Monday, April 20, 2009

Review: Papercuts - You Can Have What You Want (* * * 1/2)

Papercuts, or Jason Robert Quever and friends, are back with You Can Have What You Want, the group's third album and follow-up to 2007's acclaimed Can't Go Back. Quever's hazy pop sound blends retro influences in a slightly familiar, but refreshing style that has brought him out of obscurity and into favor with NPR, Pitchfork, and others. This latest batch of tunes shows Quever delving even further into foggy, atmospheric melodies - with layers of keys and electric guitars often fighting for attention with his soft tenor voice. The record has prompted a host of Beach House and Grizzly Bear comparisons, but Papercuts has a sound very much its own which the band cultivates throughout their new album.

Right from the beginnings of opener "Once We Walked In The Sunlight," Quever sets the tone for the record, with simple drumming underlining fuzzy keyboards and a pleasant, subtle melody with melancholy lyrics. The record continues at a similar pace and style throughout, though the band adds just enough variation to prevent things from getting too monotonous or tired. At its best, 'What You Want' conjures some evocative emotions with a sort of mystique that's difficult to describe. The fantastic "Future Primitive" allows Quever's vocals room burrow into our subconscious with a captivating melody, and "Jet Plane" floats by in a gentle, yet stirring, haze that feels both comforting and disarming.

'What You Want' is the epitome of a 'grower,' and with a little time, some wonderful discoveries can be made here, though even after several spins I still found myself feeling somewhat removed and distant from the material. Quever's
melodies can sometimes be difficult to follow as the layers of sound almost obscure his cloudy vocals - which cause tracks like "The Void" to make little impact. Still, though the music can be difficult to unwrap, it manages to work its way under your skin in a way that I found to be remarkably compelling.