teddybear's Long Awaited Bread & Butterflies is an Exhibition of Emotion
Evan Dale // Feb 29, 2020
It’s easy to romanticize the rarity of February 29th. With it comes an air of spectral emotion edging from Orwellian darkness to Lewis Caroll whimsicality where existence itself is marginalized into being only once every four years. But, we mustn’t linger. It’s easy to get lost in memories. For those 1460 days until the next leap year, when searching for that inexpressible emotion attached to the peculiarity of February 29th, wallowing in the subtle emptiness of its passing, there’s Bread & Butterflies.
The leap day album – from Toronto’s teddybear – is not defined by any sort of style, but instead driven by a spectrum of emotions flowing in the wake of a breakup. And through that emotional breadth, as he told us in a 2018 interview, teddybear is able to explore a meandering sort of creative inspiration tethered akin by the underlying artistry of a musician with enough talent and time to defy stylistic tradition.
Crossing over, mixing genres, blending styles is just something that happens by accident. Maybe I hear this specific beat, but I want to do my thing on it. So sometimes I do some pop punk stuff over a really heavy hip-hop beat, and it ends up seeming like a crossover track. But it’s not a conscious thing. It’s just me making my favorite shit – sometimes it sounds one way, sometimes it sounds another.
But all of it is rooted in teddybear due to the wrought emotion in his aesthetic. He’s been working towards the release of Bread & Butterflies since 2015, and if anything, the time and distance attached to the project at large only grants it an accompanying air of growth and separation between the different emotive explorations a young artist naturally undergoes through the course of a half-decade. His deep register and quiet delivery have a tendency to realize the darker pits of the human emotional range. But, within that box, and also from outside of it, teddybear is able to utilize his songwriting talent, his knack for worldbuilding, and the collaborative juxtaposition between himself and his featuring artists and producers to reach much higher. Memories Change folds in the quick cadence and smooth delivery of HUSH, making it one of the more volatile displays of hip-hop on the album, but also one of the more angst-ridden tracks, delineating the frustration and confusion of the mind’s natural process to edit our memories. Little Rain, a piano founded duet between teddy and his sister, BLANKTS, is an uplifting sort of sad song exploring the beauty of the bad things in life.
A little rain makes bitter days so sweet.A little rain is all my windshield needs. A little pain makes loving you unique. These little veins are the only blue you’ll see.
The stark contrast between both the thematic exploration and stylistic delineation from track to track is no special case. Bread & Butterflies is brimming with contrast, elusive, fleeting emotions, and boldly differentiated musical cuts. And the same thing can be said about the project at large. Its entirety is defined by a lack of definition relatable particularly when looking inwards towards the inconsistency of emotion in a mind at turmoil.
But, what’s most impressive isn’t that teddybear was able to assign so much natural, fluid, categorized emotion to a full-length release. What’s most impressive is that hand-in-hand with his exploration of post-breakup emotional range, he also belayed upon the entire album a conceptual exploration of Alice in Wonderland.
It’s a thesis on self-reflection. Bread & Butterflies is also a peak Through the Looking Glass. And that is its true genius. It’s thematically driven, its conceptually centered, and yet it’s as wide-ranging, indescribable, and unpredictable as is to be expected with so much reference to pain and suffering, psychedelia and absurdity. Teddybear proves himself and his long process most steady in swirling winds.
And through it all, Bread & Butterflies never loses balance. At a certain point, working so long to finalize an album has a tendency to throw off the direction of an artist. But it seems like teddybear knew exactly what it was that he was looking for from the beginning. And that feels most like honesty. The Toronto transcendentalist influenced by everything from hip-hop to pop-punk to jazz and blues finds honesty the common denominator in the music he loves, in the relationships he’s stumbled through, through the mire of Lewis Carrol, and subsequently in the direction of his own music. And that’s what makes Bread & Butterflies an enigma and a blueprint to be followed for a future of music defined not by aged stylistic labeling, but by presence, emotion, and honesty.
Above all else, the outcome is relatability. And that, just like Februaru 29th, is one of the most elusive prizes in life.