By Rachel A.G. Gilman
After finding great success playing alongside his brother and sister-in-law in Montreal-based indie-rock band Arcade Fire, background man Will Butler is ready to fly solo with the release of “Policy.” The eight-track album’s production took place over three weeks: one recording in Manhattan last May, then two more a couple months later in his hometown putting on the finishing touches. Before the release of the album, Butler spent the last week of February writing and releasing a song a day inspired by current event headlines from The Guardian.
Butler’s sound on “Policy” is more varied than the work he has done with Arcade Fire, mainly tackling a boldly punk, independent feel throughout. Opening with “Take My Side,” a reckless, rock track that you can see easily see being performed in an underground club rather than the arenas Arcade Fire frequents, Butler sets the raw, unpolished tone for the album. “What I Want,” is bizarrely irresistible as well, playing with experimental sounds and strong guitar solos in between. Butler’s lyrics are oddly poetic and off-the-cuff, rambling on about things like “pony macaroni” and the possibility of getting a dog or perhaps a chicken coop. And yet, they seem to work.
“Son of God” and “Something’s Coming” will both question the Lord and his job in society in true punk style, and they’ll do so alongside complicated instrumental riffs heavy with guitars. They are the most obvious display of the frustration Butler seems to carry with him on every song on “Policy.”
As for brooding and melancholy, Butler delivers brilliant piano ballads, sorrowfully singing about the mistakes he has made and his inability to handle them. “Finish What I Started,” a short but powerful track, will pull on your heartstrings. It breaks up the mood of the album with Butler crooning out, “I tried my best, but my best was half hearted.” In a similar style is the even more emotional “Sing to Me.” Its straightforward lyrics in tandem with a simplistic, chord accompaniment is dark and honest in an extremely emotionally successful manner.
In a completely different vein, “Anna” has a bright, dance beat created by synthesized, electric piano and sharp saxophones. Butler also shows his range here, dipping into his lower vocals then quickly and frequently going up into a squeal on the chorus. Closing out the album is another tune making you feel the need to get up and dance. “Witness,” not unlike many other songs on “Policy,” sings about wanting someone else to make a decision for Butler in a jazzy, old school style, complete with saxophone solos. It is the perfect way to blow the top off a successful solo debut.
By playing most of the music on the record himself, Butler flexes his music-crafting muscle and proves himself as more than just an instrumentalist. Witty and unique in both music and lyrics, “Policy” proves Win isn’t the only Butler brother who can shine in the spotlight. It might just be Will’s time now.
Rachel A.G. Gilman is a staff writer. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org