Pitchfork (Website) - "[There are] moments when Butler's music sounds more jagged, more hapless, more violent, more paranoid than it has in years."
When a member of a successful band makes a solo album, it often means they're looking for a chance to do something they can't do within the context of their main project. That appeared to be the case on Will Butler's 2015 set Policy, in which the Arcade Fire's multi-instrumentalist (and brother of leader Win Butler) took the center spotlight for a change and let his own musical personality roam free. However, Butler establishes a stronger aural identity on 2016's Friday Night, which was recorded during three dates of Butler's tour in support of the album. Given the large and growing scale of the Arcade Fire's live shows, the sets documented on Friday Night give Butler a chance to play a leaner, tighter show with a smaller band (four musicians, including Butler), leaving more room for Butler and his friends to mess around. Sara Dobbs (synth, piano, backing vocals), Julie Shore (bass synth, piano, backing vocals), and Miles Arntzen (drums, synth, backing vocals) make for a surprisingly full-sounding band, but they're also flexible enough to follow their whims, as well as those of their leader, and the energy they generate is more than welcome. (Arntzen's backbeat in particular keeps this show rolling no matter what.) Butler's persona on-stage is a bit melodramatic in spots (especially on "Something's Coming" and "Madonna Can't Save Me Now"), but he often displays a welcome sense of humor, and the banter between him and the audience suggests he's thrilled to be playing venues where he and his audience are actually close enough to communicate. And if the songs on Policy sometimes felt overwrought, on-stage and in front of a pumped-up crowd they make more sense, and Butler is able to dive deep enough into the material that his broader gestures have a more comfortable context. Friday Night is a stronger and more engaging work than Butler's solo debut, and the new songs suggest he should have something memorable next time he goes into the studio by himself. ~ Mark Deming