Reviews:: Will Stratton What the Night Said

It’s ironic that after Alanis became famous after writing a song about irony, a Canadian still doesn’t really understand the correct definition of the word and how to tie it into a review. It’s like 10,000 spoons when all you need is a knife or something like that, but more importantly, it’s ironic that a concept album about night can actually transport you to a late afternoon on a rooftop as you watch the sun go down, or watching the swirl of smoke from a burned down cigarette as the first cracks of light break the horizon.

Calling Will Stratton a singer/songwriter is like calling Owen Pallett a violinist or Cut Chemist a DJ. It sort of cheapens the end result and ignores the effort put into the project. Will’s debut album, What the Night Said (coming soon from Stunning Models on Display records)is a collection of songs constructed with strings, piano, organ, harpsichord, and a mishmash of pop styles that are paired like a culinary treat. Reading the ingredients, you wonder if the chef is using too many flavors and you are a bit apprehensive, but the end result is very palatable.

Lying slightly under the surface of these songs is the striking suspicion that Will isn’t even aware of the talent he possesses. Within a few seconds of the opening track, Katydid, I was forced into thoughts of Jens Lekman (which is ironic, as he uses Lekman’s cellist on the record). Not stylistically, more because I found myself wondering if he knows how perfectly he crafts songs. He uses layers of lush production, (including strings and piano), none of which are overly complex, they just simply piece together to form a beautiful melody. When I listen to Will (and Jens), I ask myself if the sounds they put together require hours of thought and trial and error, or if they simply hear the melodies and track them, not knowing how hard finding the combination is for other artists.

The album certainly doesn’t fall into the trap of finding one riff and reworking it over and over. Will constantly switches style from inspirations as diverse as Wilco-esque melodies on Sonnet to the Be Good to Tanya’s inspired banjo and pedal steel on Be So Ashamed. At times Will sounds comparable to other noteworthy artists, including Mark Kozalek on Night Will Come and Josh Rouse when he explores more delicate, finger picked melodies of Oh Quiet Night and Sunol.

But rather than focus on who Will sounds like, I’d rather focus on the success of this record. Enjoyable, ambitious, and creative: All the things music lovers constantly seek out in music. Will Stratton's songs and styles are tailor made for him to become a household name for KEXP, World Café and NPR listeners. The only question is whether or not that is something he wants.

For people in the Northwest, Will is going to school and it's rumored he's going to start playing shows soon. Hopefully a Vancouver date can be booked.

Check out two tracks::
M4A::(sorry) Sonnet
M4A::(sorry) Katydid


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