Review Summary: Carefree.
The disheveled, faceless man pictured on the cover of Sean Fournier's sophomore album 'Paper Tiger' is assumably a simplistic caricature of the singer-songwriter himself: a rough-around-the-edges, slightly awkward and disproportionate young adult set loose in a minimalist wonder-world of bubbly, askew typography and earth-toned, textured backgrounds. From the depreciating loose ends of the caricature's semi-formal attire to the unbalanced and insecure posture that it assumes, the album artwork communicates great lengths about it's content: 'Paper Tiger' isn't complex, nor is it revolutionary; it's unassuming and insecure, unpolished and endearing -- 'Paper Tiger' is carefree.
Much like opening up a basement freezer to find it filled with ice cream sandwiches and fudgsicles, 'Paper Tiger' is stocked up with a plethora of sugary singer-songwriter treats that are endlessly tasty and really quite useless as far as their nutritional value is concerned (musical elitists are forewarned to stay far, far
away). Major acoustic guitar chords, dweedling pianos and complimentary drums sum up the running time of 'Paper Tiger', crafting an illustrious singer-songwriter creamsicle of bright, youthful melodies and catchy, memorable choruses. A youthful glow emanates playfully from frolicsome indie-pop songs such as the appropriately titled opener 'Step Inside' or the perky 'Falling For You', while foreboding, minor-key numbers like 'More' and 'Lie' culminate cumulous clouds of semi-angsty folk-fluff that drizzle like a spring shower rather than brood like a summer storm. Irrelevant similes aside, 'Paper Tiger' is happy-hearted, light-headed and (depending on your mood) either a) sickeningly sweet or b) joyously delightful.
Inauspiciously, during Fournier's adamant quest for dancing-daffodil-good-guy-cutesiness, he subconsciously blurs the lines between "carefree" and "careless". The contextually forgivable production tries far too hard to sound big-budget and impressive and subsequently sounds alarmingly brittle and synthetic. In songs such as otherwise pleasant title track and 'Broken Stereo', Fournier ropes in his timid, insecure tenor voice, dips it in unnecessary syllabic nuances, fries it in awkward out-of-place harmonies and completes the poorly-produced cuisine with an unhealthy dousing of saucy, overbearing autotune that sacrifices his catchy melodies and winsome lyrics, hemorrhaging the bustling potential that many of his songs possess. Fournier's compositions are also largely similar in intonation, which - when paired with his quiet, murmuring voice (the man must be a chronic mumbler) - meshes the album together into a slightly repetitive but nonetheless harmless journey. Truthfully, 'Paper Tiger' seems largely unequipped at times, playing like an extensive collection of ill-tailored demos rather than a streamlined, cohesive marathon of benign, feel-good tunes.
Despite it's flaws (some of which add to the character of the album), 'Paper Tiger' is honest, sincere and just too darn cute to pass up. The album is a lovely listen, best enjoyed whilst sitting upon a rooftop reading a non-introspective novel, drinking an iced beverage purchased from a local lemonade stand -- it's a summer album of sorts. For those who are looking for intelligent, overbearing pseudo-intellectual brilliance, you've unfortunately come to the wrong place. However, for those feeling bogged down by the burdens of pretentious and overwhelming folk music (hey there, Sufjan Stevens and Colin Meloy) and are looking for a carefree passageway into a personal world of flowery indie, 'Paper Tiger' is a sure way to go.