Will Stratton: Strength In Ambiguity

fromWNYC

Click here to hear Will Stratton play and talk about his songs, and to download the free EP Stratton recorded for David Garland's WNYC show Spinning On Air.

David Garland i i

"No Wonder" is characteristic of Stratton's ability to balance the direct and oblique into a single engrossing song. courtesy of the artist hide caption

itoggle caption courtesy of the artist
David Garland

"No Wonder" is characteristic of Stratton's ability to balance the direct and oblique into a single engrossing song.

courtesy of the artist

Combining words and music into a song is a matter of finding the strange equilibrium that allows a fragile construction to stand. A song is a spinning plate at the end of a long bamboo pole, balanced on the tip of the songwriter's musical nose.

Friday's Pick

  • Song: "No Wonder"
  • Artist: Will Stratton
  • CD: No Wonder
  • Genre: Folk-Pop

Will Stratton is just 22. According to his bio, the Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter "started making up songs on the piano when he was 3." On his 12th birthday, the bio continues, Stratton got his first electric guitar, "and in the decade since, music has owned him unconditionally."

Stratton's songs gain strength from their ambiguity; stylistically, they're too imaginative to be easily pigeonholed. Sufjan Stevens and Nick Drake both work as reference points; like them, Stratton makes songs that are elegantly orchestrated. But Stratton is rapidly coming into his own.

The quick pulse of "No Wonder" — the title song from Stratton's second album — thrums along, supporting a melody that floats and drapes itself over the pulse unevenly. The melody line and harmonies veer unexpectedly until, at the song's chorus, the pulse divides clearly into even measures, landing abruptly in up-tempo samba territory. (Here's an exercise for any drummers out there: Work out a part for this song. The task may involve breaking some old habits.)

In some ways, "No Wonder" is typical of Will Stratton's music, but that doesn't mean his songs all sound like this one. What is characteristic is his imagination and his ability to balance the direct and oblique into a single engrossing song.

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