Marlon Williams: ‘Make Way for Love’

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Marlon Williams is only 27 years old, but unfailingly keeps proving that his musical maturity is a force to be reckoned with.

With a crooning voice that upon first listen may be mistaken for Elvis’s, Marlon lulls into captivation anyone who’s listening in his second solo album, Make Way for Love, combining the styles of early country with early rock n’ roll to shape a sound that the singer will make you believe has been disgracefully missing from modern music. From the first guitar strums of the title track “Come to Me,” Marlon establishes a lush, vulnerable atmosphere that he adamantly sustains until the final note.

But the native New Zealander is not a one-trick pony; he sprinkles elements of surf rock in “Party Boy” in a way so nuanced that you might not even notice yourself grooving. And smooth synth notes make an appearance in “Love is a Terrible Thing,” a shred of evidence that Marlon is not merely recreating tender music of old but breathing new life into it. Make no mistake: Make Way for Love will transport you into a long-gone era of soothing love ballads strummed into the ether by a handsome heartthrob, but Marlon taps into universal themes of love and all that accompanies it (heartbreak, jealousy, lust, bitterness) in a conceptual and robust exploration that lays enough on the table for anyone to find resonance.

The album floats along from an ode to the innocent joy of love in “Come to Me” to the warm pleas to his lover in “Beautiful Dress” (“let me wear you like a beautiful dress/let me love you”), the undertones of dripping melancholy cluing you into the retrospective nature of the album and preparing you for the descent into heart-wrenching territory. Marlon writes lyrics with the visceral anguish of Nick Cave and sings them with the gentle restraint of Roy Orbison; he sings, “people tell me/‘boy you dodged a bullet’/but if only it had hit me/then I’d know the peace it brings” in “Love is a Terrible Thing” and begins the similarly mournful “I Didn’t Make A Plan” with, “I didn’t make a plan to break your heart/but it was the sweetest thing I’ve ever done” before later belting out apocalyptic “hey-yo”s.

His melodrama is far from tawdry or unrelatable, at once making you feel both profoundly sorry for and profoundly in awe of him, and it all culminates in the penultimate track, “Nobody Gets What They Want Anymore.” Hearing Marlon trill “I cannot explain/emotions I can barely afford to contain” in a duet with the subject of the entire album, former girlfriend Aldous Harding (a musical force of her own), suddenly makes everything clearer–and hurt a lot more. No song has better encapsulated Marlon’s talent for baring his soul in a maturely tactful way, serving as a microcosm of the entirety of Make Way for Love. He is even kind enough to alleviate some of the burden of the first 10 tracks with his farewell, “Make Way for Love,” an angelic soft pop track we realized we desperately needed only after listening to it.

Make Way for Love is a rare example of an artistic work crafted so masterfully while feeling so natural and genuine that it is effortless to listen to, swelling with atmospheric emotion and directing all thought to the contemplation of Marlon’s poetic and arresting lyrics. With only his second solo album, Marlon has utilized his timeless voice in the creation of a timeless piece of art, which makes us hopeful that the best is yet to come.


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