[7 April 2006]
With their 2002 debut album, One Thousand Reasons to Stay… One Thousand Reasons to Leave, Paper Moon earned both critical accolades and a modest but devoted following. The reason was simple; the band has an almost impossible ability to write catchy pop songs—minus all the negative connotations associated with the word pop. No, Paper Moon don’t gyrate in unison and fondle themselves while wearing matching outfits, but they know how to construct song after song loaded with melodic hooks and angelic vocals. Craftsmanship, unfortunately, is not a word often applied to pop music, but Paper Moon’s debut showed that they don’t just “make” music; they also possess knowledge and control, two qualities essential to craftsmanship that are sadly lacking in many bands.
Broken Hearts Break Faster Every day is the group’s second album, and like Paper Moon’s first release, it is full of mellifluous pop. For those who have hungered for another album from the Sundays, this album might satiate such cravings. Like the Sundays, Paper Moon specialize in blending the soft jangle with tight drumming and wistful singing. Moreover, like the Sundays’ atmospheric rock, Paper Moon’s sound can also be traced back to the Smiths; each song on Broken Hearts is meticulously layered, emphasizing texture and nuance over all-out aural attack. Paper Moon don’t seek to overwhelm with sound, but to kill you softly, and for the most part, they succeed.
Described succinctly, Broken Hearts Break Faster Every Day is (to continue with out theme) Sunday morning music. Dreamy and intimate, it’s the perfect soundtrack to reading the newspaper while gazing out the window. Musically, the album is both refined and restrained, with most of the tracks built around guitar or keyboards. Adding to the album’s reflective tone are the topics found within the lyrics, which lend themselves to contemplation. Loneliness, day trips, regret, goodbyes, cloudy days, sleep—these are the things we ponder during those rare moments when the demands of the world seem to recede into the background of the mind. Lead singer Allison Shevernoha delivers tales of those seemingly mundane moments that later become significant for the revelations they yield.
Indeed, the lyrics on Broken Hearts are nearly poetic in their imagery. Rather than telling straight-forward narratives, Shevernoha paints in impressionistic strokes, giving pieces of tales in the form of images and thoughts. In “String of Blinking Lights”, for instance, the narrator spends her new year longing for home, declaring that “Your familiar life is where it happens all over again.” As she gazes around the room, she notices “A bottle of wine that hasn’t been opened yet” and “a string of blinking lights that can now be put away”. This song is characteristic of Shevernoha’s lyrics, which refer to specific images without spelling out the details of the story. Other songs are nearly stream-of-conscious in their random, confessional candidness. For example, “Less Than Perfect” sounds like an excerpt from a journal entry, one revealing thought leading to another: “Oh, you know I would start over again if I could, but nothing can be erased/ Everyone knows I’m less than perfect/ Moving on has been harder than it should be.” Coupled with the subtle, soft music, the lyrics give the album a warm, cozy tone.
However, if there’s one downside to the album, it’s that there’s little variation, and the accumulative effect can be cloying. Most of the songs are mid-tempo love songs with demure lyrics and sweet—nearly saccharine—vocals. Halfway through the album, you get the feeling you satisfied a mild sweet tooth with a gluttonous amount of sugar, and all you want is something spicy instead. Allison Shevernoha possesses a voice both pristine and fluid, but it’s completely void of the grit that would balance out such delicate tendencies. “So Far Away”, for instance, sounds so precious it’s almost too much to bear, and the high-pitched strings only make Shevernoha’s voice sound shrill rather than underscore its soft fragility. It can never be said that Paper Moon lacks focus, but it remains to be seen if they have the ability to be diverse.
Still, Broken Hearts Break Faster Every Day is a mostly solid album, possessing only a few missteps. While it might be a bit too understated for its own good, this collection of songs reveals a band that can write tight, literate, and melodic songs. Rare is the album that contains a majority of songs that are catchy upon the first listen, but this is one such album. And like those slow Sunday mornings, Broken Hearts Break Faster Every Day provides a chance to sit back, breathe, and reflect.