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Will Butler – Policy – Album Review

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Will_Butler_PolicyArcade Fire has always been such an interesting project, every member of the band are such varied multi-instrumentalists that it’s a wonder they tend to stick to a small handful each. But it is brother of lead singer Win Butler, Will Butler whose arsenal has always been the largest, and is the band’s sonic Swiss Army knife. He’s finally decided to branch these skills out into a record of his own on Policy and the results mix Arcade Fire with his own blend of energetic folk music.

Track-By-Track Breakdown:

The album only runs a short eight songs long but wastes no time distinguishing itself from Arcade Fire with “Take My Side.” The song mixes a Bob Dylan like folk with a bit of garage rock, for a simple but effective song that sounds like a Will is running for public office in the most punk way possible. The subtle ooo’s over the songs pre-chorus are a detailed touch that make it feel like a song crafted with care. “Anna” is the standout track here, pulling some of the electric feel from Reflektor to a really unique song that throws unusual instruments into a dance song. The saxes sound great, piano breaks are beautifully crafted and every vocal chant Butler lets out is incredibly infectious.

Things get slightly damper on “Finish What I Started” with this lovely piano ballad’s feeling of a journey ending. The instrumentation is genuinely beautiful, especially when strings play over, and the background vocals bring in the light amount of old Arcade Fire sound to make it even better. “Son Of God” hits the folk notes hard, mixing in elements of The Violent Femmes with choir shouts, some ambient keys and some sonic moments in its second half keeping it from getting boring.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bX62-Ux8qOk&w=560&h=315

Things get funky on “Something’s Coming” in a song whose rhythm section will possess your body into dancing. The track is enhanced with the group vocals and the random experimentation but Butler on the keys. “What I Want” is the angriest track of the record, with most distortion and raw energy of anything here. The dissonant keys keep things uneasy and the sha-sha-sha vocals counter the angry sound perfectly and even add when they turn operatic at the songs ending. Butler’s lyrics even manage to make the line “I have good recipe for pony macaroni” sound perfect in the right context.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SKQaJZyoD1o&w=560&h=315

The somber tone comes back on the even more final sounding “Sing To Me” which feels like Butler writing a new American-standard, with his own blend of sonic touches. While the track never really takes off, it’s a sleepy little song that proves the range of Butler’s writing. The album ends on the intense track “Witness” which uses a piano like a running bass line. The song manages to keep the energy high especially with the church-like power of its backing vocals, and Butler’s powerful shouts of “Can’t Witness” giving the track real oomph. The cherry-on-top for this track is the wonderful saxophone fills near the end, a wonderfully playful touch that has been missing from music for a while and is creeping back in an amazing way.

Conclusion:

Policy is an amazing start for Will Butler, mixing his own unique style with that of his band Arcade Fire, while never sticking too close to them or straying too far from what makes those records good. On this record it’s very clear Butler’s signature is a mix of group vocals, some Arcade Fire sound and inconsistent instrumental experimentation. This whole mix provides a sound perfectly new and old that will hopefully become almost better than Arcade Fire themselves like Neko Case has been doing with her solo work.

THE SCENE


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