Review Summary: The Paper Kites proclaim their indiependence.
The Paper Kites' debut full length LP, States is surprising and predictable at the same time. From one end they're defining their sound and proclaiming who they are as artists and what their sound is and it’s surprisingly really good. From the other end it's predictable because coming off their two EP's Woodland and Young North, it seemed like The Kites wrote themselves into a corner, not leaving much room to diversify and mix up the meat n’ potatoes folk genre. It still sounds great, but I digress.
I'm relieved to say that States isn't Woodland/Young North thirteen songs repeated.
The intro, “Malleable Beings” is a beautifully driven, soft-spoken track that immediately shows that The Paper Kites are trying (and succeeding) to find themselves musically and are getting better at it.
All I have to say about “St Clarity” is damn. This song succeeds in emulating TPK’s contemporaries because it builds simply, climaxes and reaches its apex beautifully and isn’t bombastic or exhausting (cough, Mumford, cough.) Before I talk about “Living Color” (oh boy, another tangent) let me just say that Christiana Lacy has one beautiful voice.
This track (as well as all of the songs on which she’s featured) showcases that a singer can be powerful and project his/her voice through the music without again being bombastic or exhausting (cough, Adele, cough.)
Realizing that I’ll probably die in the next 3 three days because I just hated on Adele, let me segway into talking about “Gates”. Though the acoustic ballad is a solid, well written song, I can’t help but be bothered by its pace because its only the fourth song, get moving! My gripe isn’t with the song but instead its placement. The album was building steadily and “Gates” kinda pulled that momentum from under its own feet.
Thank the heavens that TPK picks up the pace with “Young” and “A Lesson From Mr. Gray.” This is where we see the Kites mix things up a bit. “Young” if anything serves as nice a prelude to “A Lesson From Mr. Gray” which takes us straight back to 90’s (praise Jesus) with even some 60’s flare. A mix of “Black Star” and “(Nice Dream)” from the Radiohead’s “The Bends” with even some late-era Beatles nuances, TPK pays homage to a great sound and time where it was okay to say words like “psyche!” or “tubular” (plus that bass riff pwns so hard.)
Moving on to Tin Lover, which eerily reminds me of “Beach Baby” by Bon Iver (which isn’t a bad thing, its called inspiration.) The song is gorgeous, and sounds like a cup of coffee and a warm fire while being cozily cooped up in the woods.
On to “Cold Kind Hand” where Lacy shines through once again on an already solid song, and truly steals the show (which seems to be a recurring theme.)
“Never Heard A Sound” comes through as familiar and fond territory to people who are familiar to TPK’s previous work, but it’s a welcomed return and even improves and refines their sound.
Back to the 90’s playbook we go for “In Reverie” (praise Jesus. Again.) Lacy comes through once again (spoiler alert) and channels her inner Dolores O'Riordan and really brings this song together.
“Tenenbaum” is one of those songs that you really feel (insert feels guy meme here.) I’ve sinned in not talking about Sam Bentley’s impressive songwriting abilities up to this point. This track shows that something we’ve heard before can still hit home and even bring us to tears, and Bentley seems to have it down to a freaking science.
I don’t really know where to begin with regards to talking about “Portrait 19” because there is a lot going on here (another recurring album theme.) On top of that its probably the most progressive song on the record and its something we’ve never really heard from the TPK, which is a definitely plus. The chord progression is different and catchy while being comforting and welcoming at the same time.
“I Done You So Wrong” sounds like the end of any western you’ve ever watched. You know, where the cowboy, with all issues resolved, rides off into the southwestern sunset where a new beginning and a hopeful future await him.
This song’s orchestration beautifully swells and builds from the harmonica to the hauntingly mellow string ensemble. This track sends off the album in a very appropriate way, with lonely cellos, violins and violas waving goodbye to the listener.
In many ways this album is like a journey, it moves and builds, slows down and gets kind of lazy, but eventually redeems itself and resolves its shortcomings and proves to be worth it in the end.