This first impression was originally posted as a live blog for supporters in our forums on June 18th, 2016. First impressions are meant to be quick, fun, initial impressions on an album or release as I listen to it for the first time. It’s a running commentary written while listening to an album — not a review. More like a diary of thoughts. This post has been lightly edited for structure and flow.
Hey, only basically a day late on this! But, here I am! Today was a day of trying to catch up on a lot of work and then I like to spend a day every few weeks trying to do something I dedicated to learning and education — so today was also spent going through my to watch queue and only watching the educational videos I have saved up (I use the “add to Plex” bookmarklet to save videos and things like that to my Plex library to then watch on the TV, it’s a great little tool that I definitely recommend). Overall, not a bad day at all.
Tonight I’m going to do some blogging/writing about the new album from Butch Walker. The album is called Stay Gold, and it will be out on August 26th.
The thing about Butch Walker is that it’s gonna be basically impossible for me to be impartial — I think Butch is one of the best songwriters of the past 2 decades, I love all his work, and find things like his End of the World and Peach Tree Battle EP stuff as good as anything anyone else is doing. I’m a really, really big fan. I’ve given this album maybe 3-4 spins already, so I’ve already got some thoughts on it and some context. Fast version: it’s as good as the album cover is bad.
Tonight’s beer of choice is Deschutes Hop Slice Session IPA.
Aight, let’s do it!
(Feel free to jump in with questions if you want now or in the future as well.)
10:01pmGod damn. Love this little opening riff. It’s got a The Spade feel while sitting in the americana/rock n roll vibe. Butch has always been an underrated guitar player in my opinion.
“Stay gold now ponyboy.”
No song quoting The Outsiders is ever … bad. It’s a rule of music.
10:04pmThis album is more upbeat than his last. More toward the middle of Sycamore and The Spade. It’s back to rocking out a little more. It’s got some Bruce. Some pop. I loved his last one, but this feels more like what really gets me going with Butch’s music. It’s got that every person feel. Like, you can put it on and everyone in the vicinity should fucking like it.
“With the world so black and white boy, stay goooooold, oooohhhh, ohhh oh.”
This is gonna be a crowd favorite.
East Coast Girl
10:06pmThis one is already streaming. It’s got that almost spoken word verse thing that I think throws a lot of people off, but I love. It’s got a massive Springsteen like chorus too.
10:07pmThat chorus is what Gaslight Anthem were really wishing they coulda done on their last album. And I like that album.
This song grows on me each time I hear it. It is different than a lot of the album though. But I get the first release for it … it shows that this album isn’t going to be like the last one. I think that’s smart.
10:09pmSeriously think this album cover is pretty stupid though.
10:10pmGod I love the production on this too. It’s the perfect mix of raw and glossy. The levels are just right. The instruments that need to shine shine, the dynamics are deep, raw, and fulfilling.
Wilder in the Heart
10:11pmFirst time I heard this song I knew I’d love this album.
Vocals shine. Fantastic story telling.
10:14pmThis is everything I love about Butch. It’s got everything you wish you could figure out how to write. It’s got this live feel to it that lets you know it’s going to be great live, but it doesn’t lose any punch here on the album.
“When my favorite band still wrote songs I like; I can’t relate to them anymore.”
Love that line.
That bridge and verse are so god damn good.
10:22pmThis one starts with the sound of an engine revving and this hard synth over it. It builds, groans, like two cars coming off the line … and counts down.
And then the beat kicks in.
One of my favorite songs Butch has written in years. When he stutters through “I c-c-c-c-an’t escape” it’s when you just start smiling. It’s got a chorus as good as anything he’s ever done. It’s that good.
It’s stuff like this that cements Butch’s place for me in musical history. It’s an effortless genius. It feels so simple, so easy, so laid back, so campfire introspection with all of the right flourishes … the little things that take it over the top. The places where he decides to solo. Where he decides to breath. When he lets it feel full or tight. When he lets the vocals get swamped or when he lets the backing vocals creep.
10:23pmThis one threw me off the first time I heard it. It starts with a piano, straight into Ashley Monroe’s vocals.
