On his new record, Learning to Stand, Will Orchard embraces forgiveness in hushed tones. The standout track, “Don’t Let Me Fall,” starts the album with cautiously strummed guitars that gain confidence throughout the song. Orchard introduces himself as a scattered figure with a “snowball head with diamonds in the globe / tumbling around with other broken snow.” He contrasts himself with an assured woman who was a “big bright hammer on my creaky floors,” breaking him out of his shell and providing a center for his scattered thoughts. The song is characterized by playful imagery and unexpected descriptors reminiscent of a Wilco song. The poetry is effective, the melodies are memorable, and it’s a favorite on the record for me.
If “Don’t Let Me Fall” is Orchard feeling lost, the rest of the record is him piecing together who he wants to be. On “Simple Magic,” he sings “Simple magic is when I shatter that nihilist in me.” It’s an elegantly simple assertion that rings true every time I hear it. On “Free Diver,” Orchard’s whistling songbird voice flutters above loose guitar strums and subtle percussion. The extra plucky fingerpicking style on the instrumental title track, “Learning to Stand,” is a nice contrast to the glossy strumming on most of the record.
“Bulldozer” adds some enigmatic piano chords beneath an otherwise anodyne song. The dark notes reflect Orchard’s quiet confession to “getting a little meaner each day.” The penultimate track, “Violent Dreams” features the record’s most immediately catchy vocal melody. In the chorus, Orchard sings, “Wanna let go of all the anger in my heart/ Violent dreams always find me, tear me apart” over a swaying piano progression and watery guitars. The layered vocals on the chorus make for a touching sing-along moment on a record that otherwise feels solitary. The closer, “Wish Your Heart Wouldn’t Heal Like That,” contemplates an undeserved hope for a broken relationship to mend itself. Orchard acknowledges his shortcomings like “birds on a morning bridge” and admits that the relationship “withered under his watchful eye,” yet, in his daydreams, he still envisions a future.
Learning to Stand feels intimate and introspective without reading like a diary or a collection of you-had-to-be-there moments. The record invites you to see Will Orchard as he sees himself on the album cover: a reflection in the foreground of the outside world.
- Jefferson Deery