Given the circumstances surrounding Butterfly Boucher's sophomore album, it's a small wonder that Scary Fragile sounds so fresh. Work on the record began in 2004 and wrapped up in 2006, but Boucher was sent back to the drawing board after her label disapproved of the original track list. When the songwriter returned with a new handful of songs, the label disapproved of her "American-sounding" material and sent her away once more, this time suggesting she collaborate with a Swedish producer to write quirkier material. Boucher was attached to two labels at this point -- one in America, the other in the U.K. -- and both companies fought over her representation, with her American representation demanding the British label fork over $1 million to cover Boucher's recoupable debt. More complications arose when the label refused to pay up, and Boucher eventually emerged from the rubble without a single record contract. She did, however, manage to retain rights to her own music.
Although released in 2009, Scary Fragile is an older album, recorded in the midst of Boucher's label troubles and finished long before she extricated herself from two contracts. Even so, it's hard to view this as anything but a happy cry of independence, and it's a happily melodic cry at that. Boucher blazes an independent trail by playing most of the instruments herself, stopping only at the drums, which are handled by Shawn Pelton. The resulting material bounds between swaggering alt rock -- replete with fuzz bass and layered guitars -- and nuanced pop songs, with stacked harmonies and buoyant melodies creating a bridge between both camps. Boucher also betrays a slight Lilith Fair influence, having toured with Sarah McLachlan while many of these songs were being written, but Scary Fragile is more experimental than most albums from the Lilith era, boasting a range of genres only rivaled by McLachlan herself. Throw in some smart production by David Kahne, who runs Boucher's voice through a number of effects pedals, and Scary Fragile emerges as the songwriter's best work to date, regardless of the circumstances that spawned it.