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After releasing four albums, a singles collection, and several EPs under various incarnations of the Palace moniker, Will Oldham simplifies matters by assuming his own name to grace us with his most straightforward and accessible record yet. Leaving behind the cryptic mysticism of 1996’s Arise Therefore, Joya is a cautious unraveling of tales of love, betrayal, and insecurity. The players in Oldham’s narratives flaunt their weaknesses like new clothes, making their sorrows all the more poignant. “God has given me no gift/To speak honestly to myself/Or to decide strongly/In another’s company,” the singer confesses in “Under What Was Oppression.” Musically, the album dispels the myth that Oldham is stranded in the hills of Appalachia. The riotous opening track, “O Let It Be,” plunges earnestly into the fray, as the backing band (including Aerial M’s David Pajo) complements Oldham’s warbling melody with intermittent guitar solos and insistent piano choruses. But the true gem of the record, “Antagonism,” is Oldham’s finest hour. The tension of an encounter with an old friend is mirrored in the guitar’s repetitive drone, while the narrator unabashedly reveals his internal struggle: “But I ask myself why not act harshly?/Why keep awful thoughts and feelings inside of thee?/Why not mete them out ever so generously?” It’s easy to see why Oldham is so good at what he does. By retaining and exposing his characters’ faults and frailties, he reminds us that weaknesses are not necessary evils but crucial components of the psyche.—Amy Domingues