For more than ten years, Will Butler has been associated with arguably the biggest indie band in the world, Arcade Fire. The man of many different residences (born in California, raised in Houston, attended school in New Hampshire, and Chicago, and lived in Montreal) has embarked on his first solo project. On Tuesday, he’ll release Policy, an album that spans the musical spectrum of the late ’70 and 80s. How does the younger Butler fare on his debut album? We provide our First Impressions on the album, which is streaming on Spotify and can be purchased at Merge Records, iTunes, or Amazon. Butler is also out on an extensive tour, which commenced yesterday.
I mainly decided to participate this week because I knew Butler will be playing quite a bit at SXSW this year, and I was pretty intrigued, especially after hearing the first track “Take My Side”, which almost had a Buddy Holly-ish vibe.
No doubt embarking on your own after huge success with Arcade Fire has to be a bit daunting but his endeavor proves successful and the album as a whole is an interesting yet captivating mix of genres and almost different eras of music.
“Anna” has an almost early 80s synth feel, which is a stark contrast from “Take My Side”, but somehow it still flows with the album. “Finish What I Started” is a short but nice piano based track with a chorus background, and there seem to be lyrical themes about spirituality throughout. “Something’s Coming” is probably my favorite which is Bowie-esque. “Son Of God” is also a standout track. “Sing to Me” is a great lyrical gem. Even though much of these 8 songs are pretty different, there is a thread of similarity and cohesiveness which means I will definitely be going back and spinning this album more. “Witness” is a great closer that comes back in with some great rock similar to “Take My Side”.
I will also have to check him out live now. My SXSW must see list continues to grow. Easy Thumbs Up for me.
Going solo after years of fame with a band as huge as Arcade Fire has got to be a difficult endeavor. Will Butler’s contributions to the Arcade Fire sound is huge, and he’s proven to be quite the versatile musician as well. On Policy, Will Butler breaks out from the Arcade Fire shadow and his talent and creativity shines on its own.
The first track, “Take My Side”, is an awesome swinging rocker, and it is followed up by “Anna”, an energetic, electronic track. He has a Lou Reed-esque piano ballad “Finish What I Started” as well. There’s a Talking Heads feel on “Something’s Coming”, which actually wouldn’t feel too out of place on Reflektor. He gets back to rockin’ on “What I Want”, which sounds a lot like the songs that made me fall in love with Arcade Fire in the first place.
I really dig Policy. It’s a great mix of different styles and even recalls the band he gained his fame with. This might be an unpopular opinion, but after my first listen, I think I may like Policy more than I like Reflektor. Policy definitely gets a thumbs up from me.
In listening to Will Butler’s Policy, I was immediately reminded of TV on the Radio’s David Sitek’s side project as Maximum Balloon. On Maximum Balloon, Sitek’s album was essentially an extension of TVOTR’s brilliant Dear, Science. It was a really good album, but the influence of his main project was noticeable.
The same could be said with Policy. Butler’s time as a member and key contributor of Arcade Fire is mostly heard on the opening track, “Take My Side” as well as on “What I Want”. But there are other influences and sounds. There are piano-led ballads “Finish What I Started”, which has a Bowie & Lou Reed feel) and pop songs (“Witness”). “Anna” is a brilliant electro-disco-pop tune. “Son of God” is euphoric and arguably the highlight of the album that ebbs and flows.
For so many artists embarking on their own solo projects, it’s difficult to leave behind the shadow of their immensely popular collective project. Some are able to create albums that are stirring and remarkable while many others struggle. In Butler’s case, he has created a wonderful album that is among the best of the year to date.
3/6 Boston, MA // Middle East Downstairs // BUY TIX
3/7 Brooklyn, NY // Baby’s All Right // BUY TIX
3/11 Cincinnati, OH // Woodward Theater (MusicNOW) // BUY TIX
3/12 Pittsburgh, PA // Brillobox // BUY TIX
3/13 Philadelphia, PA // Boot & Saddle // BUY TIX
3/14 Washington, DC // Rock & Roll Hotel //BUY TIX
3/15 Durham, NC // The Pinhook // BUY TIX
3/16 Atlanta, GA // The Earl // BUY TIX
3/18 – 3/21 Austin, TX // SXSW
3/24 Bloomington, IN // The Bishop // BUY TIX
3/26 Grand Rapids, MI // Calvin College // BUY TIX
3/27 Toronto, ON // Horseshoe Tavern // BUY TIX
3/28 Montreal, QC // Bar Le Ritz PDB // BUY TIX
3/29 Montreal, QC // Bar Le Ritz PDB // BUY TIX
4/11 Rotterdam, Nederland // Motel Mozaique // BUY TIX
4/13 Amsterdam, Nederland // Melkwek Old Hall // BUY TIX
4/14 Brussels, Belgium // AB Club // BUY TIX
4/15 Cologne, Germany // Luxor // BUY TIX
4/16 Berlin, Germany // Frannz Club // BUY TIX
4/18 Paris, France // Maroquinerie // BUY TIX
4/20 Glasgow, UK // Art School // BUY TIX
4/21 Manchester, UK // Deaf Institute // BUY TIX
4/22 London, UK // Scala // BUY TIX
4/23 Birmingham, UK // Institute – The Temple // BUY TIX
4/25 Dublin, Ireland // Whelans // BUY TIX
5/21 Vancouver, BC // The Imperial Theatre (w/ Perfume Genius) //
5/21-23 Sasquatch Festival // The Gorge, WA //
5/24 Portland, OR // Doug Fir Lounge //
5/26 San Francisco, CA // Great American Music Hall //
5/27 Los Angeles, CA // Troubadour //
5/29 San Diego, CA // Casbah //
5/30 Phoenix, AZ // The Crescent Ballroom //
6/1 Denver, CO // The Bluebird Theater //
6/2 Omaha, NE // The Waiting Room //
6/3 Minneapolis, MN // Cedar Cultural Centre //
6/4 Chicago, IL // Lincoln Hall //
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