Jazzhound or Badhound?

The L.A. native band releases a subpar LP after two years

Jazzhound or Badhound?
Jazzhound is The Buttertones fifth studio album, which was released on April 10, 2020. It is also the first album the band has put out after the departure of Dakota Bottcher, the lead guitarist in the band, late last year. In order to accomodate to the change, drummer Cobi Cobian switched to become the lead guitarist and the band welcomed new member Grant Snyder to take over the drums.
    Since they formed in 2012, The Buttertones have gained a large fanbase and over the years, their following has only grown along with their music. From performing in numerous festivals and going from small venues, such as the Constellation Room in Santa Ana, to the Fonda Theatre in L.A., The Buttertones have created a strong name for themselves and have a distinct sound that is recognizable by anyone. 

 

Track by Track Review:
Phantom Eyes. As the opening song, it sets the tone for the entire album. It’s a post-punk influenced instrumentation that reminds one of British Pop/Punk bands such as The Clash. A new instrument is introduced 20 seconds in, a keyboard synth. Richard’s dark and moody vocals come in, captivating the listener, taking them on a journey back to London in the late 1970’s. 
Denial You Win Again. The song opens up with a brief guitar beat and then goes into a smoother sound while soft keyboard strings are introduced along with gentle guitar. This song is one that does stand out from the rest of the LP. The lyrics are also the most coherent and interesting. The most memorable lyric comes from the last stanza where Richard sings,  “Denial you win again/And I’ll happily lose to you friend/I’ve never been happier.”
Rise and Shine. The opening guitar riff makes this song one of the most recognizable but once the middle of this song is reached, it sounds like recycled material from previous songs. Although the lyrics alone do hold up the song, at times, there are instruments that come and seem out of place like the saxophone and the keyboard synth. 
Fade Away Gently. The opening guitar pays homage to old 60’s doowop groups that have been a notable influence on The Buttertones since they formed. It’s one of the better and more recognizable songs on the album. Richard’s vocals run smoothly with the instrumentals and the saxophone is soft and doesn’t overpower the song. 
Dirty Apartment. Reaching this point in the album, the song has the same problem with “Rise and Shine” where the sound seems recycled. Nothing jumps out from this song and if one listened to it right after “Rise and Shine” one wouldn’t know the difference between the two. This song is the most forgettable on the album. 
Bebop. Reaching ‘Bebop’ on the LP, it’s notable that the song that has the fastest beat on the album. With London Guzman’s skillful saxophone playing, the song gives off a similar atmosphere as “Daks back” a song from the band’s second studio album American Brunch, which came out in 2015. The song touches back to their surf punk genre which will prove to be more enjoyable when heard live. 
Blind Passenger. Throughout the song, the instrumentals don’t seem to blend as smoothly as they could. The timing for each instrument seems off and when Richard comes in with the vocals it’s not very audible. The vocals battle with the instrumentation making this song have the similar problem as the songs “Rise and Shine” and “Dirty Apartment.”
Velour. This song has a strong beginning and the fast beat reminds one of the previous song “Bebop.” Once the saxophone fully comes in after the first minute, it seems out of place. If London used a different run for the saxophone, maybe playing along with the guitar, which is a technique used often in other songs, it would’ve sounded like it was supposed to be there. Although in jazz, it’s common for different instruments to go off on their own, there is compromise and each instrument compliments one another, but in this case, the saxophone doesn’t belong here in the way that it’s presented. 
Infinite Tenderness. With a very dramatic and cinematic opening, “Infinite Tenderness” reminds one of an old spaghetti western film. As the tempo changes, the song turns into a slight doowop ballad. At times, the instrumentals do overpower Richard’s vocals causing him to be inaudible. Towards the end of the song, the vocals seem to run all over the place and it does not sound in tune with the instruments until the humming comes along and the song ends. 
Jazzhound. The first single to be released after Dakota’s departure introduced a new era of sound for the band. The title track introduces a very rustic sound, which can remind one of Costa Mesa band, The Growlers, especially in their song “One Million Lovers”. With a funky bassline opening, “Jazzhound” is a groovy tune that showed the potential The Buttertones had to make more memorable songs. 

 

Overall, The Buttertones do evolutionize their sound, as they have done for every album they’ve put out. Although there are certain songs that stand out such as Phantom Eyes, Denial You Win Again, and Jazzhound, the album as a whole lacks variety. Jazzhound is an enjoyable record that dances with Jazz while listening, but it’s forgettable due to how similar the songs sound. At times, the songs seem to blend together into one. The only songs that do stand out are those that contain the conventional sound that the band emulates in their other albums. Instruments seem to clash rather than compliment and it’s difficult to focus on either the vocals or the instrumentation. The album did not leave the same impression on me as previous albums such as Gravediggin and Midnight In A Moonless Dream. I rate the album 6/10. 
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