Bonny Light Horseman shares third single from forthcoming album, ‘Rolling Golden Holy’

Bonny Light Horseman
Photography Credit: D. James Goodwin

Folky strings over soundscapes lead the Bonny Light Horseman trio of Anaïs Mitchell, Eric D Johnson and Josh Kaufman back from their 2020 Grammy nomination into a new sound that shows their range while remaining comfortingly familiar. As the third release of their second studio album ‘Rolling Golden Holy’, “Exile”paints a sonic landscape of sitting by a campfire in the woods with a lost love.

While the music has developed into something softer with a new form of delicacy that leaves the listener floating, heart wrenching themes of love, loss and the unknown continue to guide this album. Carefully crafted minimalist lyrics cleverly dance between embodying metaphors and blatant exclamations. The lyrically repetitive chorus and outro emphasise uncharted territory, turning the incessant statement of “I don’t wanna live in exile” into what is almost a plea. The simple yet captivating lyrics are a positive demonstration of the concept, ‘less is more.’ The word “love” introduces each verse with a double meaning of “I’d love,” and “my love,” turning want and endearment into a tangible being and connecting the singer with their beloved. Longing plagues these words leaving the sweet thoughts of what could be brighter than the pain of loss.

Listen to Exile by Bonny Light Horseman on Spotify:

Bonny Light Horseman continue to show that while they can dominate the folk music space, they’re eager to freshen up the genre and boy do they deliver. The opening chords thematically connect with the lyrics by providing minimal contrast until the vocals enter and they settle into their natural progression. However we’re not to get too familiar, with an unexpected melody change in the fourth line showing a balance between familiarity and curious creativity. Similarly, Mitchell’s vocals in the 6th line come in the middle of a phrase whereby Johnson has already been determined as the vocal lead, interrupting the established flow. This song is all about having just enough slight changes to keep listeners on their toes.

The want for musical development that compliments a genre while remaining firmly within it is a difficult line upon which to balance, but Bony Light Horseman expertly manage this by giving the listener a combination of what they wanted and what they didn’t know they should want. Exile maintains its folk roots through typical instrumentation yet modernises the sound with fuller production than its predecessor and self-titled album Bonny Light Horsemen, a feature of the three singles that have dropped so far, particularly the ethereal and reflective ballad Summer Dream. It’s still largely acoustic but with tonal, electronic soundscapes as background and accompaniment; refreshing yet not overpowering. The soft, acoustic percussion throughout is grounding in genre and juxtaposes from the light, dreamy sound.

Rather than doing what could be expected, the new sound from the trio throws the folk genre up into the air, curious to see whether it will fall or float. Exile certainly floats, allowing emotions and atmosphere to gently guide the sound. The ending vocals, missing just a smidge of solid finality, leave the song as an unanswered question of the future in loving exile. Listen to the whole album on 7 October.

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