Music

Papercuts: Fading Parade

Papercuts' sound is like, well, a paper cut: It stings just enough to grab your attention, but never really gets under your skin.


Papercuts

Fading Parade

Label: Sub Pop
US Release Date: 2011-03-01
UK Release Date: 2011-02-28
Amazon
iTunes

It's appropriate that Jason Robert Quever called his band Papercuts, because the name pretty much describes the double-edged effect of his low intensity approach: Papercuts' hushed, understated lo-fi sound stings just enough to grab your attention, but it never really gets under your skin. On the one hand, the one-man-band's fourth album, Fading Parade, is full of small gestures that trigger more of reaction than you'd think, staying with you in the most subtle of ways. On the other hand, the San Francisco songwriter's pleasant and unassuming aesthetic rarely goes beneath the surface, as the atmospheric, often slight songs tend to fade from consciousness before they get stuck in your head. In short, Quever's music is like, well, a paper cut -- you feel it, until, all of a sudden, you don't.

So while Fading Parade initially makes an appealing, if modest, impact, it doesn't ultimately leave its mark. Drawing first blood, opener "Do You Really Wanna Know" is actually an anomaly on Fading Parade, peppier and poppier than anything else on the album. With a sense of urgency giving Quever's low-key charms a little more of an edge here, "Do You Really Wanna Know" channels the Shins, only if that band's indie-rock surrealism was reimagined as warm, fuzzy dream-pop. Through the hazy background, though, Quever gives form and texture to the song with just the right accompaniments, like when he matches gently soaring riffs to crisp, syncopated drums. It's just that whatever visceral response the leadoff number elicits becomes dulled and dissipated on the pleasant but harmless single "Do What You Will", which is more about creating a mood than making a point. So whereas "Do You Really Wanna Know" has a sense of shape and structure to it, what follows on "Do What You Will" lacks definition as nothing comes to the fore, with Quever's washed-out vocals only pushed forward by default as the droning guitars and thin rhythms oddly move back in the mix.

Too much of the time, even the best of what Papercuts have to offer on Fading Parade can't quite find a way to stand out, since the album just can't sustain enough energy to keep much momentum rolling. With a rich, resonant keyboard intro, "I'll See You Later I Guess" makes good use of its bells and whistles -- that is, until all of the elements get enveloped in a crowded soundscape where it's difficult to tell anything apart from anything else. Similarly, "Chills" starts with more thrills, like shimmering, twinkling guitars and a nice touch of strings, but runs out of steam sooner rather than later. Indeed, one might be hard-pressed to recognize the traces of Quever's earlier twang-inflected pop this time around, since Fading Parade blurs out the intricacies of his craft and saps some of its vigor, too.

Nor does it exactly help the album's deliberate pacing that there's a drowsy lull smack dab in the middle of Fading Parade. "The Messenger" and "White Are the Waves" try to introduce some texture and tension, though not enough to lift themselves out of a monochromatic monotone. Maybe it has a family resemblance to Quever's one-time collaborator Cass McCombs, but "The Messenger" can't replicate that indie troubadour's sense of drama and songwriting flair. And the waltzy downer "Wait 'Till I'm Dead" gets twisted and tangled in all the gauzy organ and gossamer guitars, all but refining itself out of existence. All in all, the blanket of dazed-and-confused fuzz becomes too overcast and even overbearing, making you numb to the heartaches and pains of Quever's forlorn love songs, rather than feeling them.

When things do pick up near the end of the album, it's more or less too little, too late. Still, "Marie Says You've Changed", especially, is a good dose of better late than never, setting itself apart by rising above of all the reverb and woozy noise. With a little bit of Belle and Sebastian to it, the track shows some bite and snap, allowing the brisk, strummy acoustic guitar and crisp rhythms a chance to define themselves more. As a result, the meticulous musical details and Quever's keen observational lyrics both shine through sharper without being buried under layers of sounds, as he sets a poignant homecoming scene, singing, "Can't decide if I belong / Standing in line / At the grocery store / With everyone I ever have known". Closing number "Charade" puts to use all of Papercuts' impressionistic moves to full effect, combining luminous, sparkling flourishes to create a sense of progression and development that's generally missing from the rest of the album. Considering the way Fading Parade wraps up, you just get the feeling that Papercuts could go a little deeper when Quever gives his songs a little more room to breathe.

6

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less
9
TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less
9

If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

Keep reading... Show less
9
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image