Will Butler – Policy – Album Review

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Will Butler’s solo debut Policy is not far from his work with Arcade Fire, where he acts as a keyboardist and guitarist.  Naturally, comparisons will be drawn between Butler’s past work and his solo work, which is understandable considering the similarities between the two.  Both have a definitive indie rock sound as well as elements of pop and art rock music.  Ultimately, Policy is an interesting work from a talented artist, but one that fails to escape the shadow of Butler’s past work.

The album begins with the 60s rock style “Take My Side”, filled with wild guitars and a surf rock rhythm.  Butler’s voice is well suited to his respected genre, one that can hold a solid melody but can also add charisma and character to his tracks.  It’s a solid start to the album and a great track in general, albeit a familiar one.  The album’s second track “Anna” is an interesting piece of pop-rock with a subtle synth melody and bassline.  The track even adds some horns to its repetitive and catchy rhythm.  However, by the time the listener reaches the albums third track, it becomes evident that the album isn’t going to bring about any new ideas.  Some ideas feel too similar to Arcade Fire’s work, but a majority of the album feels like a rehashing of ideas that have populated the past decade of rock music.  “Finish What I Started” plays out like an unoriginal piano ballad, with lyrics that are about as interesting as its drab melody.  It’s far from a bad track, just an uninteresting one, much like the album as a whole.

“Son of God” is a catchy acoustic rock jam that feels just like an early Arcade Fire track, which is far from a bad thing considering the band has not sounded that way for many years.  The album’s standout track “What I Want” feels like the most original work on the album, combining garage rock guitar riffs with a pop rock beat.  Perhaps the biggest standout on this track are Butler’s lyrics, which paint a picture of a mature relationship filled with ups and downs.  His vocal performance is particularly captivating as he almost sounds like he is freaking out, which matches the tracks somewhat ridiculous lyrics perfectly.

The album’s second to last track “Sing to Me” would serve as a far better conclusion to the album than the actual closer “Witness”.  “Sing to Me” is a beautiful, melodramatic piece similar to his work on the film “Her” Soundtrack.  The track mainly features just Butler and a piano, with sparse, ambient instrumentation being added in towards the end of the song.  The album’s closer “Witness” is a rockabilly jam that sounds like something straight out of the 50s.  It’s a solid track, but is very ill-suited as a finishing track.  All in all, Policy is a good album, but far from a great one.  Its lack of originality makes the album an enjoyable, but mostly forgettable project.  However, Butler does have potential to create a solid solo work, with Policy paving the way for a possibly great solo career.  For the time being, Butler remains too close to his past work to be a distinguishable solo artist.

RATING: 6/10

Standout Tracks: “What I Want”, “Take My Side”, “Sing to Me”

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