Release Date: Apr 17, 2012
Record label: Razor & Tie
Genre(s): Folk, Pop/Rock, Adult Alternative Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Contemporary Singer/Songwriter, Alternative Folk, Protest Songs
Dar Williams has been torn between her folkie instincts and the guilty pleasures of pop music just as long as she's divided her songs between smart and often witty character studies and explicitly activist political material, and 19 years after she made her first album, 2012's In the Time of Gods confirms all of this is still the case. However, with maturity Williams has been shifting the way these ingredients fit together, and musically In the Time of Gods is an album that uses pop textures to burnish material that still feels quiet and contemplative, even when the dynamics are at their most dramatic on songs like "Summer Child" and "I Am the One Who Will Remember Everything. " The backing musicians, who include Charley Drayton on drums, Larry Campbell on Dobro, and Rob Hyman on keys, give these songs smooth and approachable surfaces, but Williams is clearly aiming for a thoughtful mood on In the Time of Gods, and that's just what the players and producer Kevin Killen deliver.
For an album that, in the words of its creator, boasts “an epic setting” and that draws upon Greek mythology in order to explore contemporary political, social and moral issues, Dar Williams’s In the Time of Gods strikes as a decidedly modest, low-key listening experience overall. No towering, large-scale American Doll Posse-esque opus, this (disappointing, perhaps, for those of us who were kind of hoping to see Dar don a selection of wigs and outfits for this venture). Rather, Williams offers a distilled (just 32 minutes) set of ten short songs that initially feels like one of her slightest releases to date.
As its title implies, this loose concept album uses Greek mythology as a lyrical backdrop for folksinger Williams to explore introspective and social issues. The concept never seems forced since the predominantly ballad melodies, Williams’ lovely voice, and Kevin Killen’s sympathetic production keep everything shimmering and mysterious. A few more upbeat tunes along the lines of the pop worthy “Summer Child” might have upped the energy, but for established Williams fans, her ninth studio set is another classy entry that gets better with repeated spins.
Having spent the better part of the last decade balancing her populist moral sense and her wry brand of humor with her love of catchy pop music, Dar Williams returns to the hyper-literate, folksinger style of her earliest albums on In the Time of Gods. If the album isn’t a full-on retreat back to ….
Having spent the better part of the last decade balancing her populist moral sense and her wry brand of humor with her love of catchy pop music, Dar Williams returns to the hyper-literate, folksinger style of her earliest albums on In the Time of Gods. If the album isn’t a full-on retreat back to the coffeehouse, it’s easily the singer-songwriter’s most traditional folk-leaning and least accessible work since 2000’s The Green World. That isn’t a poor aesthetic decision in and of itself: Williams does confessional folk songwriting better than just about anyone, but the album isn’t enhanced by a loosely defined concept, and her writing suffers from a few uncharacteristic lapses in quality.