Jim Roll released an album with co-writing by Denis Johnson and Rick Moody. Then he took 12 years off, and he wrote a better album. The Continuing Adventures of the Butterfly marks not only Roll’s best work, but one of the best of the year. Where Roll previously pressed into alt-country, he’s now released his power pop side aided by some sonic weirdnesses (with a little tinge of tang here and there). There’s a touch of Elvis Costello, at least one Who-ish moment, and some mid-era Wilco influence.
Even though the songs are as catchy as anything, it’s Roll’s lyricism that stands out. While exploring the challenges of communication and the flexibility of truth, he’s both clever and funny, as well as smart throughout. A smirk-inducing line like “She was a classic daughter, in the sense that she was gorgeous and quite leftist” morphs throughout “Capturing the Greed” to subtly reveal emotional decay. While that song’s the most twisting, Roll never shies away from surprise lyrical changes or unlikely turns of phrase. It’s a rare album that’s fun on its first spin for its hooks and revelatory on subsequent listens through its language.