After just a few bars of the opening riff on Stay Gold‘s title track it’s clear that producer and singer/songwriter Butch Walker’s eighth solo album is a marked contrast to the seventh, Afraid of Ghosts. That record – searingly, almost uncomfortably raw and sparse – was written in the aftermath of Walker’s father’s death. But Stay Gold kicks off with all the joie de vivre and swagger of a man finally content to be the other side of a period of personal tragedy.
That sense continues on first single, “East Coast Girl”, which harks back to Walker’s early career trying to make it in Hollywood, and which progresses into a vibrant, urgent and brilliant slice of power pop.
“Wilder in the Heart” slows the tempo a little but still boasts the sort of hook you could hang your coat, hat AND scarf on. “Irish Exit” mixes a Celtic-inspired fiddle refrain, another massive chorus and the sort of lyrical cleverness that has become a real staple of Walker’s songwriting. “Spark: Lost” gloriously echoes the sort of AM radio choruses you thought were now extinct and the playful “Can We Just Not Talk About Last Night” has a rootsy, soulful vibe.
The only real nods to the darker themes of Afraid of Ghosts are the tender duet with Ashley Monroe, “Descending”, and the wistfully acoustic “Record Store” which paints a picture of a character infatuated with a record store and the girl who works in it.
His high profile production work for multi-platinum megastars may pay the bills, but it’s clear Walker’s diverse solo work is his passion, and Stay Gold is a triumph from start to finish.