised seether that stalks into the room and begs every hair on the arms raised in reverence. Their balance returns also, though, and it’s not all such turbulence, at least not as overtly.
There’s galloping joy in “Hall of Death,” and “Resist The Urge,” quiet desperation in “You Can Regret What You Have Done.” All songs wrenched from the pair have a certain amount of upheaval, even in the smallest moments. It can be felt by rolling down a hill, or in nostalgia for a summer treat. Oldham imbues the ordinary with the sacred, transforming seemingly simple sentiments into oil-slicked wells of joy and sadness that reflect a spectrum of colors below the surface. The lyrical pull is matched only by Sweeney’s shading, a perfect foil, a poet with the frets. This was an album that wasn’t promised, but somehow makes good on every silent expectation that was welled up inside the waiting rabble who didn’t know the call would be answered. Best cherish that kind of record when it rolls around.
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