How Does It Feel?: Reviews Of Recent Releases By Local Bands, Pt. 135

Butterfield 8 - Another Day In Paradise - Banana Records - 11 songs - CD, digital

The Butterfield 8 reunion (?) era continues! No new stuff since 1990 and then two in under a year— good for Jim and friends. As you may recall, I thought “Luckiest Guy In The World” had some strange elements production-wise but was actually pretty good. Some of those production eccentricities (vocals swamped in reverb, drums that sound like maybe they were overdubbed onto the basic track and never quite click in with everything) are still present on certain songs, but it is smoother. I’ve gotta tell you: I like this record. I might like it better than the previous one, even. Jim Butterfield can write pretty darn good power pop tunes, from faster ones like “Paradise” (where he tells himself “play us out, Jim” before the closing guitar solo) and “Take It Back” (which has a very catchy chorus and a great key change right before the last verse) to ballads like “Donna” (which is piano-led, setting it apart from the rest of the album) and the closing “Turn Out Well,” which starts out somber but ends on an optimistic note. But the thing that makes this record good, at least in my eyes, is that it’s never quite just a normal power pop record— there’s always some interesting instrument choice (I think there’s an accordion on “When Crystal Shatters,” or at least something giving it a vague French Riviera feel; there’s a sitar on “The One That Got Away” which shouldn’t make sense but does), odd lyric or moment (I bet you wouldn’t think there would be a reference to playing GTA on this album, but there is; also, I’ve gotta know why after the second verse of “Jersey Mary” there’s a sudden deep, booming voice like a demon out of nowhere that goes “SHE’S FROM JERSEY”), or just Jim’s own odd midwestern-accented voice giving heartfelt performances across the whole record (he doesn’t sound at all like Jonathan Richman, but there’s something quite Jonathan Richman-like about it all). Favorite lyric on the whole thing has gotta be “we had a million things in common, like Beatles, gin, and ramen” and an honorable mention to the verse in “Jersey Mary” where the eponymous Mary passes out drunk so the narrator pins a note to her and puts her on a train. “It’s All Good” is another favorite track here, which lyrically and musically references “Crimson & Clover” without ever quite ripping it off; I also like the overlapping vocal thing on “No Way To Roam” which feels like a very Elvis Costello move. The weaker moments are “That’s What U Get” (which is not a Paramore cover, but can you imagine how cool/bizarre it would be if it was?), which musically is a little too commercial sounding for my liking (though that may be intentional?) and lyrically is sort of an old man rant (though Jim is at least self-aware of that to some extent and gets points for referring to himself as an “indie has-been”) and look, I know everybody, myself included, loves a good story-song romance but there are too many on here (at least three, but potentially up to five or maybe more depending on what you want to count). All that said: I genuinely liked this. It’s fun to listen to and it has good songs on it. Here’s hoping this resurgence of Butterfield 8 continues and there’s more to come. 3.5/5

Fantastic Johnny - Fantastic Johnny - self-released - 5 songs - CD, digital

A self-titled release that isn’t the first album is always an interesting occasion in an artist’s discography: consider The Velvet Underground, Townes Van Zandt, Peter Gabriel, Peter Gabriel, Peter Gabriel…the list goes on. In any case, Cleveland’s (or Portland’s, or Ames’) favorite son and the world’s number one Butterfield 8 fan Fantastic Johnny has a new one. The five tracks here are all flute-based instrumentals, usually with some sort of percussion and/or keyboards backing them up. “I’m A Playboy pt. I” is very upbeat and makes you feel happy listening to it, while “pt. II” continues on the same musical themes but feels a bit more laid back. My favorite track here is probably “Starry,” which is a fitting title in a sort of indescribable way— it does feel starry! The music here is whimsical but not in a cutesy kind of way, just in the way that you could imagine it playing in a magical forest of some sort. I love when the first part fades out and then a different keyboard reenters and the song kind of resumes. “Bouncing” starts out pretty calming and then gets to the bouncy part about a minute and a half in. For some reason when I listen to this one I consider it the “dance” song of the record. “Gathering Sheep,” appropriately enough, feels sort of like a lullaby and is a genuinely beautiful piece of music. I don’t know the genre this falls under really and honestly am not that familiar with the points of reference that Johnny lists himself (Paul Horn, Lol Coxhill, Enya, Squidward) so I can’t really say how this fits into all that, but it’s a really enjoyable little record. 4/5


Are you a local-ish band? Do you have a record out? Email or send it directly to the Observer: PO Box 770203, Lakewood, OH 44107. 

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Volume 19, Issue 16, Posted 8:38 AM, 08.17.2023