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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Paper Route

Absence

Review by Rick Damigella

There must be something good in the water in Tennessee, especially in Nashville, because the city with such a rich music pedigree has been turning out a new breed of inspired recording acts. From the explosion in popularity over the past year of both Kings of Leon and Paramore (yes, I know, they are from just south of Nashville) the home town of Music Row should be proud to include Paper Route among their local talent who are burgeoning to break to a wider fanbase.

Paper Route’s first full length album, Absence, is a refreshing and downright beautiful recording, blending electronic instrumentation with traditional rock sounds and dual vocals that hold the listener. They could easily be considered America’s answer to Scotland’s Glasvegas. Paper Route describe themselves as an electronic band on their official Twitter, and this is true, but they are definitely not one of the myriad epithetical subgenres of electronica. Paper Route sounds much more like a rock band whose lead instruments are walls, waves and layers of synths and keys (even a mellotron) which make up the band’s overall soundscape.

And while the group has shared multiple tours with Paramore, and the overall feeling of Absence makes it the perfect companion piece to sit next to Kings of Leon’s Only by the Night on your iPod, its Paper Route’s passionately played music, earnest vocal delivery and unique sound that set them apart and make this album worth your attention.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2009  Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Enemy Among Us
A dreamy wall of synths welcomes the listener followed by the Paper Route's signature vocal sound as the piece begins to build. With more uptempo songs later in the album, Paper Route choose a bold route to open with a more laid back track.
Wish

This song features an excellent balance of electronic tones with electric guitar and bass to set the mood. A silver-sound piano joins in to further drive the passion of the music. It is so refreshing to hear not just one, but a pair of quality vocalists who have a proper musical command of their singing talents.

Carousel

The instant march of Gavin McDonald’s drums combine with the guitar and piano to form the song’s sense of urgency and passion. Chad Howat draws a punchy sound from his bass, accentuating the overall mood of the piece. The synth solo has an almost vocal like quality to it.

Good Intentions

The overall tone mellows on this song following the rapid pace of the previous number. The instrumentation is heavier on the electronic side. Andy Smith’s vocals deepen slightly, compared to the previous songs. The chorus has just a hint of Eurythmics-esque delivery in the arrangement.

Tiger Teeth

JT and Andy combine their vocal powers again on this up-tempo piece. The main keyboard riff has a definite 80’s synth pop feel, as does the deep twang of the guitar, both without sounding dated.

Be Healed

My favorite song on the album, plaintive, wailing vocals backed by some of the album’s heavier drumming and organ-like synth lines form a passionate backdrop which is accentuated with a pulsing synth-bass line and some of the set’s best vocals. Somewhere, there is a movie with a scene of silhouetted bodies entwined with one another which needs the perfect piece of music to complete it. I suggest this one.

Last Time

If there were side 2’s any more, this is likely where the second side of Absence would start. The arrangement is wider in the sound spectrum, approaching a majestic, arena filling sound, while still maintaining the album’s intimate voice.

No Sudden Revelations

This next song is all about atmospheric and ethereal synths and voices. It’s simple, and beautiful.

Gutter

And in direct opposition from the end of the previous number are the  industrial sounding distorted synth and percussive hits. Gothic-style keyboard lines follow, all combined with the tough fragility of the vocal combination created by JT and Andy.

Are We All Forgotten

The gentler synths return, backed by a syncopated dance beat. This is yet another example of the band’s uniquely combined vocals and their use of synths to paint and color the overall sound.

Lovers’ Anthem

Just as the title suggests, clocking in under three minutes, this would not sound out of place in a heartfelt, modern British romance film.

Dance on our Graves
The album closes on a melancholic note. This atmospheric number progresses from a quiet beginning, through a plaintive vocalize mid section and closes on a very Chinese-sounding instrumental section. After listening to the full album several times, it seems there is some sort of through line to the 12 songs. Not strictly a “concept album” per se, but still, there is definitely some story, whether fictional, autobiographical or just about the album itself, that is quietly hiding in and amongst the lyrics and most definitely the way the sounds blend and match against one another. And what the smart listener will find hidden at the end of the album’s liner notes is an invitation “for more about the story behind the album” to visit the band’s website. I did and found that the story link says “coming soon.” I enjoy reading companion pieces to albums like this and look forward to when Paper Route adds what I expect will be the completing note on a fantastic debut album.
 
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