Since 2004, the Nashville-based Paper Route has been somewhat of an enigma. After the demise of previous act For All The Drifters, Chad Howat and company built themselves from the ground up, painstakingly putting their musical creations together late at night in the bedrooms of a hundred-year-old house. Absence is the first "real" Paper Route album, as it utilizes four band members, twelve songs, and the Universal Motown record label. While the band has never lacked in musical quality thus far, the combination of all of the above makes Absence a truly groundbreaking recording.
The slightly Depeche Mode-esque "Enemy Among Us" begins the album on a relaxed, albeit intricate, note. The catchy "Wish" comes next, using every possible trick in the book to keep the lyrics in your head for days to come. "Carousel," the album's music video single, is actually an older song, having originally surfaced as a demo on Paper Route's Myspace a year or two ago. Further down the line is the dissonant "Tiger Teeth" and a truly epic "Last Time," which is very nearly a Mute Math Reset-era resurrection. Other instant stand-out tracks include "Gutter," and another older song, "Are We All Forgotten," which arguably contains some of the best lyrics of the album ("I still believe forgiveness comes with love and God when it washes over me..."). The last two pieces of the album, "Lover's Anthem" and "Dance On Our Graves" are more like compositions than songs, with the former in particular being delicately constructed of orchestral arrangements.
In stark contrast to some of Paper Route's earlier material, Absence has very few Americana-meets-electronica aspirations. While this change doesn't necessarily add or take away from the band's originality, the success of the album proves that Paper Route has what it takes to create wonderful music no matter what instruments are used. The best way to listen to Absence is, undoubtedly, carefully. Each song literally creates textures of music, and every note has a place in the whole of the album.
Absence could very well be considered a masterpiece. And as is the case with every masterpiece, it may not work for everyone. If you are looking for only catchy choruses or the typical spiritual phrases, you probably won't find them. That is to say, there are plenty of singable and faith-based lines, but they're undeniably complex. Absence will make you think long and hard about what you've just heard, so don't expect light listening. In a way, that's the beauty of Paper Route-- the art and the creation of the music is what the band members have always been after, and they've surely pulled it off here. Absence is a shining light in the Christian music industry, demonstrating that both musical and lyrical credibility is possible in all markets. It seems that Absence really does make the heart grow fonder.- Review date: 12/16/09, written by Garrett DeRossett of Jesusfreakhideout.com
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