wears the trousers magazine


butterfly boucher: scary fragile (2009)
July 2, 2009, 10:21 am
Filed under: album, mp3, review | Tags: , , ,

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Butterfly Boucher
Scary Fragile •••
Nettwerk 

After a mammoth gestation involving scrapped recordings, label wrangles and release delays, Australian singer-songwriter Butterfly Boucher has finally released her second album Scary Fragile, six years on from her debut Flutterby. Despite recording separate versions of the album for the US and UK markets, Geffen Records declined to release either disc and Boucher was forced to try and negotiate her way out of the contract. A year later, after earning the rights to both versions, she opted to release the original US version with the help of Nettwerk Records. With producer David Kahne (Regina Spektor, Stevie Nicks), Boucher has crafted an album that combines a strong indie-pop sensibility with a personal and often touchingly humorous lyric style. 

The brevity of much of the material – most songs only just tip the three-minute mark – contributes to the concise feel of the album, a quality a number of singer-songwriters appear to lack. In that respect, Boucher is a good editor and the songs never outstay their welcome; however, not all of the material does her justice. While the majority of the arrangements and different production styles are imaginative and complement the songs, there is no denying that some of the songs are comparatively weak. For every ‘Gun For A Tongue’, a slinky, funky number with prominent bass and a staccato vocal intro, there is a ‘For The Love Of Love’, which, despite the interesting background vocals and crunchy, fuzzy guitars, is largely unremarkable.

Boucher’s lyrics reveal a writer intent on documenting personal experience; in the pounding opener ‘I Found Out’, she sings, “I found out I can only be who I am / I can only do what I can,” while in ‘Just One Tear’, she observes, “I could be the girl that kisses everyone at the party.” Such introspection is matched musically on songs like the title track, a moody acoustic ballad that displays Boucher’s ability with unusual chord patterns as opposed to some of the more conventional numbers that populate the rest of the album. ‘Bright Red’ is another highlight with its memorable lyric “I think I’m drowning in shallow people” sung on a bed of joyous guitars with a stirring, lively arrangement. 

Other highlights include ‘They Say You Grow’, which boasts a more flattering production on Boucher’s simple voice, and a more rangy melody compared with the basic structures of the lesser songs. The tempo and rhythmic shifts are also inspired, and Boucher’s winning humour shines brightly through. ‘To Feel Love’ also sticks in the mind with its chugging undercurrent and slight reggae-accented arrangement. Closer ‘A Bitter Song’ is a piano-based gem that provides a beautiful, plaintive ending as Boucher comes full circle, ending an album of mostly angst-ridden songs with the observation, “All I need is a bitter song to make me feel better.” Contrasting strongly with the brash start to the album, it’s a sound that works well for Boucher.

Scary Fragile is a solid record and earns extra points for making its statement clearly and concisely, but too often it is the sound of an artist who obviously has a lot of promise and a lot of potential threatening to break through into the upper echelons but never quite making it. Boucher has a solid, pleasant, if unspectacular voice (there is a moment on ‘To Feel Love’ where her voice journeys into its deeper range on the line “true foolish love” – an effect that could perhaps be utilised more) and, despite a cadre of strong songs, the album lacks those “wow” moments that could make it great. Still, it is an album whose strengths appear to cement with further listening. And after all her label battles, it’s heart-warming to still have Boucher around and making music. On the evidence of Scary Fragile, it will be interesting to see how she develops for her third record.

Matthew Barton
UK release date: 02/06/09 [digital only]; www.myspace.com/butterflyboucher

 

FREE MP3: Butterfly Boucher, ‘Gun For A Tongue’


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