Thursday, February 18, 2010

I Liked It Better When You Had No Heart

Butch Walker is preparing for the street release of his new album, I Liked It Better When You Had No Heart, with the help of the Black Widows. The entire album is available for streaming on the preorder website, and the good people at One Haven Music are giving out the track Trash Day for free!

Butch Walker and the Black Widows - Trash Day (mp3) (amazon) (iTunes) (mySpace)

Even if you haven't heard the name before, you've most definitely heard his work. Butch Walker has been in the music scene for quite a while and he's built up an impressive resume for himself. At the age of twelve he was playing drums in an Elvis cover band, though he's probably better known for later fronting The Marvelous 3. More recently, he's been writing and producing for such big acts as Avril Lavigne, Fall Out Boy, Simple Plan, Hot Hot Heat, Weezer and the All-American Rejects. He also played banjolin onstage at the Grammys this year with Taylor Swift for her hit You Belong With Me (his cover version is amazing). All name-dropping aside, Butch Walker is first a talented artist in his own right and those of you who stick your nose up at top 40 artists will find yourselves pleasantly surprised.

I Liked It Better When You Had No Heart is Butch's fifth full-length studio album. I didn't know about it until very recently (just yesterday in fact), but I immediately fell in love with it during my first listen. While I can't give you a comparison to his older work, that I have yet to hear, other reviews have compared it favourably to his previous album, Sycamore Meadows.

Trash Day is the opening track to I Liked It Better When You Had No Heart. It's a good introduction to Butch, his voice and his narrative, but has a stronger country twang influence than implied by the rest of the album. It was during the second appropriately titled track, Pretty Melody, that I really started to get into his music. The song is reminiscent of old 60's ballads, complete with sweeping strings and a dainty piano that lead into the story-telling, love-song verse. Accented with delicate pizzicato and sweet, longing lyrics ("I'll be your waste of time/You'll be be happy end/You're such a pretty melody/I'm just another tattooed tragedy"), Pretty Melody, makes for one of the strongest tracks, and my personal favourite on the record. The strings and country feel are reoccurring throughout the album, though often crossing-over an blending in with other styles, most notably in the soft, folky Don't You Think Someone Should Take You Home, and rockabilly inspired Days Months Years. With a multitude of genres and influences that it draws from, I Liked It Better manages to keep together as an album with strong cohesiveness, perhaps pulled together by great composition and an overall underdog narrative. It just goes to show how talented and versatile of a song-writer Butch Walker is, even disregarding the many guilty-pleasure pop hit songs he's been involved with.

To help promote the new album, Butch recently offered fans a chance to spend a day working on a song for the new album with him in exchange for a $25 000 preorder for the album. And who else would take him up on the offer but lovably geek-tastic Brendon Urie of Panic at the Disco fame? Watch the video as hilarity and horror ensue.

I Liked It Better When You Had No Heart is already out on vinyl, but you can get your digital and CD copies on February 23rd. He's going on tour to open for Train, and those of us in Toronto will be able to catch them on March 24th at the Phoenix. Hear more from Butch on his mySpace, and stream the entire new album at the official site.

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