Vague Era by Paper Castles
My favorite song on Vague Era, “ComeTooLate,” sounds a bit like Bedhead playing a song by Oasis. The vocal harmonies in “WhoNeedsFriends” bring to mind the Fleet Foxes. And there are moments throughout where Paper Castles sound like second cousins to Pavement. It’s easy to name possible band influences for this dreamy indie-rock, but the whole package sounds both fresh and clearly-defined.
At the risk of oversimplifying, I’ll say the album has seven songs, three droning sound-collages and a final track that does a little of both. The more experimental work compliments Paddy Reagan’s muted and gorgeous cover art. Ordered strips of fuzzy, half-recognizable pictures hold up well as an approximation of these tracks; it might be why I settled on the term “collages.”
I appreciate the experimental work for what it adds to the album’s atmosphere and overall shape. However, I’m likely to skip these tracks on future listens. The big exception is the synthy “JBells.” Its gentle, hypnotic loop makes me think these guys could write a good soundtrack for a melancholy film. For the most part, though, I’m here for Paper Castles the experimental pop band, not Paper Castles the experimental band.
I suspect this isn’t their process, but some of these songs sound like clever pop songs slowed down to fit in all the guitars have to say. “WhoNeedsFriends” is a great song that would be too busy to listen to if they played it faster. It’s hard to play slowly, but this band does it well. One of the challenges is a slow tempo makes it easy to hear when things are off, but this band is tuned in to each other. “Thirty Weeks” has an especially cool off-kilter groove behind its straight, brooding guitar part.
Vague Era has well-honed songwriting, playing and style. Save it for a long and uneventful bus ride or any time you can relax and pay attention.