Review Summary: Say you have feelings for a shell, the ghost of me
Hailing from Gainesville, Florida, Papercranes is not exactly a household name in folk/alternative rock. In fact, everything about them begs to be left alone. Their raw sound doesn’t aim to please anyone besides themselves, and their work is an indication of the reclusive style that they integrate into their music. They seem to march to the beat of their own drum, and their albums are undoubtedly better off for it. Papercranes’ sophomore effort, Let’s Make Babies in the Woods
, is a spiraling stream of consciousness expedition into front woman Rain Phoenix’s mind, a black and white soundscape of hurt and abandonment. With folk and psychedelic influences as the impetus, everything from Phoenix’s tortured wails to the music’s underlying depression is put on full display during this unpolished gem.
Let’s Make Babies in the Woods
is an album that won’t fully make sense until it is over. Its sound is out of touch, maybe even a little coarse, driven primarily by percussion and Phoenix’s raspy vocals reminding one of a Regina Spektor or Kate Nash who just woke up. The music may not be directly engaging, but what it lacks in immediacy it makes up for in depth and an emotionally profound atmosphere. One could easily cite the glass-tinged piano echoes and New Orleans-style horn section present throughout “Dust Season” as a crystallizing moment for the listener. However, the truth is the album is constantly evolving within itself, even from the opening seconds. The acoustic strums and comparatively accessible chorus of “say you have feelings for a shell, the ghost of me
” are an illusion, diverting attention from the album’s insistence on remaining buried in its unrefined production – something that plays to the album’s advantage significantly. The chant-like vocals become more raspy, more raw, and more honest
in the desperate-sounding “Headphones”, the real
introduction to the record’s signature musical style. The gentle ooh
’s and hums whispering up the spine of “Long Way” lend Let’s Make Babies in the Woods
a haunting air, one that continues to make its presence felt periodically throughout the album’s runtime. In the meanwhile, mid-album tracks like “Sea Red” and “Texas” give Rain Phoenix even more room to show off her creativity through metaphors and abstract-but-devastating lyrics – proving that filler has no place on this album.
The most impressive moments on Let’s Make Babies in the Woods
are saved for last. “Synapses” stands out as a highlight on an album full of phenomenal songs, with haunting hums and harmonies that are startlingly interrupted by heavy drums and rapid electric guitar strums. Phoenix’s vocals are perfectly integrated as usual, with every instrument, every vocal note, every thing
interacting in the most dynamic fashion possible. The pure attention to detail in this song - hell
, for that matter the whole album – is so immense and so stunning that it escapes words. Yet somehow, miraculously, Let’s Make Babies in the Woods
feels as through its roots lay in the basics. The closing “Grace” follows suit with a completely unrestrained vocal onslaught by Phoenix, who holds nothing back in her serenades, wails, and shouts that pay just as much if not more attention to hammering home an emotion – an idea - than they do to holding a note. And because of the album’s untamed, unprocessed feel, moments like these are able to show themselves as innovative; as rare experimentation as opposed to just sloppy. Let’s Make Babies in the Woods
is Papercranes coming into their own, and doing it faster than anyone expected them to. On just their second album, they have already bestowed an absolute jewel upon us – one that may be covered in a thin layer of dust, but is still guaranteed to sparkle.