Review: Will Butler's Policy


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Among recording, touring, and performing as a member of the band Arcade Fire, Will Butler has very little time for himself. But when presented with a year of freedom in 2014, Butler told Chicago’s Pitchfork Media that he took advantage of the spare time, recording his first and only solo album, Policy.

Policy will be released on March 10, featuring a collection of eight songs that reflect a blend of the old and the new. Appropriately, it was recorded in one week’s time in Electric Lady Studios, in whch legendary albums by the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, and Jimi Hendrix were created.

I’m anxious to see if Butler finds it worthwhile to devote another year to building his solo career separate from his 10-year commitment to Arcade Fire, an alternative-rock group that has released a new album every three years and won an Album of the Year Grammy in 2011 for The Suburbs. 

Arcade Fire began its search for sound in 2003. Nearly a decade later, Butler has begun to establish his own style. With Arcade Fire, he worked with bass, percussion, synthesizer, and guitar, and when you listen to Policy, you will hear every side of this multi-instrumentalist. 

For me, Will’s sound is a work in progress. Many albums in the alternative genre tend to have a song list of 12 wildly similar tracks; Policy has only eight songs, with each one more distinct than the previous. 

Butler is joined by a few uncredited backing singers, whose high-pitched vocals offer a necessary contrast with Butler’s, particularly in the track “Finish What I Started.” This song is musically much more melancholy than the upbeat tunes that color the album, yet Butler’s lyrics seem almost to poke fun at the average rock ballad, with lines such as “Someone please tell me what my name is, I wrote it down but lost track of the paper.” 

But when Butler isn’t crooning along with his gospel-esque backup singers, his beats will have you tapping your feet through the floor. Policy is both light and heavy, deep and superficial. It’s what you want from an alternative album, with a twist.  

In the track “Son of God,” Butler sings, “Nothing lasts forever, but some of this shit is getting pretty old.” Half of this sentiment certainly applies to Policy, because the 26-minute album ends far too quickly. However, as someone who has listened to Policy a couple dozen times, I can say it hasn’t gotten old yet. 

Butler’s Policy will be released on March 10 in the United States. The album can be ordered or purchased for $7.99 on iTunes or $12.99 on Amazon.

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