Butterfly Boucher: Flutterby

[29 March 2004]

By Andrew Gilstrap

A lot of Butterfly Boucher profiles will probably focus on her hippie upbringing (as if the name “Butterfly” wasn’t enough of a tip-off), about how her dad dragged his family into the Australian Outback, about how she spent her formative years bumming around Europe. That’s all very interesting (and definitely makes you wonder if the high score you were getting on Super Mario Brothers back in the day was really any kind of substitute for that kind of unique, if uncertain, life). What it all boils down to, though, is that somewhere along the line, Butterfly Boucher got it into her head that you could cram several different songs into one song and get away with it.

If Flutterby leaves you with one impression (and it’ll actually leave you with quite a few), it’s that Boucher views song ideas like her parents may have viewed a home address: ephemeral and subject to change as soon as the winds shift. She careens from thoughtful piano passages to slinky rhythmic shuffles to utterly current pop choruses with nary a thought to the fact that she could sandbag and get three perfectly good songs out of any one track on Flutterby. Thankfully, the powers that be saw that this was a good thing—remarkable, really, considering the short leash that most artists get on their debuts.

Regardless of where you stand as a listener, Boucher probably flits in and out of your comfort zone, but she’s never boring. As a general rule, she crafts fairly accessible, generally upbeat pop/rock—but oh, some of the stylistic choices she makes! They definitely lift the bulk of Flutterby above and beyond the usual pop album. Nearly every song on Flutterby is a showcase for at least one solid musical idea, whether it’s the funky dance groove of “I Can’t Make Me”, the delicate garden pop of “Don’t Point, Don’t Scare It”, the vintage ‘80s vibe of “Soul Back”, or the moody acoustic intro that kicks off “A Walk Outside”. Heck, “Another White Dash” is so mournful and cello-laden in spots that you can’t believe the Cure’s Robert Smith doesn’t share songwriting credit. “Never Let It Go” flashes a passage that you’d swear was cribbed from the Who just before they blew out some amps. And most of this feels perfectly organic.

For the most part, this is all Boucher. She concedes a piece of the writing credit on only one song, and gets help with cello and drums on only three; otherwise, she’s writing and playing everything on Flutterby. The end result is that Boucher comes across as an artist in complete control of her music—and one who’s willing to take chances. Imagine a less provocative Fiona Apple, or a teenage Kate Bush who’s just finished slam dancing to “Sk8r Boi”.

Granted, that last image is probably hard for most of us to get our heads around, but it points to the only weakness in Boucher’s style: her undeniable love for Avril Lavigne-style pop choruses. In and of themselves, they’re not bad, but when Flutterby continually flashes audacious brilliance at you, the same ol’ same ol’ sounds even less satisfying than it usually would. Those familiar passages, though, rarely dominate the songs, and they’re certainly worth sitting through to hear what Boucher has coming up just around the corner. All in all, Flutterby posts notice that Boucher is a talent worth watching.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/boucherbutterfly-flutterby/