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The Paper Kites: On the Corner Where You Live
by George Graham
(Nettwerk Records As broadcast on WVIA-FM 11/28/2018)
There’s something to be said for the jangly guitar music of the 1980s, with ringing electric guitars and a sometimes atmospheric sound, which happened to coincide with the rise of New Age music. There’s not a lot of that going around these days, with synthesizers and computer sequences taking on that kind of role. But I can’t help but think of that period in listening to the new recording by the Australian group The Paper Kites, an album called On the Street Where You Live.
The Paper Kites formed around their hometown of Melbourne around 2010, with the current five members all being friends in high school. Guitarists, vocalists and keyboard players Sam Bentley and Christina Lacy began writing songs together during and after high school, and later were joined by guitarist David Powys, bassist Sam Rasmussen and drummer John Bentley. They began working on demo recordings, before putting out a formal EP in 2011 called Woodland. Their music started to be noticed, as they did extensive touring, and one of their songs Featherstone was used in the TV series “Grey’s Anatomy.” Their subsequent albums, Young North in 2012, States in 2013, and Twelvefour in 2015, all had US distribution, and we featured them on Mixed Bag at the time. In 2018, they released two albums, one called On the Train Ride Home, and the current one On the Corner Where You Live.
Front-man Sam Bentley is a self-described folk influenced musician, and often does finger-picking on acoustic guitar. When you play that style on a clean-sounding electric guitar, you get the sort of jangly guitar sound that recalls the better parts of 1980s pop. And the new album’s lyrics are also the sort of thing a thoughtful folkie would write about, relationships, introspection and the like. The result is a pleasing album that is both retro, drawing on some good old-fashioned songwriting, and yet shows originality. For this release, the group came to the US to record, as they have in the past. Previously, they recorded in the Pacific Northwest. For On the Corner Where You Live they came to Connecticut to work with Peter Katis, known for his work with the band The National. The Paper Kites recorded in his studio in a 120 year old Victorian home. It was a good pairing, with the atmospheric sound melding well with the folky material. The record is a bit of a concept album, based on its title, On the Corner Where You Life, with some city sounds and lyric lines that relate to the setting.
Opening is a bit of ambiance to set up the scene. The short interlude A Gathering on 57th has borrowed bits, with a piano line hinting at Erik Satie and the saxophone quoting phrases from Hoagy Carmichael’s Stardust. <<>>
That leads into Give Me Your Fire, Give Me Your Rain, lines can remind one of James Taylor. The upbeat piece is a good example of the nice result the band gets from a basically folk-influenced song with the electric arrangement. <<>>
One of the best of the bands that came out the 1980s jangly guitar and synthesizer school was the Scottish group The Blue Nile. The Paper Kites’ song Deep Burn Blue seems to be a stylistic homage to The Blue Nile. It comes off well despite the influence that The Blue Nile’s fans will recognize. <<>>
Christina Lacy gets only one lead vocal slot on the album, on the well-written track Mess We Made. She should have had more vocal opportunities on the record. <<>>
Sam Bentley’s folky tendencies are on display on the song Flashes, with its finger-picked acoustic guitar, though piece continues the album’s pleasing melodic atmospheric sound. <<>>
The title track On the Corner Where You Live takes a turn toward the more upbeat, and evokes the 1980s sound of groups like Flock of Seagulls, though in a more tasteful way. <<>>
The folky storyteller is the focus on the song Midtown Waitress, another of the album’s appealingly melodic songs. <<>>
If there is a track that seems more aimed at the pop world, it’s When It Hurts You. It combines a kind of hook-laden chorus with lyrics that could easily permeate onto the pop scene, though The Paper Kites might be a little too tasteful for that. <<>>
Following that, as a contrast, is Does It Ever Cross Your Mind, a slow piano ballad with another dollop of the atmospheric sound that marks this recording . <<>>
On the Corner Where You Live the new release from the Australian band The Paper Kites, is a most enjoyable album that combines the sensibilities of folky singer-songwriters with the best aspects of the 1980s jangly guitar sound. For those with long memories, sometimes the references to past material are fairly obvious, but as the saying goes, “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” However, the band and their American producer Peter Katis combine the sounds in a way that is fresh, and it’s very tasteful all around. One could easily get carried away with this kind of atmospheric sound. It helps that the compositions are first rate – tuneful and melodic, and intelligent and poetic lyrically.
Our grade for sound quality is an A-minus. The mix with its ethereal sound is sumptuous, and most of the time, clean, but there are some occasions when the sound seems overdriven and with not as much clarity as this style requires. So we’ll deduct points for that.
Since their inception some eight years ago, The Paper Kites have been doing intelligent folky but electric music. On the Corner Here You Live is the band’s best yet.
(c) Copyright 2018 George D. Graham. All rights reserved.
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