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Bonnie “Prince” Billy – I See a Darkness (1999)

March 3, 2020

[Album 732/1001]

Do you have a favourite U2 song?

Exclamation mark in parentheses notwithstanding, my favourite is likely their 1993 track, Stay (Faraway, So Close!).

I tend to gravitate towards songs with juxtaposition, be it relatively bleak music paired with optimistic lyrics, or vice versa in U2’s case.

And Bonnie “Prince” Billy also does a fine job with such contrasting ideas here.220px-IseeaDarkness

Beginning with the opener, A Minor Place, containing only Major (or 7th) chords.

Then there’s the title track, which few would confuse as an up-tempo toe-tapper, yet there’s optimism to be found in lyrics such as, “Well I hope that someday, buddy,
we have peace in our lives.”

The U2 song name (exclamation mark in parentheses still notwithstanding) also helps to describe both the album’s initial familiarity & the album’s originality.

Many tracks feel So Close to other artists:

– Pavement might have recorded Today I Was an Evil One alongside Newark Wilder during the Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain sessions

– Knockturne could have been a lost Mutations-era Beck b-side

– and now that I think of it, Knockturne‘s verses actually remind me of Great Big Sea’s Safe Upon the Shore, though I wouldn’t say that Great Big Sea & Beck have much in common

And by being Faraway enough from any one particular artist, Bonnie “Prince” Billy is able to keep the listener coming back.

So that may be the 3-step secret to earning my unwavering approval:

1. Remind me of things I like, but not too much.

2. Make sure those musical reference points are artists that don’t really go together yet are staples in the collection.

3. Include some lyric/music contrast, keep my emotions guessing along the way.

It’s almost too easy!

….

Verbalize the Positive

If you thought of Garth when you read that last sentence, clearly you already have my unwavering approval.

Though writing songs to please me might be slightly less complex than getting the video feed into the back of Mr. Big’s limo!

From → 1990s

10 Comments
  1. He has lots of good stuff I think. Probably deserves more than one spot in the book. I’ve been listening to Angel Olsen lately, who started her career as a backing singer for Oldham.

  2. My favourite thing he did was to take the cover photo for ‘Spiderland’ by Slint.

  3. Great 3 step rule! I guess you could put a fourth one in being is it air guitar worthy!

  4. This was one of my favourite albums for a long time. I haven’t listened in a while, but this has put me in the mood to dig it out!

    • Now that you mention it, I could see Jim Dead & this artist making for a very good double bill at a show!

  5. It is almost time for another Wayne’s World viewing.

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