Parallel Universe Blues
Through enough attention to sound, great writing can be transformed into something instantly iconic. In his latest step out, Jason Quever makes pop brimming with influence as Papercuts while never feeling unoriginal in the slightest. This makes for an album that’s utterly distinct but memorable at every turn, as Papercuts make a big step forward.
Between a haze of feedback and intensely jangly guitars, “Mattress on the Floor” starts the album on a very Velvet Underground note full of strange percussion and ghostly harmonies. Through a mix of ambiguous poetry and the way the music swirls in a strange round, it’s easy to fall into Papercuts world. “Laughing Man” however lets the vocals take a more emotional role, as the rock becomes more upfront and pop-driven. This however only serves to let the sense of despair and subtle pain ring a little more in the background.
In a tone oddly reminiscent of Veronica Falls, “How To Quit Smoking” pulls in a gloomy modern Scottish rock sound and sees Quever taking Papercuts into something lightly commentary-driven. All bolstered by his emotional pop writing however, the track is just as fun to listen to as it is intriguing. “Sing To Me Candy” plays like the dark inverse of this track that is so straightforward in its writing but is endlessly beautiful in its vocals. Here there’s more of a feeling than an overt rhythm or hook, as it makes you want to sing along over time.
“Clean Living” itself is an obtuse mix for what should be a slow-building pop track, and one that gives an epic tension to its writing. Though it’s nice and anthem-like in a way, it does feel like it would be better served to push over into a breakdown or release at some point. There’s something eerily familiar to “Kathleen Says” like Sonic Youth meeting Cigarettes After Sex, and somehow just as smoky and cool. By injecting a bit of bright pop into this mix as well, Papercuts transforms this into a retro wonder that is devoid of an era.
The rushing pop of “Walk Backwards” is both foreign and reassuringly familiar, letting its high energy playing contrast the somewhat jaded vocals. Though it’s a little sombre compared to the rest of the album, it has a totally different feeling to it that is surprisingly hard to put a finger on. With its open sound and an understated heft, “All Along St. Mary’s” slowly comes into its own as a ferocious track. In this space, the vocals are able to give a little venom and disdain without growling, and give a lot more emotional depth in a subdued delivery.
“Waking Up” itself has many of these other feelings rumbling out in new ways, with its layered guitar tone feeling both alive in itself and a kind of driving force. Through this chilling delivery and unusual bit of layering, the song is haunting and catchy all in one. The steady beat and tempered delivery feels shows Papercuts paying tribute through a personal story that breathes new life into its warm guitar lines. Though it bares many of the same through lines of Foxygen’s work, it sounds from an energy level like their complete opposite.
Words by Owen Maxwell