There are certain albums and bands that just fit perfectly with certain seasons. I think I may have written a bit on this thought before. Catchy, sing-along pop-punk is perfect for summer. For me, fall is when I tend towards emo based music and things with ‘earthy’ tones, if that makes sense. Winter is obviously for acoustic singer-songwriter vibes. Every once in a while, though, an album is released that fits perfectly in between two seasons. That is what I’ve discovered in Butch Walker’s 8th solo studio album Stay Gold.
Butch is truly an anomaly in the music industry. Since his stint in 90s rock band Marvelous 3, he has embarked on a career filled with writing, producing, and performing some of my favorite songs and records. His production resume includes Fall Out Boy, Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, All Time Low, Keith Urban, Weezer, Pink, Brian Fallon, and countless others. His solo albums number among some of my favorites, with 2015’s Afraid of Ghosts landing in my top 10 favorites records of that year. Although Stay Gold is a completely different record in almost every aspect, it has rapidly become my favorite record in his solo discography.
Stay Gold is at its heart and through-and-through a rock n’ roll record. From the opening guitar notes of title track “Stay Gold” you can feel the youthfulness and energy that surge throughout the album. There is an excitement, a vigor for life that is palpable throughout the record. Butch does a fantastic job of combining some of my favorite elements of music to create a sound that is both familiar and unique. Weaving the alt-country-esque twang, the in your face guitar attitude of classic rock, the ‘whoa-ohs’ and sing along chants of pop rock, and the Springsteen inspired storytelling together to create an experience that embodies the exuberance of being young and free. It’s loud, it’s fun, it’s reckless and raw. It just feels like being a teenager during that time between summer ending and fall kicking up; running around with your friends, windows down, causing just a bit more trouble before school swallows you whole again.
When I try to describe the way this album feels, the word I keep coming back to is ‘youth’. I feel like I’ve used it, or a variation of it, a dozen times already, but it just fits. Youthful energy and young love, thats what the record is at its essence. Of course it has its slower moments, songs like “Descending” and “Record Store,” but they still have a sense of hope to them, a feeling of adolescent optimism.
I had the honor of seeing Butch Walker perform at the 40 Watt in Athens about a week before Stay Gold was released. Honestly, it wasn’t like any show i’d ever been to. He commanded the crowd throughout the entire set with an energy and vigor unlike any i’d seen, especially from a guy nearing 50. As I watched him strut across the stage in his denim vest, shaggy hair, and red bandana around his neck, slaying guitar solos, and effortlessly endearing hundreds of people to him I couldn’t help but admire him. He’s just got it, whatever that classic intangible ‘it’ is. To me, he is the embodiment of a true rock n’ roll dude. And if he is the shining example of rock music to the world, that is quite alright with me.