Will Stratton’s Free Album Bonanza (MP3)

Back in 2007, a young folk-artist named Will Stratton released a stunning little powerhouse of a record called What the Night Said, a post-Nick Drake kind of lo-fi masterpiece, the barely-21 Stratton showing a wisdom far, far beyond his years and making for one of the best records of ’07.

Since then, Stratton has been primarily focused on finishing up college, and even with his new album No Wonder coming out on November 3rd, it seems that Stratton just can’t seem to keep his excitement to himself, and just a few days ago decided to release his second album of unreleased non-album songs online, for free.

His first set — For No One — came out in January of this year, and featured what Will referred to as a collection of “demos, outtakes, and B-sides” (B-sides being a relative term considering he hasn’t put out any singles). From the piano-lead solemnity of “Judas, 1966” to the understated beauty of the demo of Night Said highlight “I’d Hate to Leave You”, For No One is a spectacular hold-over until his next full-length, that set’s title track alone worthy of inclusion on either album of his.

His new “free” album, titled Instrumental Music: 2007-2009, is just that: a series of short, pleasant instrumentals that show Stratton working on a neo-classical bent. It features seven piano “miniatures”, a cello-lead epic entitled “Ulysses and the Sirens”, and a piece that reminds me personally of some Saint-Saiens piano pieces called “May You Never Be a Cipher”. None of it can really be considered essential, but there are enough enjoyable moments to recommend it for download, and — hey — it’s free!

Which brings us back to why Stratton’s free-album philosophy is so intriguing: by unleashing his whims, outtakes, demos, and one-offs, he’s essentially clearing out room for nothing but his best work for No Wonder (which I’ve already heard a few details about — it’ll throw us for quite the delightful loop, apparently). He’s slowly building up hype amidst his small-but-loyal fanbase, but — more critically — he’s treating his fans well, giving them two full albums worth of material for free while waiting for his sophomore disc. Few artists are ever this generous, but more critically, few artists’ “free” releases are this damn good.