Butch Walker may just be the busiest man in the music industry. You probably know him as one of rock’s most sought-after producers, using his gold touch on Avril Lavigne and Midtown’s latest, as well as albums by Simple Plan, Bowling for Soup, Sevendust, American Hi-Fi and The Donnas. Look at the credits and you’ll see Butch used his writing talents to help them out, too.
Or you might remember Walker from his band Marvelous 3 and their hit “Freak of the Week” in 1999. After Marvelous 3 split, Butch broke out on his own and the results are more than marvelous. His first solo album, Left of Self-Centered, held its own and then some, following the power-pop stylings of Marv, but with a healthy dose of glam rock.
On his new solo album Letters, Butch reaches pop perfection, but with intensely emotional songwriting that avoids the pitfalls of a sugar overload. While so many bands try to avoid the “pop” label at all costs, Walker embraces it unabashedly. But there’s nothing syrupy or sweet about Letters. On “Lights Out,” you’ll be bobbing your head and singing “Hell yeah!” along with Walker, but then he’ll show you a completely different side with “Joan,” “Promise” and “Thank-You Note.” On these, Walker strips the songs down completely to a voice and carefully plucked acoustic guitar or piano. His skill on piano has improved dramatically and he uses it to his full advantage.
His knack for storytelling in a single song is unmatched; you’ll want to cry for a girl who moved away to Colorado to find a boyfriend “that won’t hit her / or make her feel shallow” in “Joan.” And you’ll feel for Butch, too, as he “fumbles for his pencil and my ‘I’m so sorry’ pad.” In “Best Thing You Never Had,” Walker somehow uses the line “the toilet seat never got lifted / and I pissed on you confidence when you weren’t around” without even making you roll your eyes. It just works. And so does Letters.