For fans of indie alt-rock in 2009, Paper Route was quite the treat. With elaborate melodies and meticulously stitched musicianship, the quartet's debut album on Universal Motown Records, Absence, was a deliciously received project from the start that only found more and more fans. Fast-forward three years to find the band one member fewer and without a home label, and things look pretty bleak for the talented group. But with these dreary conditions in the background, an album on the level of The Peace of Wild Things is just that much more unexpected… and incredibly appealing.
At first, The Peace of Wild Things feels like an odd follow-up to an album constructed like Absence. Paper Route made their moves convincingly with the tightly wound instrumentation in tracks like "Carousel," "Last Time," and "Are We All Forgotten," and this was a true distinctive for the band in the alternative rock circle to have their musicianship so intricate and collected. With this in mind, The Peace of Wild Things feels quite a bit simpler in its approach, and those who encounter it with certain expectations could be slightly staggered by its straightforward nature. Thankfully, this new songwriting philosophy doesn't hurt Paper Route's excellence much (if at all), as evidenced by its ten fine tracks. Some of the most notable moments include "Glass Heart Hymn," which begins and ends with murky bass-induced synths that crescendos up and treads down in one fluid motion. "Tamed" is a short and sweet breathy ballad to usher in the epic "Rabbit Holes," which boasts 80's style keyboards and trademark soaring vocals courtesy of JT Daly. For any possible shortcomings in complexity, there are enough moments of inspiration that keep The Peace of Wild Things savory and succulent on the musical side.
At the end of the day, the songs have to be strong, and each one in this collection fulfills that criterion. "Love Letters" starts things out with brisk percussion to get the album's blood pumping from the get-go, but it also introduces another noticeable change from prior precedent: more lyrical transparency. The Peace of Wild Things makes no mistake in opening up JT Daly's heart that's full of a longing for love, starting with the willingness to change behavior on the very first track, "Love Letters" ("I'll do anything it takes to get through/I can carry you to any distance/no one's ever gonna love you like I do/this time I'm different"). In the same thematic vein, "Better Life" and "You And I" come the closest to the true accessibility of a radio single, but they realistically look at broken relationships, looking for a way to bridge the emotional gaps ("I've waited for this/I'm the letter you never sent/I'm just a shot at forgiveness/all the words now taken back/in every way I need you/pull me through every memory you thread"). When it comes to soul-baring, however, "Letting You Let Go" is the prime example of brokenness after a failed relationship produces the true emotive apex of the album, "Standing in the doorway/I don't wanna hear a sound/If you gotta go then I'd go now/You always wanted the best around/So you messed around/On the blessed ground we stood/Well it's now or never"). It all ends on a hopeful note, however, as "Calm My Soul" yearns for the pain to subside and Daly's spirit to be filled once again in a powerful ode to close the album ("God, calm my soul…/I have walked behind for too long/now I will lead the way/I have strayed/strayed away").
Due to Paper Route's visible stylistic changes on The Peace of Wild Things, it's entirely possible that some older fans will have trouble buying into their new methods (if they haven't already), and though that's natural whenever changes like these are made, both old and new fans will do themselves a supreme service to investigate the album regardless. While clearly not the band they were three years ago, Paper Route carries a sound that's all their own, and this element hasn't changed in the slightest. It's still the case that no one else really sounds like them, and that, plus the sentiment and heartache lyrically evident, only adds to the enduring value of The Peace of Wild Things. If nothing else, Paper Route's still in the game of making truly unique, and heart-filled, music, and some of the year's best indie alt-rock at that.- Review date: 10/19/12, written by Roger Gelwicks of Jesusfreakhideout.com
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