It’s not hard to believe that every song on The Paper Kites’ sophomore album was penned between the hours of 12 and 4 a.m. The concept album, for which lead singer Sam Bentley reversed his sleep schedule for two months, is introspective and intimate, reflecting us in our most vulnerable state. The Australian band worked closely with Phil Ek (the legendary Grammy-nominated producer who has worked with countless other successful alternative/indie bands) to expand their sound, incorporating synth and electric guitar into their folk-centered melodies. twelvefour marks The Paper Kites’ second full-length album, though they have been at the forefront of the Australian folk scene since 2011, when their EP Woodland garnered public attention and critical praise.
The album opens with “Electric Indigo,” blossoming straightaway into an ’80s influenced atmosphere replete with layered synth and an electric guitar growl. Clearly, The Paper Kites are not shy about proving to listeners that they are willing to expand and revise their sound. The album progresses with alternating classic acoustic folk (“A Silent Cause”), late-night slow ballads (“Bleed Confusion,” “Turns Within Me, Turns Without Me”), and country-folk songs (“I’m Lying to You Cause I’m Lost,” “Woke Up From a Dream”). “Neon Crimson,” purportedly Bentley’s favorite track, is a slow and confidential acoustic number with Bentley crooning in your ear, supported at crucial moments by harmonies from Christina Lacy and David Powys. The final track, “Too Late,” is a six-minute synth-filled slow jam, closing the circle opened by “Electric Indigo” and finalizing the band’s departure from solely folk tracks.
Throughout the album, there is no sense of hurry or urgency in Bentley’s vocals; he is simply singing his thoughts aloud, and we as the listeners are sitting with him in a kind of predawn light. Half-awake and yet at your most lucid and creative is where The Paper Kites aims to put listeners with twelvefour, and I would say they succeed at this. When the final notes of the album trail off, you are left with a sense of nostalgia, as if returning from a long personal journey. The Paper Kites leave an impression with twelvefour that clearly states: this is where we came from, this is the road we’ve taken, and here is where we are now. I’ll be interested to hear where they decide to go next.
–review by Juliana Van Amsterdam