Papercuts You Can Have What You Want

[Gnomonsong; 2009]

Styles: bedroom pop
Others: Beach House, Cass McCombs

Back with a third batch of somnambulant soliloquies, Jason Quever manages to mostly avoid the aural NyQuil and spin his quiet songs like secret thoughts, vulnerable and engaging to the voyeuristic listener. Indeed, at his best, Quever seems to be singing inside his own head, parsing images and personal thoughts as on “The Void”: “I will not lie/ The void looked like/ A flashing light/ A neon sign/ Overhead,” he sings, his voice distant and spectral. It feels as if we’re hardly supposed to hear him beside just a thin synthesizer melody drawn over a quietly insistent bass line.

Here is everything that is to be loved and hated about Papercuts. The soft, gauzy hymns demand close listening for any sort of reward, and even that is just a glimpse at a moment’s thoughts. We see a bit of Quever, and it’s pretty mundane. He’s just like us. And taking a step back into a casual listener’s shoes, there’s nothing even remotely resembling a hook. A subdued and generally pleasing timbre works in Papercuts’ favor, but it's hardly compelling.

Elsewhere, as in “Dead Love,” for instance, Quever injects a modicum of rhythmic energy by including drums and bringing his voice farther up in the mix, but the keyboard haze still provides the chords, and his voice stretches every syllable like a bored teenager stretches a strand of chewing gum. His elastic melodies become ethereal and hard to follow, again demanding close attention if we’re to catch his words. It’s as though he’s protecting himself from the listener.

Still, we can’t help but sympathize, just as we can’t help but pry into the songs, digging for the songwriter’s thoughts. You Can Have What You Want is an insular recording, but it invites us even as it turns a shoulder toward us. And that insecurity is what makes it compelling.

1. Once We Walked In The Sunlight
2. A Dictator’s Lament
3. The Machine Will Tell Us So
4. A Peculiar Hallelujah
5. Jet Plane
6. Dead Love
7. Future Primitive
8. You Can Have What You Want
9. The Void
10. The Wolf

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