Butch Walker & the Black Widows / Butch Walker

I Liked It Better When You Had No Heart

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The day that Butch Walker runs out of melodies will be a dark day indeed, but he shows little sign of decline on his fifth solo effort. Like Sycamore Meadows, this album finds the 40-year-old Walker in a contemplative, autobiographical mood, referencing everything from his hair metal past to his Los Angeles home. It’s ostensibly a breakup record, too, with a rather despondent title and another sad, Southern-styled ballad, “Don’t You Think Someone Should Take You Home,” that sounds like the companion piece to 2008’s “Here Comes The.” If Walker is heartbroken, though, he doesn’t show it during some of the album’s best songs, from the roots rocker “Trash Day” to the shuffling “Temporary Title.” Bad feelings also don’t prevent him from ornamenting the album with some of his best production to date. A sweeping, Phil Spector-styled string section opens “Pretty Melody,” swells of vocal harmony pop up throughout “Stripped Down Version,” and violins dart around the melody in “House of Cards.” Michael Trent receives co-writing credits for roughly half of these tracks, but I Liked It Better When You Had No Heart is a Butch Walker album through and through. It’s also one of his best, proof that Walker still can’t take a step without bumping into a usable hook.

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