From the first flutter of chirping birds on the first track of Rosewood Almanac, Will Stratton captivates the listener and carries them away on a deeply poignant exploration of the perils and pitfalls of navigating the contemporary world. Stratton’s academic background in philosophy, then music composition, is on full display here, and he uses his unique blend of lyrical prowess and richly layered musical orchestration to staggering effect.
The album functions beautifully as a cohesive journey, beginning with the lyrics on Light Blue, “I remember you, light blue / those were the years when I was just passing through / when I didn’t care and my back was turned / resignation that I hadn’t earned.”
Over the ten tracks, Stratton examines themes of growing older from various perspectives. On Thick Skin he muses “you can booze if you want to, but your problems they drink too.” Whilst on the gorgeous Manzanita he revels in the sweetness of growing older with the one you love. With Whatever’s Divine, Stratton affirms “I don’t want to front like I’m from another decade and I don’t want to feel like I’m part of a decaying past” before then decreeing over and over “thank jah for your love, thank allah for your love, thank god for your love.” In these lyrics and in many others he seems to be concluding that in a world where less and less makes sense, love is the one constant that grounds us and gives our confusing lives meaning.
Stratton lists all of his lyrics on all of his albums on his website, indicating the amount of value he imports to his words. He is a poet of the highest order. And even as phrases and images stick in the mind whilst listening, the sheer beauty of his orchestrations can be overwhelming, marked by complex guitar patterns and absolutely heart-wrenching, soaring strings, clearly showcasing his classical music training.
Stratton cites Nick Cave as one of his greatest influences, and Sufjan Stevens made an appearance on his first album. On this record he is in perfect company with these iconic artists, and I kept wondering to myself how it was possible that I hadn’t heard of him sooner. Rosewood Almanac is an absolute gem, both timely and timeless in its themes, a gorgeous work by an artist who relies on his art to help process the world we live in. He wraps up the journey with these finally lyrics on Ribbons; “You know the times are staying the same / don’t take the weather for a change / It’s a simulated progress that we’re after / Just look at all the circling crows, and try not to hold your nose / until the fire finally engulfs the rafters”