Celebrated for his innovative blend of vibrant pop melodies, soulful vocals, and delightful R&B soundscapes, Johnny Stimson’s debut album Butterflies illustrates not only the highs and lows of his uphill music journey, but the intense personal struggle he felt over the last few years.
Butterflies is a collection of songs that primarily addresses loneliness and human connections. Offering a mostly optimistic and joyful perspective, each track takes you on a different journey through the emotive spectrum that ranges from comical to tragic.
The eight songs on Butterflies are all very much symbolically fused with caterpillar genetics, starting with the cocoon phase, and leading to a place where we hatch, grow wings, and begin to fly. Already a talented singer, Johnny has clearly experienced his pandemic transformation and found his voice, now a more confident, mature, and authentic composer and producer than ever before.
Sprinkled with some classic singer/songwriter sensitivity, the title track ‘Butterflies’ evokes a cheerful yet thought-provoking feeling and couldn’t be more a perfect example of the ‘finding your wings’ analogy.
‘Blueberry’ offers our first glimpse into the wave of personal transformation Stimson has experienced over the last few years. With more of a stripped-down production, this track is softer in tone from the rest of the album and the words “you’re about the size of a blueberry / and I already love you” echo throughout to great emotional effect.
Decorated with swirling synths and euphonious vocals to match, ‘Twin Sister’ comes out swinging in the melody department and brings a sensationally engaging rhythm and upbeat chorus. Other standouts include ‘Princess Peach’, one of the more comical tracks on the album, and ‘Material Things’ bringing a striking sense of personality that seemingly shines through with each track.
The nuance and both depth of sound and narrative on ‘Lay it All on Me’ allows for the listener to travel on a more intimate adventure through Johnny’s mental psyche. With a soft piccolo playing in the background, the words “When you can’t sleep at night / you feel so tired, but you just can’t turn off your mind” brings deeper insight into the nerves, stress, and uncertainty he feels from trying to carve his own career in music and having the option to share that anxiety with those around him.
Delivering a punchy bass line to carry the song forward, ‘Wishyouwerehere’ is darker in mood but is without question one of the highlights of the album. It is profoundly atmospheric and has Stimson conveying heartfelt and expressive vocals along with a dazzling falsetto.
The final track on the album ‘Joanie’s Lullaby’ is a very literal lullaby song about his puppy, who has no doubt been a loyal companion to him for some time. It no less demonstrates Stimson’s vocal range and ability to venture into melancholic territory.
As far as debut albums go, Butterflies is a triumph. Armed with a newly formed pair of wings and now free of his cocoon, Johnny has found a sound that will no doubt take him far.
Words by Kristian Bayford
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