Will Stratton's songs are beautiful and bracing, despite — or maybe because of — the abstract, ambitious goals that motivate him. Stratton says he hopes his songs tell stories "that aren't really stories, but are potential statements of fact."
Just 22, Stratton is already working on his third album. The summer he graduated from high school in New Jersey, Stratton recorded his first album, What the Night Said. His second, No Wonder, was released in 2009 when he graduated from Bennington College. The albums showcase a colorful imagination, and if the first one leans heavily on influences such as Sufjan Stevens (who played oboe on What the Night Said), the second reveals an artist bringing his unique vision into focus. Since Stratton sometimes plays guitar with intricate finger-picking and sings with an intimate, unpretentious voice, he's often compared to Nick Drake. But Stratton shouldn't be pigeonholed — he's evolving and growing too quickly.
Recently, Stratton played a handful of songs for the WNYC program Spinning on Air, demonstrating how he seems to put his aggression into his guitar playing and lyrics, rather than his vocal delivery. "Do You Remember the Morning" is a characteristic song, allowing lyrical fragments to coalesce and pitting introspection against frenetic guitar breaks. "Vile Bodies" is a hook-laden song about music-marketing memes. Many of Stratton's lyrics draw influence from literary sources — "For Franny Glass" was written about a person who reminded Stratton of the J.D. Salinger character of the same name, while "The War Is Over" comes across as something of a musical short story, imagining a return and a departure, "when the next big war is over and the profiteers have won." You can stream the full set here, but Stratton has also decided to make the nine songs he performed at WNYC available as a free EP.