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Will Keeper, 'Glass Doll'

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Published August 31, 2022 at 10:00 a.m.


(Self-released, digital)

Listening to Will Keeper's new EP, Glass Doll, I get the impression that the 25-year-old Burlington singer-songwriter is visually fixated. His past two EPs and string of singles prove that he's a whiz with sound, too. But the lyrics on his new release are strikingly optically focused.

On these six feathery pop tunes, Keeper sings the following lyrics: "Eyes up and toes to the sky" ("Security"); "Fall into your eyes" ("Wingman"); "Don't look at me with your pretty boy gaze" ("Beach Rose"); "Trying on your clothes when I'm hollow / They fit like eyelids" ("Vessel"); and "The way you stare me down / I could be see-through" ("Glass Doll"). The final cut, "Fisheye," is fully loaded with ocular imagery.

This pattern contrasts with his 2021 EP, Nosebleeds, which seemed to linger on unpleasant physical sensations. So what does Keeper see?

In many of his peers, he sees pain. In an email to Seven Days, Keeper described his music as addressing "inflammatory rhetoric surrounding queer people" and "how vilifying queerness actually takes a great deal of innocence away from kids and young adults." Then he elegantly summed up Glass Doll: It tackles how queer and trans kids "don't get to fully experience the same milestones as their cishet peers.

"This project traces some of my process acknowledging that reality and moving through it to regain what was chipped away," Keeper continued. "A glass doll can seem like a delicate symbol of suspended innocence, but even when it breaks all those pieces are still there."

The album cover offers a visual representation of that metaphor, while Keeper's description helps explain both the ocular imagery and the unmistakable longing heard in his new songs. Sometimes all someone who yearns can do is look achingly toward what they want, need and deserve. It's upsetting to live like that.

Written, performed, recorded and produced entirely by Keeper at home, Glass Doll is his best release yet. The artist continues to define his sound, though the EP approaches an ideal state.

He weds R&B genetics to coffeehouse quietude, dredging his work in subtle experimental flair. His tones are babyproofed, their sharp edges covered in protective, rubbery layers. His singing is almost like sighing, but not sighing that comes from disappointment or exasperation. His work exhales a deep compassion for his listeners, managing to come off as unaggressive without being dispassionate. It's his signature move.

Despite the trauma at its core, Glass Doll is a deeply comforting listen, as is Keeper's entire body of work. The next phase of his career: honing his live set. Catch him on Wednesday, September 7, at Radio Bean in Burlington.

Glass Doll is available at willkeeper.bandcamp.com.