Friday, May 1, 2009

Review: Paper Route - Absence (* * * 1/2)

Nashville's Paper Route have just recently released their debut album, Absence, the follow-up to last year's EP Are We All Forgotten, which felt like the start of good things for the band. I've been curious to hear the new record as I was intrigued by the band's unique electronica-meets-pop-punk sound - a style that feels both refreshingly progressive but with a familiar base. The group have put together eleven new tracks and borrowed one from their EP (though they didn't pick my favorite - "Empty House") for their debut, and while Absence doesn't expand much on the promise of Paper Route's beginnings, it does provide some strong material that should help to further establish the band as one to watch.

While Paper Route is, at times, in danger of sounding a bit too much like the horde of 'post-emo' rock bands - they deserve better company. Their mainstream leanings are combined with a generous dose of 80's synth rock and hints of several other genres thrown in for a much more ambitious and interesting musical presentation that you would find among many of their peers. Also, while the group definitely love bombastic drums and explosive guitar riffs, as evidenced by the epic first single, "Carousel," and the intense, driving "Are We All Forgotten," they also are willing to restrain themselves when necessary and explore a variety of ideas that keeps the record surprising and compelling. Even when the results are less than spectacular, it's nice to hear a young band willing to take a risk when they certainly could have played it safe and stuck to the basics.

Opener "Enemy Among Us" floats along with piano over synthetic beats that expands subtly, creating a tense - but still pleasant - atmosphere, while closer "Dance On Our Graves" follows suit with a sparse, open sound in an emotionally intense ballad. These softer, more delicate moments are some of the album's highlights along with the more creative and stylistically unique tunes like the dense,electro-rocker "Gutter" and the groovier, slightly MGMT-esque "Tiger Teeth." Here, the songs best showcase the band's signature sound with a mix of programmed and live percussion behind drivingsynths and the earnest tenor vocals of JT Daly.

The band doesn't consistently hit it out of the park on Absence, but they have a good thing going here and I'll be eager to hear what they come up with in the future. I imagine Paper Route will find some success among the more radio-friendly rock crowd with their approachable pop-rock sound, and if this is what the kids are listening to these days, it's certainly a step in the right direction.