Keeping the Bay Area indie pop scene strong, local San Francisco band Papercuts added its new album Parallel Universe Blues to its repertoire last weekend. As the one-man-band’s sixth release, this record is a hippie jewel mixed with a new shoegaze influence coming from the heavier addition of synth instrumentals and less clean-cut-sounding vocals.
The album starts off with “Mattress on the Floor,” a busy tune filled with spacey chords, static background noises and a chorus of vocals. The lyrics, “Welcome to the place / Let down your briefcase / Pour yourself a shot / Whatever we’ve got,” give a sense of complacency to the opening story. The flat tone of the vocals accentuates the narrative — something seems off, but still well put-together.
“Laughing Man” shifts the mood, providing an upbeat guitar tone while maintaining the raw brassiness of the band’s instrumentals. This song sounds like it was heavily inspired by the 1980s alternative scene, the vocals sounding distant and backed by clouds of harmonies.
Starting off in a fun but quick drum roll, “Sing to Me Candy” brings breathy vocals to the album, reminiscent of The Smiths and other jangle pop icons. As the longest song on the album, it exudes dream-pop vibes with its euphoric melodies and sonic guitar solos. The song features a long, extended instrumental section toward the end, but these breaks give a moment for listeners to relax to the groove.
“Clean Living” is more folky than the songs preceding it, mostly because of the added violin backing and cleaner guitar lines. The instrumentals appropriately match the theme of the track, since they are significantly brighter and reflect the “clean” tone of the song. The song seems like it’s consistently building toward something as a result of the suspenseful, driving drum beat. Instead, it ends in a light boom with fizzed-out instruments.
The most lively track on Parallel Universe Blues is “Kathleen Says,” which features cheery tambourine hits, more dynamism and a powerful choral backing for the climactic moments of the song. “Walk Backwards” furthers this faster pace, shifting the tone of the album from shoegaze wonder to a more solid indie-pop sound.
A more dissonant track, “Waking Up” starts with an interesting tone of distorted guitar chords. The lyrics to this song are a bit darker, detailing how hard it can be to wake up when you’re “lost in a dream” and “don’t know how to scream.”
The album as a whole combines somber lyrics with quick drums and heavy synth guitar, reflecting the sentiment of the album title. Normally, blues tunes can be identified by their distinct chords and warmer tones, but this album takes on a more hippie vibe with the tambourine twang, lack of bass and organic vocal inflection.
Papercuts may sound like it contains a complex range of talent from a variety of people, but the band actually boils down to one key member: Jason Robert Quever. Quever, originally from Humboldt County, California, releases albums as solo projects featuring guest musicians to accompany his vision.
The album may have taken four years of waiting from any fans of the collaborative band, but the product is a beautiful amalgamation of songs perfect for swaying with closed eyes and relieving My Bloody Valentine nostalgia.