Buttercoat a musical project based out of Saint Paul, Minnesota, USA, which is the brainchild of Andrew Nelson. On its self-titled album, Andrew wrote, produced, sang, and played all the instruments except the drums, played by Scott Pearson, and the bass, which features Joel Kingsley. The 10 tracks that comprise the recording seem to strive for a jazz-rock, smooth fusion and sophisticated art-pop aesthetic, alla Donald Fagen. Throughout “Buttercoat” there is a strong emphasis placed on structure, harmony and carefully placed solo interludes. Scrupulous attention is also given to the sound of each instrument, with the final mix ensuring that all instruments are heard clearly. This slickness and careful construction of the instrumental backing is due to the quality of the musicians found here.
The songs on “Buttercoat” are highly textured and include multiple layers of instruments resulting in a crystalline, all-embracing sound and a very warm feel. With the amount of attention placed on song structure and jazz-styled arrangements, you get the feeling it would have taken hours to get these songs right, with multiple takes probably being the order of the day during the recording sessions. Yet listening to these smoothly sophisticated songs is a total breeze.
Each track slides by effortlessly, locked into its rhythmic groove and deeply intuitive use of chordal changes. Andrew Nelson pursues the perfect backbeat of each song with an almost maniacal attention to detail. And then on top, he refines the incredibly generous vocal melodies with a polished sheen and cultivated lyricism. What results is a truly lush audio experience, where each song boasts a rich glossy veneer, as the instruments and vocals penetrate and tessellate with surgical precision.
The inherent and infectious smoothness of each song, coupled with its remarkable musical intricacy, transcends the boundaries of taste and trends, shining as an example of uncompromising creative ambition. Far removed from the bombastic and cloned, machine-driven, mainstream music mashups, “Buttercoat” is a masterclass in songwriting sophistication and elegance. Far from clinical however, this is music nuanced by eloquent musical expression, where your senses are not battered into submission, but seduced to surrender.
From the moment the album opens with the electric piano on “Sleepy Emily”, you quickly realize you’ll be listening to a thing of musical beauty, regardless of your genre preferences. This sensation is further confirmed when the acoustic piano launches the sultry swing of “Can The Breeze”. Andrew Nelson’s voice is mellifluous and resonant, but always measured and balanced with the underlying soundscape. There are no instances of egoistical antagonism between the voice and instruments, only the elevation of harmony interplay.
The aforementioned harmonic interplay is perfectly displayed on the rhythmic and dynamic arrangement of “Momentum”, as the guitar, keys, bass and drums, engage in kinetic exchanges and chord progressions. “Daddy Still Chew”, maintains a similar snappy groove, before the template to switches to the smoother and mellower “The Storm”, garbed in satiny elegance. “Get To” lifts the mood to a boogie-woogie tempo, very reminiscent of early Elton John, and sonically quite different from the rest of the album.
Its back to the soulful slow-burn on “Fetch”, where that classic Elton John lilt, in the songwriting and vocal phrasing, is still there, albeit in a very positive and nostalgic way. As it does on “Caught in The Act” and the final track “Coward”. What this ultimately does though, is certify the extremely high, writing and performance level, Andrew Nelson is on. Though I would admit that it’s on the breezy groove-driven songs like “I’d Settle”, when Andrew slips back into his Steely Dan mode, where he really blows my mind.
Overall this album serves as testament to Buttercoat’s tight and disciplined performances. Listening these tracks, it’s easy to see the album’s musical complexity as a riposte to the current mainstream sensibility, of clichéd and cloned simplicity, reworked over, and over again, almost exclusively in the name of commercial gain. “Buttercoat” is the remarkable product of uncompromising artistry from Andrew Nelson and his musical project.