Once upon a time I was browsing someone’s list of favorite albums of that year and I recognized most of the albums on the list, except their number one, Paper Route’s Absence. So I flipped over to iTunes, searched them, and played their most popular track, Carousel. I loved it, and was really surprised that I hadn’t heard it sooner. Pretty soon after I got the whole album. Good choice. So yeah I know, cool story bro.
Now, this is not my area of expertise in music for sure. I am honestly not very familiar with these bands, but I hear this is something similar to the Postal Service and possibly Depeche Mode. I can vouch for Copeland, in which there are some similarities, but they aren’t too great. What I can say for sure is that this is a pretty killer album. Expertly done elctronica-influenced indie pop. It is dramatic and cinematic for sure, and epic at times I suppose, as much as this sort of music can be.
Absence opens with the darker, softer Enemy Among Us. It starts with the simple yet bold piano that eases the listener into the album. Then add other subtle beats and sounds. Finally arrives the gentle, soothing vocals. Think Copeland, but lower and less airy. The song progresses, never significantly heightening in power or energy, but never coming close to boring or repetitive. This is a very stripped down track that may not seem like a highlight at first, but grows a lot. Following is Wish, a catchy, more upbeat song that further introduces the synth and builds well off the opener. The soaring chorus is good, but overshadowed by the tracks that book end it. It could be a single, but it suffers slightly from a slight lack of production and it loses direction at times. It’s one of the few tracks that has this problem. But it’s still a good song.
The single and clear standout Carousel explodes after Wish. All of the instruments peak at their energy levels, the catchiness reigns supreme, and the production is tight. I have no complaints about this song; all I can say if you are interested in pop rock this song is a must have. It is the climax of Enemy Among Us and Wish, which all build on each other perfectly. Carousel fades out with a gentle synth, and the first part of Absence comes to a close.
The next three tracks are still good, but pale in comparison to the first three. They lack the energy and build on each other in no way. They are all very independent, but enjoyable. I admittedly skip these three sometimes to get to the next really good part. The weakest is the last, Be Healed, which just feels like filler vocal “ooh-oohooh oohhs.” Thankfully, this lull doesn’t last.
As soon as the haunting vocals fade in on Last Time, it becomes clear that the album is back on track. It’s a powerful song with some of the album’s best vocals. Epicly beautiful, it’s a great song about a broken relationship that climaxes with the repeating theme of the album, I don’t know why I go in circles. What follows is a slow, quasi-outro track that doesn’t necessarily stand out but really is an enjoyable, beautifully constructed, synth driven song.
If I were to walk in to a bar on Coruscant, I might expect to hear Gutter playing. It starts with a creative bass beat that continues through the song. Other beats come in to play later that sound a little like organized radio static, if that makes sense. It kinda ends a little anticlimactically, but the sheer bizarre factor makes it worthwhile.
The next track takes on a more traditional pop sound that is fairly straight forward, but features simple yet good lyrics about challenged faith. I like it a lot, and it sounds nothing like any other track, but not my favorite. The next is Lover’s Anthem, which is best described as a short instrumental composition with vocals that oddly sound like Bono to me. Only on this track, though, which puzzles me. But the album goes on to close with Dance On Our Graves, which opens slowly with a yet another dark, even softer piano. This track musically is comparable to the opener, but even more stripped down. But what this track has is the climax, after an almost whispered lyrical conclusion, “When we can see the light when we're going home/We'll dance on out graves with our bodies below/We'll sing along, hallelujah,” a gorgeous synth composition that sounds like an orchestra performance with beats.
All in all, a great listen, which I highly recommend to any fan of pop rock that likes some electronica thrown in. One of those albums that appeals because it is so incredibly diverse yet cohesive. If tracks 4-6 were slightly better I’d give it a 4.5, but it’s a high 4 as is. Recommended Tracks: Enemy Among Us, Carousel, Last Time, Gutter, Dance On Our Graves