Those beautifully contemplative hours between midnight and 4am. As someone who was born just after 2am and has been an incurable night owl ever since, I can deeply appreciate the concept behind Melbourne quintet The Paper Kites’ latest album, twelvefour. Given that title because it was written and recorded entirely between those hours, allegedly the creative peak of humans, it’s a lush and gorgeous soundscape and one that will have you up until all hours mulling your innermost thoughts over.
If you want a little background on The Paper Kites and the concept behind twelvefour before you dive headfirst into it, check out our in-depth interview with frontman Sam Bentley last month.
twelvefour opens in breathtaking fashion with the beautiful Electric Indigo. Released as the lead single earlier this year, Triple J latched onto it immediately and the tune has been on regular rotation since. Words do little justice to how amazing a song this is. No other song released this year has been more meaningful for me, those gorgeous electric guitar interludes, that mesmerising drumbeat and of course a chorus that sounds so effortless and is so evocative at the same time. There hasn’t been a night gone by since its release that I haven’t played this song and it sets up the album to come ever so nicely.
Renegade finds The Paper Kites treading familiar and more acoustic waters, sounding far more organic than Electric Indigo with gentle strumming and a cleaner sound overall, though still maintaining the pleasant sound of an electric guitar creeping around in the background.
Bleed Confusion begins with a haunting piano riff, Bentley’s voice soft as a cloud over the top before the backbeat kicks in and gives the song some extra bite. The chorus is oh so mellow and calming, the vocal harmonies between Bentley and Christina Lacy intermingling wonderfully.
Revelator Eyes is the second single from the album, picking up the pace and sounding very new wave with some very deep synths accompanying a backbeat that propels the song forward. Yet more atmospheric electric guitar gliding along in the background with a chorus that sticks. It’s perhaps the boldest moment on the entire album and it has paid off in a song that is sonically delicious and memorable as hell.
Neon Crimson dials back the pace again, acoustic and electric guitars choreographed exquisitely together around the feather soft vocals of Bentley. It’s the sound of a still winter’s night and it’s little wonder Bentley declared it his favourite song from the album in our interview.
I’m Lying To You Cause I’m Lost is as old time country as its title suggests. That classic chord progression coupled with electric guitar that twangs noticeably here, lending itself marvelously to the song splitting solo, as The Paper Kites get diverse and explore yet another musical direction. There’s even a harmonica solo to play out the song but none of it feels out of place.
A Silent Cause is the same kind of delicate and minimalistic acoustic folk ballad that The Paper Kites have made a living off of since their inception in 2010. Again, the vocal harmonies between Bentley and Lacy are perfectly intertwined to create an ethereal atmosphere. Woke Up From A Dream finds electric and acoustic guitars locking horns again, for another country-style number with a dash of some smokey blues, dueling guitar and harmonica solos the undisputed highlight.
Turns Within Me, Turns Without Me is another largely acoustic ballad and the penultimate track. Closing out the album with unadulterated panache is Too Late, and is possibly Bentley’s finest vocal performance saved for last. That same stunningly haunting electric guitar is here, interjected by bold piano chords and Bentley’s voice lilting masterfully across the entire song. By the time you get through a weeping guitar solo and the song builds to its final emphatic chorus you’d be forgiven for shedding a tear. What a breathtaking end to such a diverse and wonderful album.
Not only have The Paper Kites stepped up to the plate to follow up their debut full length, States, they have planted their feet and belted it out of the park. They’ve created a perfect blend of electric and organic and taken a wander down more than a few musical forks in the road, without ever once feeling out of their depth, to create a bonechilling concept record that will have you up all night in contemplation. If you find yourself so deep in thought that you’re unable to find the peace of sleep, twelvefour is the perfect accompaniment.
twelvefour is out now via Wonderlick Recording Company. Tickets for their Australian and New Zealand tour are onsale via their website.