Marlon Williams – My Boy

New Zealand songwriter leans into his eclecticism...

Marlon Williams is a shapeshifter, a songwriter who seems to view life from a multitude of angles. His 2018 album ‘Make Way For Love’ introduced a louche, party boy aspect to his character, one that sat alongside the countrified introversion of his acoustic, crooner side. A 2020 collaboration with Americana pairing Kacy & Clayton followed, yet new album ‘My Boy’ doubles down on the eclecticism, a record that spans Jim Reeves and Duran Duran in effortless style.

Recorded at Roundhead studios in his native New Zealand, ‘My Boy’ is rooted in an aesthetic elasticity. Chirpy opener ‘My Boy’ has a rockabilly slant, amplified by straight-up pop aspects, merging the classic with the new. Indeed, the huge variations on the album lead to a mosaic quality – the way that the clipped, 80s leaning pop-funk of ‘Don’t Go Back’ leans into the countrified, neo-balladry of ‘Soft Boys Make The Grade’.

It’s all held together by his magnificent voice. Marlon Williams is a fantastic vocal technician, but he’s also able to truly embody a song, living each word, and each note. Just absorb the gorgeous ‘Easy Does It’ with those fantastic crooner-style notes, sliding from the top of the scale to the bottom.

Indeed, his vocal prowess blends these styles into one. It takes him from the emotion of ‘Promises’ for example, to the heartland aspects that resonate so clearly on ‘Thinking Of Nina’.

At times, the genre-hopping can be dizzying. The purposefully over-the-top layering of different aspects makes ‘My Heart The Wormhole’ feel huge, yet at times you yearn for the simplicity of earlier work. The pensive closer perhaps makes this case most emphatically; literally more than a vocal incantation and eerie background effects, ‘Promises’ is Marlon Williams at his most stark and exposed.

A record that alternates between the playful and the emotive, ‘My Boy’ thrives on the songwriter’s restless creativity, while never truly settling into one sphere.

7/10

Words: Robin Murray

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