Can't Go Back
Online review here.
Papercuts (the lacerations) fall somewhere between painful and annoying on the irritation scale. They're one of life's great certainties, unavoidable no matter how much care you take in sorting sheaves or stuffing envelopes. It takes a few seconds after that first, fateful slice before the sting sets in, a throbbing, sometimes bloody reminder of the fragility of our fleshy frames.
Papercuts (the band) fall somewhere between pleasant and beautiful on the listening scale. They're self-consciously mysterious, no matter how much effort you put into making sense of the decidedly low-key yet somehow stirring songs. It takes a few seconds of Papercuts' second album, Can't Go Back, to think that maybe you've stumbled upon something special, a delicate mood piece made to slice through the din and chaos of modern life.
Or maybe it's just another gently indulgent bedroom production featuring a guy cribbing from a great record collection, cooing sweet nothings and coming off like some late 1960s summer-into-fall semi-obscurity sprinkled with a healthy dose of indie-dust. But like Papercuts' namesake, there's a nagging sensation there's more going on than first appears, and that the band's modesty can't disguise a gift for melody equal to its knack for channeling a host of half-familiar influences.
Perhaps that should be "his" knack for channeling, as Papercuts is essentially Bay Area songwriter Jason Quever, whose last name almost perfectly describes his high, thin singing voice. That voice is frequently double-tracked and cloaked with touches of ghostly reverb, the last refuge of the painfully insecure and a surefire way to hide yourself while imparting an otherworldly vibe. But the shy act-- "I'm always on the outside looking in," Quever sings on "Outside Looking In"-- may be just that, as no wallflower could accumulate the fans this guy has. Devendra Banhart and Vetiver's Andy Cabic are releasing the disc via their Gnomonsong imprint, and Grizzly Bear tapped Papercuts for their current tour. Quever's also collaborated, crossed paths, or intersected with Casiotone for the Painfully Alone and Cass McCombs.
He's also breathed deep from the stylish post-Summer of Love haze, when dope-smoking folkies traded tokes for euphoric doses, and when the VU started sharing (select) shelf space with Dylan albums and dreamy L.A. singer-songwriter projects. Not that you'd necessarily glean that from the first song, "Dear Employee", an anomalous chamber-pop kiss off that's got more in common with the Hidden Cameras (minus the "gay church" thing).
Halfway through second song, "John Brown", however, after a dramatic pause gives way to a double-time detour, the disc's trippy heritage kicks in. "Summer Long" channels prime girl-group pop for the coffee-house set, sounding like Dylan's Highway 61 Revisited players subbing for a Phil Spector session, while humming organ and airy harmonies underscore the deceptively bright "Unavailable".
With the shaggy, shambling "Take the 227th Exit", the fashionable psych and Basement Tapes touches really begin to meld and manifest themselves, and over the disc's latter half the shape and spirit of the songs such as the droning "Sandy" and the sepia-toned sunset of a eulogy "Just Another Thing to Dust" grow more and more diffuse, even if the winsome tunes keep them from floating off into the ether. The songs seem to proceed on a narcotic lag, with the subtle, shimmering backing instrumentation shifting ever so slightly in unexpected ways.
By "Found Bird", Quever's on another plane, his voice processed to an abstract warble that sounds like he's singing from the heavens, looking down, amused at the world he's left behind. The disc's extended denouement, with its protracted and seemingly improvised piano solo, achieves a certain transcendence before giving way to the statelier "The World I Love", a sign that Quever's still with us and not off counting butterflies or something.
Not that he sounds like he would embrace subjects so hippie-banal. Quever might run with the hairy-and-happy crowd, but "Can't Go Back" avoids unicorns and fanciful imagery for something simpler and more affecting. West Coast to the core, it's music for the journey, not for the arrival, the soundtrack to getting somewhere else rather than music to get lost to. Or maybe both.
-Joshua Klein, February 22, 2007
Paperucts are currently on tour with Grizzly Bear
02/23 Tucson, AZ @ Plush
02/24 Marfa, TX @ Ballroom Marfa
02/26 Norman, OK @ Opolis
02/27 Dallas, TX @ Club Dada
02/28 Austin, TX @ Emo's Jr
03/01 Baton Rouge, LA @ Chelsea's
03/02 Atlanta, GA @ Drunken Unicorn
03/03 Chapel Hill, NC @ Local 506
03/04 Washington, DC @ Black Cat
03/06 New York, NY @ Bowery Ballroom