Album Review | Palace Brothers – “Days In The Wake”

Palace Brothers
Days In the Wake (1994)
[Drag City]

Will Oldham-albums are most often designed to be enjoyed in the company of yourself and dimmed lighting. One of his most introspective moments happened on “Days In the Wake”, released in 1994 under the Palace Brothers-moniker. There is so much to be discovered on this album, lyrics to be untangled and melodies that seem to change with every listen. It’s a place to hide out in, where you can be alone with your thoughts.

The mood of the record is a sort of quiet desperation. There is an underlying frustration in his voice, yet he seems a little too jaded to make a fuss about things. There are certain moments when his voice breaks or the way he constantly takes the most unexpected melodic routes that gives me the chills. It’s like he deliberately sings off key sometimes as a middle finger response to the rest of the world. Will Oldham’s lyrics are always clever and has this tongue in cheek-quality to them. They are filled with subtle sarcasm and comedy. I love his laid back way, it’s what makes him so likeable.

My favorite song on the album is “(Thou Without) Partner”. I can listen to it over and over again and I just fall more in love with it. No one but Will Oldham sings or makes songs like this. This song is like the rowdiest and angriest punk rock song unplugged. It’s like there is madness in the melody, it twists and turns in the most peculiar ways. Occasionally it sounds like he’s just crying out the words.

There is a strong sense of isolation in this album, not just because it consists of one voice and one guitar. The records starts off with the line “When you have no one, no one can hurt you”, which pretty much sets the tone. This has got to be the most devastating line I’ve ever heard. It says everything about the way you feel in your darkest hour. With one line he conveys the feeling of total hopelessness. Whether or not you take this literally, it makes you feel the full weight of your heart. If you have even the smallest soft spot for minimalist acoustic/lo-fi/folk music you cannot let this album slip you by. But I’m warning you. If you choose to listen to it, and I mean really listen to it, it will make you a part of its life.

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