Paper Thick Walls - A Thousand Novels
2011, Paper Thick Walls
2011, Paper Thick Walls
Paper Thick Walls had a busy year in 2010. The quintet of Eric Michaels (vocals/guitar/motif); Kate Schell (vocals/piano/trumpet); Roger Sherman (upright bass); Andrew Sabo (drums) and Jacques René (fiddle/mandolin/guitar) graced the stage at SXSW, NXNE and CMJ Music Marathon. In the process they came to the attention of sound engineer Mike Hagler (Wilco, Neko Case) with a sound that's been compared to Sufjan Stevens and Arcade Fire. Hagler took the boards to help Paper Thick Walls create their debut album, "A Thousand Novels", out May 3, 2011. Mixing intricate orchestral folk/pop arrangements with articulate tales born of fancy, Paper Thick Walls cut an intriguing musical path.
A Thousand Novels hits the ground with the lush folk/pop blend of "Old Weathered Dock". The song is a collection of visual mementos set to a catchy and quirky orchestrated arrangement. Between Kate Schell's exceedingly pleasant vocal lead, Eric Michaels' Peter Gabriel-esque secondary vocal and the airy, orchestrated arrangement, "Old Weathered Deck" is a breath of fresh air. "Sighs Of Relief" is a painted poem set to music about meeting someone new and falling in love, diverting into the healing power of love as an aside. It's a pretty, piano-based tune fleshed out into full, layered orchestration. Schell and Michaels duet on "Orange Tree", an optimistic song sung on the run from the law. This memorable tale matches an occasionally bitter circumstance against a sweet and dreamy arrangement that reflects the unreality of the situation. Don't be surprised if you fall in love with the chorus on first listen.
"Nyquil" is quasi-psychedelic folk, extolling the beauty of one to a host of heavenly bodies. The song has an odd-yet-charming quality wrapped up in its abstract exploration of consequence. "A Thousand Novels" is a love story of two people torn apart by war. This is not your typical song of love overcoming any circumstance unless you're into the metaphysical outcome. The focus here is how love will be memorialized, and is touching if a bit out of the ordinary. "Desolate Place" explores the transformation of a relationship's aftermath into rebuilding. The musical arrangement parallels the story in loneliness and loss with an intriguing theatrical feel in spite of the almost ethereal melancholy that pervades the song.
"Portrait" is a duet about love and beauty in the abstract, as it exists in our minds but oft times not in our realities. The media here are paintings, words and memories, but the connection evades in a gorgeous arrangement born of guitar, percussion and bass. "Overgrown" is a catchy acoustic rocker that finds Eric Michaels out in front. It's a solid love song that's a bit wordy for its own good, but overcomes this with a pragmatic and catchy arrangement that grabs your attention. Paper Thick Walls say goodnight with "Infinite", a number that vacillates between introspective, depressive verses and a jaunty chorus. The mix is jarring, but works well as varying motifs on the theme of falling apart.
Like Belle And Sebastien before them, Paper Thick Walls have found a sound that is both articulate in composition and lyrically melodic. The converse is so obvious it need not be stated. A Thousand Walls sucks listeners in the way a great book envelopes your mind. Musically, lyrically and dramatically, Paper Thick Walls challenge listeners to listen actively and participate on an intellectual and emotional level. A Thousand Walls will keep you coming back for more.
Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)