Continuing onward with the individual features for some of the most outstanding individual achievements over the past seven weeks, the focus falls to an oddity of a track from Arcade Fire’s Will Butler: “Anything You Want / 4 July 17”.
There couldn’t have been a lot of people could have anticipated that Will Butler would wind up being the most formidable lyricist housed in Arcade Fire or that he’d be making the most interesting music of anyone in the band at this point in their careers but “Anything You Want / 4 July 17” all but cements both of those statements. Arcade Fire are currently in the midst of the harshest reviews of their career for their just-released Everything Now while Butler’s still enjoying a rising profile thanks to some small critical acclaim and recognition for his excellent 2015 solo effort, Policy.
All of the songs on Policy seemed to suggest untapped depths of the younger Butler’s musical talents but “Anything You Want / 4 July 17” obliterates what was the perceived ceiling on the multi-instrumentalist’s lyricism. Few songs from revered songwriters and lyricists have matched the kind of narrative web and mastery of tone that Butler displays here in a song that was released as a standalone curiosity just before the 4th of July.
Not only does “Anything You Want / 4 July 17” skewer and then humanize American politics with a near-unmatched clarity of empathy, the song also blends in some sharp relief through black humor and unexpected intimacy. All the while, a gorgeous piano figure both heightens and propels the narrative, landing the song somewhere between the camps of Randy Newman and Harry Nilsson without ever being dwarfed by the shadow of either forebear.
Verse to verse, whether Butler’s wrangling tongue-in-cheek laughs or painful recognition, there’s not a false or forced moment throughout “Anything You Want / 4 July 17” even as an already extremely broad scope continues to expand throughout the song’s six minute run-time. By the time Butler scales things way back, the song’s touched on systemic dynamics from powerful institutions through an endearingly micro vantage point.
It’s an extraordinary achievement — especially for what appears to just be a random one-off song — and should skyrocket anticipation for whatever’s next for Butler’s solo career. If it can even remotely approach these heights, it’ll stand a shot at being one of the decade’s best releases. Until that moment comes, it’s hard to imagine anyone will resist paying “Anything You Want / 4 July 17” an endless onslaught of revisits. Don’t let this one go by unheard.
Listen to “Anything You Want / 4 July 17” below and keep an eye on this site for more updates on Will Butler.