10 Nov 2017

The Singles Life: Make way for Marlon Williams

10:46 am on 10 November 2017

Welcome to weekly series The Singles Life, where known experts Katie Parker and Hussein Moses peruse, ponder and pontificate on the latest and (maybe) greatest in New Zealand music

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Photo: Marlon Williams/VEVO

Get out the tissues. Marlon Williams and Aldous Harding, New Zealand’s king and queen of arty, theatrical, and very serious pop, may have parted ways but they’ve left us with a song to remember them by.


Katie: Not to get our discussion of this very tender and truly melancholy break-up song off to a gossip-y start but DID YOU KNOW ALDOUS HARDING AND MARLON WILLIAMS WERE DATING???

I certainly didn’t.

In any case, I suppose it doesn’t matter much now because if their first (and I guess maybe only) co-credited collaboration is anything to go by, there is trouble in creative paradise.

It’s a bit of a grim song and if the newly released tracklist of William’s upcoming album Make Way For Love is anything to go by - included are such upbeat titles as ‘Can I Call You’ and (*gulp*) ‘Love Is A Terrible Thing’ - then New Zealand’s own sad ballad power couple really are dunzo.

Could ‘Nobody Gets What They Want Anymore’ be the ‘Knowing Me, Knowing You’ of our time? And what do you think of all this dirty arty laundry being aired in our tittering local streets?

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Photo: Marlon Williams/VEVO

Hussein: It’s been a tough week for New Zealand power couples, to say the least, but recording a song with your ex about how your relationship with them went bust is really taking things up a notch.

“I wrote it as an apology, in the classical sense,” Williams told NPR. “A defence for the bond between us, against the storybook feelings of resentment and doubt that come with the termination of any relationship.”

‘Nobody Gets What They Want Anymore’ is revealing in a way that only a song with a title like that can be. It actually reminds me of something by Beach House or Bon Iver - two other artists that manage to capture that kind of sadness and honesty in a similar fashion. I hope the rest of the album is just as good. It’s not like the world needs more break-up records or anything, but I’m pretty much sold.

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Photo: Unknown


Katie: It’s quite unusual to get that level of transparency in New Zealand when you think about it. We analyse Selena Gomez’s music for allusions to Justin Bieber, as if she actually wrote any of it, but here when someone writes a song that’s clearly about someone it's like it's rude to make the connection or something.

Apparently, the track was recorded remotely with both Williams and Harding in different parts of the world, with Williams saying that he “had wanted to do it at the same time and place but it wasn't to be. Which, of course, approaches what the song is about”.

I mean it’s all very sad and even more so for the lack of animosity in it all. I don’t know if I could honestly sing the line “there is no blame, there is no shame” with any of my exes (blame and shame forever imo).

Another observation: Marlon Williams has the cutest little teeth and he is a very cute vampire in the video for ‘Vampire Again’ (which I notice is not on the album??)

Hussein: As much love as Marlon Williams (and his cute little teeth) have got in the past, I think some people treat him like he's this one-dimensional alt-country dude who has a reputation for only writing sad songs. I like to imagine that 'Vampire Again' was his reaction to that. The song and video, which are both great by the way, reveal that he's not just this serious sounding guy. It's a side to him that we haven’t seen nearly enough.

Another thing we haven’t seen enough: Marlon Williams acting! Did you know he was in The Rehearsal (that movie based on the Eleanor Catton book)?

Katie: Aldous Harding, Eleanor Catton - he’s good at aligning himself with the kind of big intellectual names of New Zealand culture, huh?

Not that that’s a bad thing at all - it’s great that there can be that kind of crossover. But I think you’re right that a lot of the time people interpret a guy like Williams as maybe a little bit pretentious which kind of undermines just how clever and well executed this stuff is.

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Photo: Marlon Williams/VEVO

He’s clearly a great actor - I haven’t seen The Rehearsal but just his Nosferatu homage in ‘Vampire Again’ is amazing and even his bit as a harried cafe worker in the ‘Nobody Gets What They Want Anymore’ video shows how much charm and charisma he’s capable of as a performer.

Hussein: Even though there’s not many people out there that don’t love (or at least appreciate) Marlon Williams, it does feel like he’s really coming into his own at the moment. Will Make Way For Love turn a breakup into a breakthrough?

Katie: Let’s hope so - I’m more than ready for some new Melodrama (har har). 

Follow Katie and Hussein on Twitter.