Rating (Skip, Stream, or Buy): Stream this song, but definitely buy the album.
Darren Hanlon's I Will Love You At All is an incredibly charming album -- and possibly one of the best new releases to drop this fall. The Australian songwriter is the heir apparent to Billy Bragg's story-telling, twangy folk style, except that Hanlon's more concerned with the politics of heartbreak than left-wing activism. (He is, naturally, opening for Bragg on tour this fall). But Bragg's musical appeal--the ability to turn such heavy lyrics into light, toe-tapping folk songs--is everywhere on I Love Will You At All. That's likely due, in no small part, to Portland producer Adam Selzer, who is responsible for the sounds of M. Ward, She & Him, and The Decemberists, along with Hanlon's new album.
It's too bad, though, that "All These Things" is currently pushed as the single from I Will Love You At All, because it's not the best song on the album. It does makes sense, in some ways, as a single: "All These Things" is poppy and clever, complete with what sounds like a ukulele and call-and-response lyrics from back-up vocalists Shelley Short and Alia Farah. But there's too much of those female voices and not enough of Hanlon's charming, steady pipes. It's a terribly cute--even twee--song (for example: Hanlon sings that he'll swear to tell the whole truth on a "first-edition copy of Peter Pan"), but it's not exemplary of the album.
The opening track, "Butterfly Bones," gives a better glimpse at Hanlon's ability to weave together a narrative while using meter in his lyrics to create a bouncy rhythm; "Scenes of Separation" shows the emotional depth of his words against his rollicking instrumentals. Don't judge I Will Love You At All by this one track, because this layered, lovely album is much better than that.