Will Butler

Merge, 2015


REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


The last Arcade Fire album, Reflektor, was so exhaustive and exhausting that it appears to have made guitarist Will Butler need a break. I predicted as much in my review of that disc, saying that the album carries Arcade Fire’s themes through to a logical conclusion and that they probably won’t travel down that sonic road any more on their next album.

Based on the younger Butler’s first solo album, my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Policy, a return to basics is in the cards. Either that, or Butler needed to play some basic garage pop-punk with hints of New Wave and only a few of the flourishes that pepper his band’s albums. Without older brother/singer Win Butler around, the younger dude blasts out a 27-minute, eight-song album that is all joy and doesn’t easily lend itself to categorization.

The jumpy pop beat of “Anna” is a delight and the album’s best track, but the Stevie Wonder-meets-Talking Heads-meets-Parliament “Something’s Coming” is almost as successful, a bell-bottomed stew of warped static-y funk. “What I Want” is nervy post-punk-pop with a great lyric (“If you come and take my hand / I will buy you a pony / We can cook it for supper / I know a great recipe for pony macaroni”). The lyrics are solid, sometimes trying to be weird and sometimes making good points, though they are nowhere near as “Important” as Arcade Fire’s.

“Witness” is a jaunty skip of an indie pop song with added sax squeals and pounding piano that could have come from any decade. Meanwhile, “Finish What I Started” and “Sing To Me” are quieter piano pieces; these, along with the gospel choir on a couple of songs, gives the album at least some gravity. Yet the project’s short length and mashup of styles suggests Butler was simply flexing his songwriting and playing muscles, stretching out and having fun in ways he can’t do with his band.

Because of Butler’s pedigree and experience, this disc avoids being ramshackle; it’s a tight sound crafted to feel loose, and even if these aren’t everlasting songs you’ll want to return to repeatedly, their existence will brighten up your day. One wonders if Butler will bring this same sensibility to the table when Arcade Fire starts their next opus. Here’s hoping.

Rating: B-

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