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butterfly boucher.jpg

Tell Me I'm A Keeper

By Sean Kufel | Music | July 1, 2009 |

By Sean Kufel | Music | July 1, 2009 |

butterflyboucher-01-big.jpgButterfly Boucher: Scary Fragile
[Situation Operation]

It’s been more than five years since the U.S. release of Butterfly Boucher’s debut album Flutterby. Despite the major changes that occurred regarding her record label(s) during that time, I vow, here and now, that I will not stoop to puns revolving around her name in this review. There will be no use of the words: cocoon, caterpillar, or transformation. Not. A. One.

Now: As I was saying. Australian singer-songwriter Butterfly Boucher’s second record, Scary Fragile, was initially recorded in late 2005 as a more-on-the-heels follow-up to Flutterby, with Boucher herself playing every instrument. From 2006 through 2008, the record floated in varying states of limbo; at first—the record industry being what it is (read: retarded)—Geffen Records couldn’t settle on a marketing strategy (likely because the standard formula of {[Tits]-[Dignity]-[Discernable Talent]=Gold } did not apply, and they were thusly dumbfounded). It was then decided that the album sounded too American, so it was re-recorded for the UK market. You can read about the ensuing negotiations elsewhere so that I don’t have to regurgitate Wikipedia, but the end result is this: Boucher was eventually freed from her record contract and released the original recordings of Scary Fragile on her own label.

Hearing the record’s opening track, “I Found Out,” one might be surprised that Scary Fragile was indeed recorded so long ago. Lyrically, it feels liberated, as though it could be could be about her newfound indie status (“I found out/I can only be who I am/…/I can only describe the relief”). Musically, it’s an immediate departure from the bubbly pop that was Flutterby, with an aggressive rhythm and raw, gritty guitar sound behind Boucher’s formerly delicate voice, which here is often lower and a bit less airy. “For the Love of Love” returns to a bouncier beat, but keeps things rollicking with a growling bass line and strong percussion. Though Scary Fragile finds Boucher keeping many of the elements that made her first album so good—memorable melodies, excellent harmonies, subtle vocal double-tracking and a solid rock backbone supporting her pop sensibilities—it’s not until past the halfway point with “Bright Red” that any song evokes memories of her previous work. The record’s first half is steeped in minor keys and more dramatic pop, showcasing Boucher’s depth as a songwriter. The single “Gun For A Tongue” plays with a smoke-filled lounge kind of groove during the verse before bursting with lush instrumentation in the chorus; it’s both a new sound and a reminder of what I like about her so much.

Scary Fragile’s back half is a bit more of the sunny pop-rock that characterized Flutterbuy, moving to cleaner guitars, bouncier bass and brighter, snare-heavy drums (author’s note: I almost wrote “snappy snare drums” here, but was frightened off by my own terrible alliteration). Notable exceptions are “Keeper,” which presents the most powerful rhythm section on the album, and “To Feel Love,” which is possibly the best track on the record. It’s the perfect combination of Boucher’s two albums: a minor-key progression and dramatic tone along with spectacular harmony and expertly produced vocal tracking. From writing to production, it’s an impressive song.

Overall, Scary Fragile is an excellent record and a good step forward for Butterfly Boucher. The only problem with it is how long it took to find its way into the world. Boucher had attracted a bit of attention with two singles from her debut, and had this album actually been on Flutterby’s heels, I think it could have made some noise outside the indie scene. Her music is much smarter than the average pop singer’s, but not at all inaccessible for the basic non-discerning pop/rock fan. Frankly, I have no reasonable explanation for why she doesn’t pull more ears. The inability of truly standout pop artists—ones with talent, originality and a genuine love for the music—to make waves outside the indie world saddens me. But that, my friends, is a longer discussion for another time.

Sean Kufel is an engineer who, sadly, does not drive trains. He can be found in Marietta, Ohio, writing about music during breaks in his nerdery.

TK Burton is an Editorial Consultant. You may email him here or follow him on Twitter.

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