I have never been able to figure out what "a thousand hugs from ten thousand lighting bugs" would feel like, and so Owl City's appeal eludes me. However, having been graced with Lost Trails the latest from Butterfly Explosion, I can attest to the fact that an explosion of butterflies is something that can be described and experienced -- if not actually, then certainly aurally.
Butterfly Explosion is smack in the middle of the shoegaze renaissance now upon us, recollecting not only contemporaries like M83 and Birthday Massacre but dipping deep into the well from whence it all began, shades of My Bloody Valentine, Jesus & Mary Chain and the like. Additional influences as varied as Arcade Fire, Garbage, U2 and Duran Duran can be heard here and there, and although there is a bit of sameness and formula in some places -- rise, crest, crash and fall -- this first LP from the band definitely stands on its own two shoe-gazing feet.
Album opener and first single "Closer" has been described as a mash-up of MBV, M83 and Sigur Ros, but like a fine wine if you take the time to taste you'll pick up faint notes of Stabbing Westward, perhaps a hint of Billy Corgan in the soft yet powerful vocals of gentle giant Gazz Carr. Potentially more radio friendly (and perhaps a solid second single) is track 2, "Tracing Stars," which bleeds more American than Jimmy Eat World ever did.
Butterfly Explosion has roots that run even deeper than that, though, straight back to an era when vampires didn't sparkle: I found myself reciting lyrics from Cheap Trick's 1988 hit "The Flame" when "Turn In You" (track 6) crept up on me, but it didn't take long for the song to soar to different heights. Not so high, however, that I didn't think of "The Lost Boys" soundtrack when listening to track 7, "Insulate Dreams" -- this song (if not others) would be perfectly at home on the soundtrack to the 1987 film, sandwiched between Tim Capello and Mummy Calls perhaps.
Three of the songs on the LP appeared on the band's "Turn The Sky" EP, but they feel even more at home here: "Sophia" starts out a bit like "Turn In You," but plods along more determinedly and takes its time getting to the vocals; "Chemistry," which follows, is much more up front and overall noisier, pleasant vocals taking interesting turns throughout the hurricane of butterfly wings; and "Carpark" is entirely instrumental, drifting somewhere between Arcade Fire and Downward Spiral-era nine inch nails, oh-so-quiet and then oh-so-loud, and overall oh-so-good.
And in the end it's right there, amidst the gentle explosion of a million powdery wings, where Butterfly Explosion finds its real strength, which is perhaps why album closer "Warmer Moment" feels a bit anticlimactic. Here we find ourselves warm and fuzzy, the dust settling after the airburst, the flames dying down amidst the cocoons left behind on the branches, waiting their turn and leaving us waiting for more.
Favorite Track: "Tracing Stars"
Michael Fiegel is a freelance writer and game designer. His diverse
background includes journalism, radio copywriting, technical writing,
graphic design and music reviewing. He is best known as the creator of
Internet cult sensation Ninja
Burger and the dark, twisted psychological Vox RPG. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at his website, www.aeforge.com.