Album Review: Will Varley – Kingsdown Sundown

By on Wednesday, 30th November 2016 at 12:00 pm

Will Varley Kingsdown SundownDelicate but firm, Will Varley manages to create a world to lose yourself in with just his voice and some taut strings. This isn’t an especially new method of working, in fact it’s almost as old as music itself. But the artists who manage to stand out from this crowd are the souls with stories to tell, stories that survive the tests of time. Varley has said himself of this album and its content which “may not be radio friendly, or even ‘friendly’ at all”, but in all honesty it’s nice to have something that steers clear of the infinite happiness that consumes pop music. Darkened acoustic tracks offer a different side to life, the one that is all too real for all of us and gives an unrelenting relatable factor.

With Varley, his strength lies in the darker side of songcraft. It’s not an entirely happy listen – minor chords are in abundance – but there’s something utterly entrancing about his compositions. The first track, ‘To Build A Wall’, kicks things off with its ballad styling and talk of building walls that act as a defence for family, life and love. It’s a delicate first bite but it shows Varley opening himself up to prepare you for exactly where the album is heading: deep into his mind, and it’s not going to be an easy ride.


Following this, ’Something Is Breaking’ takes the atmosphere straight into the realistic and sombre. What is presumably a look at the modern world and its haphazard way of “survival”, a constant divide that fixes nothing but “turns your past into our future”, Varley takes aim at politicians and their broken way of working. More lost lives appear in ‘When She Wakes Up’, which features entwining stories that all lead to the unconscious protective dormant mind that needs to learn of all this new information. Is it a metaphor for the naivete of the majority of the world? Probably not, but the beauty of music such as this is you can read whatever story and meaning it brings out to you and associate it to your own personal needs.

Another delicate track, ‘February Snow’, approaches more death with the title offering the instant scene setter. Varley’s guitar plucking takes on the symbolic form of a heavy snow, while his lyrics offer the ground for these flakes to fall upon and the soft string accompaniment brings it all together with such a light touch that you’d be forgiven for actually missing it. To follow such an irenic track is no easy feat, even for the creator, but on ‘Let Your Guard Down’, he does just that. Opening with the words “In a KFC, in the early hours, someone giving out threats, someone giving out flowers”, Varley somehow manages to completely juxtapose all that came before it. It takes a special kind of talent to write a track such as ‘February Snow’ and then commit “KFC” as lyrics within the track that follows. Yet Varley manages to pull both off without a single hitch and without a need to compromise in his dusk-filled world.


Perhaps more obvious in topic, ‘We Want Our Planet Back’ sees Varley going full-on political. The simplicity of the words, not aiming for hidden meaning but going full heart-on-sleeve, offers the track as something of an anthem for the liberals and hippies. Given the current political climate of the world, that’s certainly not a bad thing. The minimal use of additional instruments throughout, from the aforementioned strings, to the spattering of jolting electric guitar here, the basis of Varley’s voice and guitar to serve as the canvas doesn’t falter or give up any of its built-up success.

At this point, over halfway, you gather that there aren’t going to be any left-field surprises and this is an album that is served as sold. ‘Too Late, Too Soon’ and ‘Wild Bird’ are both eloquent and full of picturesque lyricism and full of more of Varley’s delicate guitar work, but the album takes a turn into ‘Back Down to Hell’. Taking on a dark-folk angle, it paints a picture of a temptress in only a way that Varley can describe. One standout line in particular, “she melts the sunset with the candle in her eye”, gives both a message of futility and despair. But just in case you weren’t at that feeling yet, Varley follows it with “woke up this morning, thought I was gonna die, it’s a long way down”.

The final two tracks ‘One Last Look at the View’ and ‘We’ll Keep Making Plans’ just completely go full throttle into the quaint and heartbreaking folk tale side of Varley. What he’s managed to create with ‘Kingsdown Sundown’ is a record to swallow you whole and leave you feeling fragile, a point that is backed up by the latter track. At 1:59, ‘We’ll Keep Making Plans’ is the shortest cut, but at the same time the most open. It fades in with airy finger picking, soon to be joined by Varley’s voice, ghostly and ravaged with emotion. It carries on through until it simply fades away, leaving you distraught and lost. Listen to ‘Kingsdown Sundown’ in the dark of night whilst it’s raining, with no distractions. You might feel sad, but Varley is there with you to keep you company.


Will Varley’s ‘Kingsdown Sundown’ album is out now on Xtra Mile Recordings.

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