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Hear Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy’s Ghostly ‘Paradise I Missed’

Photo of Will Oldham by Getty Images

On 2011’s Wolfroy Goes to Town, Will “Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy” Oldham achieved an almost meditative state of spectral closeness with his spare folk musings. And on this recent track, “Paradise I Missed,”which SPIN is making available for limited exclusive stream, he continues in that severely intimate, almost ghostly vein. Voicing lyrics written by New York performance artist/musician Cynthia Hopkins, Oldham sings a hushed confession while lightly plucking the strings of his acoustic guitar, admitting that he “clung too hard”— to a lover, a spiritual belief or entity — and, as a result, lost everything. Or, as he puts it memorably: “A paradise I missed for wanting something more.”

The song appears on a 10-inch (along with tracks by Fleet Foxes’ Robin Pecknold, Amen Dunes, and Department of Eagles) which was bundled with the inaugural issue of The Unified Field, an elegant journal published by Aja Pecknold, who moonlights as the Foxes’ manager. The journal (which is currently sold out) features writing and art from Damian Echols, Gloria Steinem, Autumn DeWilde, Maya Hayuk, Abigail Portner, and Ms. Pecknold herself. Full disclosure: SPIN Editorial Director Charles Aaron was also a contributor.

The theme of the first issue of The Unified Field is “Transition,”which gives Oldham’s contribution more context and resonance — either’s he’s confessing his culpability in order to move on with his life, or he’s singing his own elegy. Either way, the “Prince”is haunted.