Nashville indie-rock trio Paper Route (JT Daly, Chad Howat, and Nick Aranda) is back at it again with their latest release, Real Emotion. Just over four years since the release of the band’s sophomore album, The Peace of Wild Things, Paper Route’s latest release could be described simply as both energetic and ethereal. Today, Slope Media Group has the pleasure of reviewing the band’s latest work in advance of its September 23rd release from Kemosabe Records/Sony.
A few years out of the studio have given the band the opportunity to experiment with their sound; the end result demonstrates a clear evolution derived from their previous music. At the same time, the album is full of twists and turns that–while undeniably “Paper Route”–are a far progression from the sound the band once embodied.
The airy choir vocals of “Intro” starts the album off on an almost deceptive note of what to expect in terms of musical style, but a clear foreshadowing of the album’s lyrical content. As the album transitions into the onset of “Writing on the Wall,” the track wastes no time in emitting a high-energy feel and sense of urgency – a striking juxtaposition with the soothing voices of the choir heard only seconds before. While at times the distorted vocals in the chorus can seem a bit too muddied, the song manages to effectively open the album in a way that both pulls the listener in and holds their attention.
Throughout the course of the album, Paper Route takes the listener on a whirlwind experience. Songs such as “Chariots” (the album’s second single and the exclusive trailer track of FIFA 2017) carry a dynamic sound throughout, only to quickly snap back into tracks that could be considered to be near-polar opposites. In the case of “Chariots,” the follow-up track “Untitled” echoes the lyrical prose of “Intro,” this time sung by Daly with backing vocals of the choir heard earlier. Whereas “Chariots” hits all at once, “Untitled” builds slowly, gradually adding layer after layer, ultimately culminating in a coda rich with texture.
In albums of similar length, tracks serving as essentially filler-space are often sandwiched between the album’s radio singles, failing to be gripping enough to maintain substantial interest. Not so in Real Emotion. After the instrumental segue that is “Blue Collar Daydream,” the album’s title track manages to maintain the vitality of the album, even despite its moderate tempo. In particular, the album’s namesake brings to mind the likes of Coldplay and U2, with Daly’s vocal prowess being utilized as a powerful instrument to express, well, real emotion. And not to leave things hanging, “Mona Lisa” follows up in a solid one-two punch fashion. The chorus “You think you’re Mona Lisa, just hanging around / You’re high enough for both of us and not coming down” delivers a stuck-in-your-head melody that is certain to make the song a fan-favorite.
Ending off the middle portion of the album is the band’s first single off the new release, “Laugh About It.” While the tracks starts off on the slower side, upon hitting the chorus it explodes in energy and excitement before the final third of the album switches gears towards a calmer, more calculated place. As the segue “Lara” builds into “Zhivago,” the lyrical simplicity of the song simultaneously creates a sense of curiosity and wonder – who or what is Zhivago? Ultimately the song projects the theme of Real Emotion as “about mental health. Healing, moving on, learning to love intimately and not just from afar” as Daly explained in an interview with All Access Music earlier this month. “It’s a very honest album.”
In closing, the tracks of the album become more and more simplistic, showcasing the ability of even the most basic instrumentals, vocals and lyrics to communicate grand themes and ideas, and of course, real emotion. While throughout the album some songs can and do get lost amongst the mix, “Real Emotion” remains packed with quality music. All in all, tracks tend to be lost not because they are poor quality but, with sixteen tracks, are lost rather due to the overall length of the album. Overall, with their third album release, Paper Route has shown substantial maturation and progress in their overall sound, demonstrating a real potential to see their music catch on in the alternative music market.
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