Your Hero Is Not Dead
2020 – Folk / Country
The great and grand debut album by the British singer shows a simplicity embodied in the lyrics and strings, however, it is a great deep work.
Will Westerman was just a kid when he started singing and dancing for the singers who filled his daily life. He sang for the visionary lyrics of Tina Turner and Sister Sledge that his mother liked and danced to the strong beats of the 70s that his father played. Therefore, since childhood, music was not only a means of leisure, but an essential element for his existence. At the age of 8 he was a chorister and started studying music at a renowned school, the Charterhouse, but it was only at the age of 16 that he learned to play the guitar. Now, in 2020, he takes all of his influences, from Niel Young’s lyrics to an incredibly homogeneous mix between folk music and electronic beats, to create his excellent debut, Your Hero Is Not Dead.
With the help of poetic lyrics and folk/country instrumental that create totally unique and immersive environments, Your Hero Is Not Dead emerges as an excellent debut for Westerman. The British singer’s first album has usual country guitars, however, it sounds modern like the most contemporary songs. The folk side of his music creates environments and atmospheres that seem like unfamiliar spaces where we feel like unique pieces in a dense and deep universe. His lyrics, in turn, carry sentimental and deep meanings that are almost always complicated to explain, but always easily to understand and feel. In short, Your Hero Is Not Dead carries a complexity that is not difficult to understand and feel and this is one of the reasons why this album is a unique and special piece.
Even though Your Hero Is Not Dead is full of throbbing and painful feelings about romance, love, self-knowledge, self-analysis and political criticism, in the first track we are reassured that we are not alone in this almost dark journey. In the album’s opener, “Drawbridge”, Westerman appears with a voice working on filters that make it look like Will is, in fact, a group of male singers from the 50s. As much as the lyrics don’t go far beyond this kind of tranquilizer (“Your Hero Is Not Dead”), the track is something great, thanks to the guitar solo that lasts during the first two minutes of the album. While a guitar plays fearlessly and stripped, a bass occasionally releases shy strings and a piano contributes with notes that come out almost unnoticed. And that’s what makes Your Hero Is Not Dead special: the details. Each song here receives a special treatment in each part of each instrument, however simple it may be. This does not mean that Will joined thousands of instruments in one track to build something grand or complex, but that he gives a special look to each part of his music, making each instrument and word treated with care and caprice, thus building detailed, delicate but, above all, simple music.
So, all the songs on this album become special in their own way. The second track, “The Line”, for example, is one of the best on the entire album, being a great simple track, but that ends up becoming something beautiful, captivating and totally unique. Along with a soft guitar and bongo beats, Will works with three vocal personalities here: at first, he appears unconcerned singing “Baby I miss you”, however, he quickly evolved into a pop singer who sings a simple chorus at a nice rhythm and then he appears in an obscure way with an atmospheric voice singing cleverly written verses: “You choose not to choose thatʼs a choice and it brings new choices”. The most amazing thing is how all facets of Westerman worked so well together, making it look like each one was born to work with the other. And this is one of the best examples that show that a song doesn’t always need a complex instrumental to be great.
However, as much as Will’s lyrics appear obscure at different times, they reach our heads like great representative poetry. Take, for example, the songs where Will ventures on political and social issues almost imperceptibly. While in “Easy Money” she sings: “So why’d you worry? / Nothing but love for it / Easy money” alongside a sound with industrial trends at its pace, in “Blue Comanche” he looks at the present worried “I’m nearly there, cyborg / Ready to take your course / No trees past the acorn” while his voice sounds wide thanks to synthetic effects. Both tracks lack lyrics that are planned to be political hymns, but both can demonstrate Will’s feelings of anguish. Finally, while in “Waiting On Design” he sings “The memories in waves of stamps and your blood” to the sound of a well-known beat from the album, in “Confirmation” he delivers one of the best on the album, in which he talks about self-sabotage. While he is working on his metaphors (“Staring at a horse, got dead legs”), he sings with a relaxed voice an extremely enjoyable and captivating chorus. The nature of the soul was key here.
However, as much as Westerman’s poetry is one of the strongest points of his debut, there are tracks here that have all their power concentrated in their instrumental, which seems to want to break several barriers of labeling. “Big Nothing Glow” is one of the best examples for showing a diverse and divergent mix that is rarely well performed: a country guitar mixes with a homemade beat and a synthesizer that appears with electronic strings that give an inexplicable charm to the song. However, it is not only the instruments that carry the greatness of the sound of the track. During the moments when the instrumental isn’t creating a kind of trap / rap pop beat, Will appears with layered vocals that add unbelievable depth to the track. It’s just one of those tracks that can do a lot with simple additions. However, all the whereabouts of instrumental excellence extend to tracks that have almost no lyrics or vocals. In “Dream Appropriate” we are taken to a curious environment where a string plays a simple melody and synthesizers cut off our heads while audio tapes resonate voices. In an even more homely way, “Float Over” appears at the end of the album with just one line while a guitar appears playing a melody reminiscent of fireflies and conversation circles around campfires. Strangely, both tracks are simple, however, the details that the few things that are present here receive make a huge difference, making the simple guitar and synthesizers tracks become great beautiful songs.
In fact, there are no tracks here that prove to be bad, only some that don’t stand out as much as all the others. “Paper Dogs” is the one I liked least because it seems to strive to be something different from the rest. Of course, the vocal work is excellent here, as well as the lyrics, however, the sound makes it seem that this track came straight from Assume Form by James Blake, making it look like we don’t have touches of Westerman’s personality. In another moment, “Think I’ll Stay” also appears as weak track because it spends all the time preparing the listener for something special, but never really delivering something big. Fortunately, none of these tracks can break the album and it can end even more grandly with its title track. In “Your Hero Is Not Dead” he starts singing “Busy working / Busy avoiding” while a slightly generic country melody builds up in the background. By far, this track features Will’s most true vocal performance, especially when he sings the chorus (“If you don’t see where hope is / Your hero is not dead just sleeping”). Here, he seems like a kind of entity who knows about everything but is concerned with calming others than acting superiorly. That way, Your Hero Is Not Dead ends just as it started and existed: beautifully simple but deeply inspiring.