Exploring existential struggles through jazz-infused realizations: Unraveling Blunt Chunks’ debut album, “The Butterfly Myth”

The Butterfly Myth, the debut from Blunt Chunks, the pen name of Caitlin Woelfle-O’Brien, starts simply enough with “Fill My Cup.” Her penchant for languishing in boredom stands at the forefront of a story that crests with an indictment of her surroundings: “This city is full of ugly people/ With ugly protocols/ And ugly… malls/ This city is full of anger and sorrow/ Where do I go?” Like so many of O’Brien’s songs, there’s no easy reconciling with her realization that she is one with her surroundings. She is part of the ugliness and comes to understand that as the album unfolds.

Once that detail of struggle is introduced, it’s hard not to notice it throughout the Qobuzissime-awarded The Butterfly Myth. “Psyche’s Flight,” with its smooth saxophone detailing echoed vocals, does a lot of emotional work of exploring how she fits in—both in respect to what is around her and in her soothing folk style. The verses are short and explanatory and the crescendo chorus shows an arrival of acceptance that needs no further exploration. Then the vocal swells surrounding “High Hopes” and “Limbo” unsettle that feeling. The latter track ends with a sudden drop in instruments and O’Brien’s solo voice cutting off an intrusive thought as if to remind everyone we do not have to focus on our most negative emotions (“I don’t want to do this anymore”). The pure, slow and short love song that follows, “You Are My Love,” signals a shift toward better times.

This is not to say The Butterfly Myth is all ripened fruit and berries from there on, but it does move toward jazzy substructures and lengthier diatribes. The days are bright, even if unenjoyed. The aforementioned boredom, while still prevalent, is no longer the fault of the town or a relationship, it just is. Saxophones and synths become the main focus, languidly stretching over the long but rewarding “Higher” and O’Brien’s multi-tracked vocals fall in and out of the mix like falling leaves, a reminder that boredom and bad times are as fleeting as the songs themselves.

Blunt Chunks - Natural Actors (Official Video)

Telephone Explosion Records

”Can’t Be The End” sneaks in with subtle synth, bass and lyrics about people understanding each other’s mania and desires despite a lack of romance. Like many of the songs, the fittingly-titled closing track subverts the indie folk structure, unfolding into a sultry R&B crooner. Despite the sometimes bleak and detached subject matter, we have a lot of time left with Blunt Chunks. Hopefully, we don’t believe it to be time wasted.