Paper Aeroplanes – JOY

JOYIn 2013, critics were left smitten over the rustic and earthy tones of Paper Aeroplanes’ third album, Little Letters. Now, the Welsh alternative folk ensemble have returned with JOY, in which they take their acclaimed and homely sound out into the realms of experimentation.

The title track from JOY is an ecstatic piece of folk indie, with metallic chimes and erratic percussion sections that provide a sense of pace and freshness. Paper Aeroplanes let this sound flourish and breathe, creating moments of engaging, uninterrupted instrumentation. When lead vocalist Sarah Howells does appear, her performance is very…sugary. Big reverberated shouts of the letters “A-E-I-O-U” not only remind us of the importance of knowing our vowels, but also give the track a broader, electronic resonance; a slight pull away from the traditional folk sounds that fans have become accustomed to.

Fifth cut of the album "Emily" shows a similar push towards a more contemporary vision. The ghostly, rattled energy and twinkling guitar riffs are not a far cry from Plans-era Death Cab for Cutie. Keep an eye out for the bridge around the 2:20 mark, as Howells steals the show with an elegant vocal performance; effortlessly dipping in and out of falsetto.

"Books" is the weakest moment of the album, with saccharin sweet vocals that could potentially alienate fans of grittier folk. Juxtaposed against the rawness of the following track "Race You Home", the cleanliness of the instrumentation comes across as synthetic, and holds the album back in terms of it’s experimental drive. Said experimentation is perhaps at its clearest in the penultimate piece, "Placebos". A gentle electronic kit and glowing synths make for some cloudy trip hop, that allows the stability, and depth of Michael Schulte’s guest vocals to bleed through; a thoughtful addition to the album.

JOY is a very promising release from an outfit that have bravely strayed from their comfort zone. Granted, there are fleeting moments that feel misjudged, however, when they do find their footing, Paper Aeroplanes have the ability to create some charming, and stirring results.

Release: 8th April 2015, My First Records

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