Chances are you’ve never heard of Will Sartain. Even if you live in Salt Lake City, which is the place Sartain calls home, the twenty year old singer/songwriter could have escaped your radar. Let’s face it, there are hundreds upon hundreds of musicians out there struggling to get noticed. What creates the tipping point from obscurity to, at the very least, cult status, or slight popularity? Although most reasons have to do with marketing, sometimes it just takes an x-factor. In Will Sartain’s case, that x-factor represents a few things, namely a memorable sound.
As soon as you hear Will Sartain’s voice, you might think that what you are listening to is some strange side project with Bernard Sumner helming the Flaming Lips. As weird or as utterly contradictory enough to be cool that that sounds, the sense is a pleasant one. The opening track on Sartain’s second full-length album The Listening Booth, called “This Winding Road,” has sharp lilting piano twisting with funky basslines, all the while Sartain’s voice arching and straining above it, as if trapped in the bottom of a well, straining to be heard and rescued.
“Fall” is a particularly memorable, if only for the fact that its stripped-down piano and strings overlapped with a conversational Sartain, is like Wayne Coyne meets Jeff Tweedy meets Tim Delaughter. You can almost hear Coyne start to sing, “Yoshimi, don’t let those robots win,” or Tweedy start to sing, “His goal in life was to be an echo,” or Delaughter start to sing, “You are my soldier girl.” All this without becoming overly derivative. “Perspective” brings back the Sumner voice, like the songs he sang in Low Life or Brotherhood. With added guitar, it’s even toeing the line of sounding a little like Modest Mouse. The song quickly became one of my favorites on the album.
Okay, so you’ve never heard of Will Sartain (or maybe you’re one of the twenty or so odd people who are in the know), but you soon will. The Listening Booth is the grand introduction of a talent who has seemed to bridge the gap between singer/songwriter and emo/indie pop. So step into the booth, put on the headphones and press play.
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