Album Review: Marlon Williams – Make Way For Love

Monday, February 12, 2018

Too long have we waited for Marlon Williams’ return, and now it’s finally time to make way for love because the crooner (minus the accompanying orchestra) for our modern age has returned. Williams has spent the last two years steadily touring, inviting his ever-growing fanbase into his grass-roots, bluesy creative mind. But Make Way For Love, due to be released on 16th February, feels different — lonelier and more grown up (not to be confused with ‘mature’). This amalgamation of uplifting and melancholy songs find perfect harmony. 

There is something about love, as a theme, that seems to endure everything — time, aesthetics, cynicism, politics. As much as we hate to admit it, we love love songs. Make Way For Love is comprised of gentle and charismatic love songs. One can easily imagine Williams performing in a smoky bar, with just one spotlight illuminating him. And everyone in the audience would feel as though he is singing specifically for them. The power of that gentle emotionality and vibrant passion we would all recognise from Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday and the like, has been harnessed in this album. The sole deficiency to the record is it feels like a set of songs to be heard live, rather than recorded.  

What’s so striking about this album is how personal it feels while being able to hit a soft spot in anyone’s heart. It’s brimming with genuine emotion and borrowed motifs. ‘Love’s A Terrible Thing’, for example, could easily be a Peggy Lee song. And still, it feels quintessentially like a Marlon Williams song. ‘Can I Call You’ is wonderfully heartbreaking. It is a great skill to be able to make such simple, modern ideas, such as the unrelenting desire to call your ex, seem grander than themselves. Similarly, and yet entirely out of the blue, the synth effects used in ‘Party Boy’ are reminiscent of 80s soviet sci-fi cartoons. Whether Williams intended for this effect or not can’t be confirmed, but it does lead this reviewer to believe that Make Way For Love is layered and complex enough for every listener to find something meaningful to them. 

Still, the upbeat, gentler Marlon Williams we have all come to love isn’t entirely absent. The opening songs ‘Come To Me’ and ‘What’s Chasing You’ are perfect, summer holiday listening. They are sweet and loving, like the calm ending to a day at the beach. ‘I Know A Jeweller’ and ‘Party Boy’ are the more buoyant side to Williams’ music—purposeful, upbeat and like a lover galloping on a horse, pistol in hand. The songs, much like the album as a whole, sway between romantic and light, and a dark wistfulness. 

Williams is quickly solidifying himself as one of the Kiwi greats. His soothing voice, delicate songwriting and unassuming aesthetic make him a musician to keep an eye on for the years to come. Make Way For Love is wonderful, pleasant listening—to be enjoyed alone at home, where one is most comfortable. For now, we can only imagine the sensation of seeing Williams perform these live, in an intimate setting to suit the intimacy of the record. 

Written by Iryna Byelayeva

You can pre-order the album here or stream it via Apple Music.

Marlon Williams will be on the road this May. More information about the tour and ticketing is available here.