February 25, 2011

Douglas Martin likes his parades with floats of Snoopy (tracks. )

Few things sting worse than a paper cut. Less painful than cumbersome, the discomfort leaves little room for you to think about anything else for long. Though much more subtle and less likely to send you to the drug store for Neosporin or Band-Aids, San Francisco band Papercuts specializes in a melancholy brand of dream-pop that appears superficial until you give it time.

Though the project started by Arcata native Jason Quever has been around for most of the past decade, 2007’s Can’t Look Back was Papercuts’ first break into the greater indie consciousness. Signed by Devendra Banhart and selected to tour with Grizzly Bear during the midst of Yellow House acclaim, they were immediately lumped in with the freak-folk genre. But they weren’t freak-folk. If you can thoroughly convince me that ragtime pianos and spy-movie guitars sound anything close to a band like Feathers, then maybe you should write this column.

You Can Have What You Want was an above-average collection of dusty psych-pop tunes played in a cathedral hall of reverb that has become the band’s trademark. That 2009 offering was generally slept-on, but obviously caught the right ears, as Seattle mega-indie Sub Pop picked them up on the strength of this album and the band’s relationships with Sub Pop bands Beach House and Vetiver.

It’s safe to say this minor success is no cause for celebration. Most of Fading Parade is marked by a sadness more pervasive than any prior Papercuts release. Songs like the self-explanatory “I’ll See You Later I Guess” and “Marie Says You’ve Changed” are emotionally uncomfortable listens, with the reverb from sad chords resembling welling up tear ducts and lyrics astutely and wistfully observing disintegrated relationships. The piano-led sorrow of “Winter Daze” is indicative of its title as well, evoking a lonely night made heavy with snowfall and heartbreak. It could be that Fading Parade marks the revival of the ever-popular sad-bastard-indie genre, but the songs here are written and arranged gracefully– maybe even a little too gracefully at times.

But a song like “Wait Till I’m Dead” succeeds in its tasteful beauty with its chiming guitars, softly-tapped drums, and sugar-sweet harmonies. Opener “Do You Really Wanna Know” finds Quever’s voice characteristically being swathed in reverb, and uncharacteristically raising his voice during the high-flying chorus (which he does similarly on “Do What You Will”). “White Are the Waves” serves as a bridge between this record and You Can Have What You Want, with its slow, loose-snare drumming and dramatic arrangements.

By the time the clouds part during closer “Charades,” and its arpeggios lead way to the climactic finish of the record, the thirty-eight minutes of Fading Parade will have an impression that lasts much longer; one that lingers on in your subconscious. It may not have the same effect as an actual paper cut, but it’s far less nettlesome.

MP3: Papercuts-“Do You Really Wanna Know”

We rely on your support to keep POW alive. Please take a second to donate on Patreon!