Review: Paper Route – Absence

It took Softsynth many weeks to figure out how to review Paper Route’s debut album. It’s one of those tricky customers that crosses genres and defies easy classification. Similarly the same track may sound deathly dull one listen, then full of hidden mysteries the next and then on the third you wonder what you thought you ever heard in there in the first place. 

The Nashville quartet is one of those strange creations that live are your standard guitar/bass/drums/vocals operations but on record they transform into an experimental electronic act that really know their way around a sampler and a good hook. They mostly deal in slow, languid pop dirges but occasionally bust out something with a little more energy like lead-off single “Carousel” (“On and on and on we go/ Just like a carousel that’s lost control/ We don’t know why, we don’t know why/ We go, we go, we go in circles.”) that sometimes feels a little too florid but still land nicely as lead singer J.T. Daly rolls along through thoughtful, sometimes evocative lyrics and the rest of the band wrap up all the sonic experimentation into  a neat bow. Often compared to Postal Service, Paper Route has many of the same overall sweep to their sound minus some of the more twee qualities of the Ben Gibbard side project.

There are some sweet tracks here. The entirely digital, almost metronomic “Gutter” that swells beautifully into the chorus before moving to a crunchy bridge; the ballad, “Dancing on our Graves” that builds from somnambulant to huge over the course of its five minutes and 57 seconds; to the album opener , “Enemy Among Us” that is not only a great sleeper song, but samples Daly’s voice into a sequenced instrument itself. It’s a stand-out song. 

It’s not all great. Many of the songs feel like filler, and even more gratingly, sound strikingly like Coldplay in a slightly experimental mood (listen to “Good Intentions” and tell us you’re not actually in some kind of twisted Coldplayian nightmare).

But all in all, this is a nice, albeit oft-confusing record. Equal parts strikingly original and eye-squintingly derivative, at a minimum they’ve shown us a band bringing something most welcome to the scene, the kind of album Softsynth is guessing we’ll see more of as the lines between trad-pop and electronics continue to blur. And in this case a band with the songwriting chops to grow into something most cool…

Watch: Carousel


2 Responses to “Review: Paper Route – Absence”

  1. Coldplay write some great pop songs. It took me a long, long time to recognize that; but really if you want someone to revile as pop trash producers, there are plenty others to choose from.
    And “Good Intentions” really doesn’t sound anything like Coldplay.

    • softsynth Says:

      Perhaps I’m being too glib. I don’t have a problem with Chris Martin and co; (I own a copy of Viva la Vida and like it fine :)…), my point is more one of being derivative, which I think Paper Route are a few times too often and I really hear the Coldplay in a number of these songs, for better for worse.

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