10:24pmThe vocals work together really, really well though. And god damn the way he sings, “I just want you to worry about me, every once in a while, I just need a sign of life, to get me by. You can’t fake a smile forever, from a mouth that once was mine — is it over or finally beginning?” Fuck.
Again, such a rare talent. Emotional catharsis through music in the most perfect way.
10:27pmI feel like this one could have been on The Spade. Which I think is underrated, somehow, still. It’s got that you’re at the bar, the music is up, and everyone is drinking … and drinking … and drinking..
10:29pmThis album is a weird spiritual successor to The Spade in a weird way. It’s got more of a flair to it than that one did, and it’s more country than it is city rock – but it’s still from that same world. It’s the country mouse.
I’m always impressed where Butch decides to throw in the weirdest little lines, tongue in cheek, that shouldn’t work. But do.
“Sooner or later, there’s a foot in my mouth, it tasted like a whisky that my body threw out.”
10:30pmThat guitar line into/as bridge is really cool.
10:31pmI don’t like spiders, and I hate snakes, but the one thing that makes my lip fucking shake is …
10:33pmThis may be the only track I don’t really love on my first five listens. It’s fine. It’s the “Suckerpunch” of the album for me though. It’s just … a little too corny. I mean, it’s weird, but it’s just that weird weird kind of Butch.
10:35pmIt’s that chorus where you’re like … I mean, how did this become a chorus, but … ok. I guess. Ok. I can’t really tell if he’s saying “comma, comma, comma” and if he is that’s instantly awesome.
Or maybe it’s come-a … like come on? I can’t really tell. I like the idea of commas. Haha.
10:36pmThat guitar solo is awesome though.
Can We Just Not Talk About Last Night
10:45pmIf “Mexican Coke” was a song I didn’t like, this is what we call instantly redeeming yourself. Probably my second favorite song on the album. It’s really good. It’s the kind of song that defines why I hold Butch in such high regard. Why I hold all songwriters to a level of quality that very few ever reach. It’s the kind of song that makes me not willing to accept mediocrity. Like why should I care about With Confidence or whatever pop band Fearless/Hopeless signed last month if they can’t write this well? I don’t think it’s wrong to say that there’s a bar set of expectations and that I want to see pop-bands reach for it. When a band writes a song that people call emotional, or catchy, but it doesn’t reach the dynamism that something like this does, I think that’s a reason I don’t like it and find it underwhelming.
I love the story telling. I love the simplicity. I love the depressing debauchery …
“And you can ask me if it’s going to change the way I act around you, I can tell you it’s gonna be alright. Oh, we can talk about the way I’ve always had a thing for you, but can we just not talk about last night.”
10:46pmI’d say after 5 listens this is my favorite song on the album. But these last three play together in an almost perfect way.
Every time he starts singing here it’s just a fuck me this is incredible moment.
10:47pmThe chorus is incredible. The way he outros it … god damn chills.
“And I sold that car last spring, and I wonder if anyone’s fallen in love inside of that old thing?”
Lines like that are why he’s one of my favorite songwriters.
10:52pmI wish the album was longer.
It sucks how fast this albums feels like it came and went. But, it ends with Butch and his guitar.
“I drove through two states you hate to make sure you’re alright…”
10:54pmI really do love this album already. It’s over before I want it to be, but I find it perfectly fitting for this hot summer night. The last verse. God damn.
“Meet me at the record store, even though it ain’t here anymore. I’ll fumble through our song, I’ll make you hum along. You can love me like you loved me when you could.”
11:03pmAnd there we have it. The new Butch Walker album.
I’m not sure where this is going to end up on my EOTY list, I’m not sure where I’ll rank it in his discography, but it’s the kind of thing that I think I expected after the Peachtree Battle EP. It carries that sound. It’s a masterclass in songwriting, in using the ebb and flow of music to tell a story, of pushing and pulling through the songs that feel like they’re just one or two steps in front of everyone else. It feels like The Spade and Peachtree together with a little Meadows mixed in. I really, really like it.
11:05pmNow I’m looking through the catalog of stuff I have from Butch on my computer. 151 songs and now I wanna just listen to them all.