“I don’t know what to write about after this record. I’m saying it all. The well is tapped. Maybe no more albums after this one.”
Butch Walker tweeted those words in January of this year, stoking rumors that his then-still-untitled 2016 album might be his last. I don’t expect Walker to follow through with this particular threat. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from almost 12 years of holding Butch to be my favorite artist, it’s that the guy has an incredible, incessant love for music. He’s the kind of guy who would retire and then be antsy to get back into the studio after a month. If Stay Gold does end up being the last Butch Walker album, though, then it’s sure as shit the right kind of album to go out with. 2016 has been a dark year in a lot of ways, and just reading through the headlines these days is enough to make even the most sensible person want to stick their head in the sand. But Stay Gold is all brash guitars and sunny optimism, a quintessential summer record that stands as this year’s most celebratory work. Rarely has Butch’s love for music, lyrics, stories, and guitar solos been on such gleeful display. Frankly, this is the kind of life-affirming album we need right now. At least, it’s the one I needed.
Walker and Monroe first met when she did a guest vocal for an album he was producing. The two hit it off, remained in touch, and vowed to write a song together. On a recent flight to Los Angeles, Monroe and Walker were texting “about the struggle of survival,” when the plane started making its landing.
“The line in the song is, ‘In a world so black and white, boy, stay gold,'” continues Walker, “and that, to me, sums up where we are right now. Not to get political or anything, but it’s just everything is black and white — there’s no gray area. So, if there’s any advice I can give anybody it’s just to have their own fucking opinion.”
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.
Sometimes, albums need to be made. Whether motivated by the break-up of a long relationship, the death of a loved one, or some other life-changing incident, there are certain records that aren’t just artistic choices for the musician making them, but artistic necessities. Butch Walker is no stranger to these kinds of records. He made one of them six years ago, after losing his home in a wildfire and getting a new perspective on the things that really mattered; he did it again two years ago, hurrying to finish a set of songs so that his father would hear them before he died. Both of those albums, the 2008 LP Sycamore Meadows and the 2013 EP Peachtree Battle dealt with heartbreaking situations, but turned them into life-affirming statements. The former is a reminder that material possession is never the most important thing in life, while the latter is a love letter to Butch’s father and the relationship the two shared; both are the kind of personal and intimate records artists don’t make anymore.
Last week, I got a chance to chat extensively with a personal hero of mine, Butch Walker. We talked about Butch’s new album, Afraid of Ghosts, including how the recent loss of his father inspired a new direction for his music, why he decided to have Ryan Adams produce the disc, and why his trademark sarcasm and upbeat songwriting is nowhere to be found. We also touched upon Walker’s back catalog, the woeful reasons why no one should be expecting to find Letters on vinyl anytime soon, whether or not The Black Widows will be making music again in the future, and why Butch’s protege Jake Sinclair took over most of the production duties on the new Fall Out Boy LP.
This review was written in 2004 and originally published on AbsolutePunk.net. It has been very minimally edited before being republished.
When does music stop being just notes and chords and transcend into the physical world as a material life form? It takes unimaginable skill to breathe such life into songs that they take on a living function of their own. Say what you will, but not all music is created to be impossible to decipher: not all guitar parts are written to be the hardest riffs to emulate, not all lyrics are written to conceal hidden agendas and meanings, and not all songs are fashioned to be so enigmatic that they require Harvard level IQs in order to be understood. At what point did this become the level for which we judged music? Where in the evolution of song did we forget about emotion and start judging based upon song titles? Who became king and declared that if the song doesn’t involve an obscure nihilist reference that it is not worthy of our ears? Where is the document that states the rules of music? Because, if inside your head you have such a document by which you judge music: fucking burn it. The first song I ever learned to play on the guitar due to its insane simplicity was “Yesterday” by The Beatles. It is still, in my opinion, one of the greatest songs of all time. Pop music caught a bad wind when “performers” took front stage and “artists” fell to the back. And pop music began a downward ascension amongst some listeners when those who sang the songs were not those who wrote them, when dance numbers became more intricate than the content, and finally, when an image was created and sold before the music.