I have been following Joy Williams since her musical ingenuity as one half of folk duo The Civil Wars. While I was gutted about their split, I was thrilled to see Williams pursuing a solo career and being ambitious in her musical craft. Her latest album Venus is a collection of brand new ideas intermingled with the grounded elements that have made Williams a renowned singer, songwriter and performer.
The first track Before I Sleep kicks into the new style that Williams explores on this album. With a tribal and ambient sound created by reverberated backing vocals and swirling synth sounds, the track is a mesmerising introduction to the album. The next track Sweet Love Of Mine showcases the height of the rhythmic change that Venus has compared to her work in The Civil Wars. The track plays with a juxtaposed folky and modern feel that sounds a little bittersweet and even eerie. Woman (Oh Mama) is an empowering feminist track that returns to the tribal theme. I think what this track lacks is a raw quality as it feels a little over-produced and empty.
One Day I Will slows down the pace with a beautiful piano motif that is paired with echoic sound. What A Good Woman Does is another slow ballad that houses some really beautiful lyrics and melodic phrases. Williams’ vocals are raw and reach their peak as she showcases her stifling vibrato. The Dying Kind is a haunting track that is definitely one of the best on the album. This track houses a folk twist that illuminates Williams’ knack for vocal ornamentations. Til Forever is another memorable track that finds its own feeling in the chorus.
Overall, this album is filled with many beautiful ballads. I would say that the second half of the album surprisingly houses a few lovely gems of sound compared to the first half. At times, the drums are a little jarring with the overall feeling of some of the tracks. The tribal-esque tracks could also pack more of a punch and I feel that they lack layers of sound to really heighten their potential as well as the variety within the album. While this album marks an interesting turn for Williams’ as an artist, many of the ballads are simply breathtaking and demonstrate Williams’ ability to write an emotive and heart-wrenching piece of music.