It has been four year since Paper Route released an album. The Peace of Wild Things was well-received by fans and when word of a new album began to spread, I was excited but not sure what to expect. Thankfully, I can say this sixteen-track beast of an album is expansive, not only in terms of its 55 minute run time but also in regards to the diversity of influences present.
The intro features female choral vocals and a noisy ending that blends directly into Writing On The Wall, the last single the band showcased before the album’s release. While much of the album could best be described as pop, this track definitely has more of a guitar presence. Nonetheless, it’s characteristically catchy, blending upbeat drums with a falsetto chorus.
The third track, Pretend, is the first of several tracks that seems to pull influence from the 80s. The drums, falsetto, and synthesizer patterns serve as the backbone for the nostalgic sound.
Chariots, one of the earliest singles from the album, brings the listener back to the twenty-first century. Following a strange percussive intro, Daly exclaims, “Love is never invincible.” Chariots is certainly has the qualities of a feel-good pop hit, and the chorus is definitely radio-friendly. “I’ll send my love to carry it. Without your heart, our chariots fall.” The lament of lost love is present throughout the album, but the songs never drive the listener to a point of despair.
Untitled is a ballad that that works together with Blue Collar Daydream to create an interlude leading into the title track. Real Emotion is a personal favorite. “How far can someone fall before they lose it all?”, Daly asks. The lyrical themes of the album are best summed up on this track: we have a tendency to run to medication, rather than deal with our struggles directly.
The next highlight on the album is yet another single: Laugh About It. Like Writing On The Wall, the track showcases a grittier guitar tone and a weaker focus on synthesizers. This time, lyrical themes focus on anxiety and failure. “Feels like I play to lose, and if the joke’s on me, I’ll laugh about,” Daly confesses.
Lara serves as a prelude for Zhivago, the first single from the album. The track is drenched in reverb and delay. The first verse feels heavily influenced by The Beach Boys, though the song does build in its use of drums and synthesizers. It’s an interesting combination that does seem to pay off.
With only a few tracks left, Balconies is one of the most anthemic songs of the album. With analog synth tones, 80s piano textures, and an extensive focus on melody, this track is definitely a great example of the trio’s songwriting abilities. Again, it’s an odd mix of old and new but the combination creates a song that’s sure to get stuck in your head.
The album tapers off with Vanisher, which builds from an acoustic intro to a full-band arrangement. The track ends with a nearly two-minute outro that frankly seems a bit odd. Daly manages to resolve the tension of previous lyrics, expressing that “the pieces will become a whole.” It’s certainly not my favorite finale track but it does provide closure for the album.
While I’m generally not a fan of pop, I can confidently say that Paper Route has crafted a successful record. Despite its length, the album doesn’t feel repetitive. There’s plenty of variety, from guitar-heavy songs like Writing On The Wall and Laugh About It to ballads like Untitled and Love is Red (With Every Shade of Blue), the group manages to traverse genres and decades alike.
While a few tracks aren’t all too interesting, songs like Real Emotion and Balconies keep the action moving and make for a great third album.
For fans of: The Beach Boys, Weezer, Copeland, Mutemath