Release Date: May 6, 2014
Record label: Welk
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Indie Pop, Alternative Singer/Songwriter
The contemporary notion of the singer-songwriter seems to be one more focused on conveying a sense of emotion rather than of lyrical relatability. Gone are the days of storytellers focused on moving people with their words, replaced by musicians acting under the singer-songwriter guise who place greater emphasis on melody and their ability to convey certain emotions through the sounds, rather than the words, coming out of their mouths. It’s as though we’ve reached the end of lyrical expression in terms of conveying deep-seeded sentiments and have to, instead, rely on a more visceral, aural palette of sonic shapes and sounds in order to properly convey 21st century-specific emotions that seem beyond the grasp of language.
Given the hardships of Jason Quever's story so far, Life Among the Savages feels like an appropriate title for Papercuts' fourth studio recording. The San Francisco-born songwriter has always done things the hard way—sometimes by choice, sometimes by cruel twists of fate—and his latest LP suggests his struggles are unlikely to end any time soon. .
It seems like a lifetime ago that Papercuts’ Can’t Go Back received a Best New Music tag from Pitchfork. Hell, it seems like that long since the musical climate allowed for bands like Papercuts to get attention, period. Since that time came and went, Papercuts has quietly released a couple albums, including the strong but ignored Fading Parade for Sub Pop, and its sole fixture Jason Quever has excelled at producing albums for his friends new and old.
One of the main pleasures of listening to a Papercuts album is the care and feeding the band's chief architect, Jason Quever, puts into the arrangements. His skills at layering sounds and creating dreamily soft atmospheres have not only made his own albums a candy-tasting treat, but also led to him being an in-demand producer. Papercuts' most recent album before this, 2011's Fading Parade, was the group's masterpiece.
Jason Quever has been writing and recording as Papercuts for well over a decade at this point, fleshing out his take on the last 50 years of oft-dreamy, pillow-soft pop-rock. His gaze spans from the Velvet Underground to contemporaries like Grizzly Bear and Beach House—the latter’s guitarist, Alex Scally, is an occasional collaborator—and he filters the sounds of these groups using his voice, a woolly and versatile instrument that moves from breathy melancholy to a lapsed choirboy falsetto with ease. Quever’s new full-length, Life Among the Savages, places a spotlight on his skills as a producer and arranger playing with several new variations on his warm, woodsy music.
The fifth album from San Francisco’s Papercuts is lush, reflecting the classic pop ambition of sole permanent member Jason Quever. Anyone describing it as ‘lo-fi’ ought to expect a call from the genre gendarmes, because even though ‘Life…’ was recorded on a 16-track reel-to-reel, Quever is going great guns to make ‘Life Among The Savages’ a triumph of vision, not studio trickery. To a degree, he succeeds: the nine songs here could have been recorded in 1968.
It’s almost fifteen years since Jason Quever first started working under the Papercuts moniker. He’s now delivered a new record every second or third year since the mid-00s, in-between working on friends’ projects and recording acts like Beach House.‘Life Among the Savages’ is the fifth official Papercuts record, the follow-up to 2011’s ‘Fading Parade’. On ‘Life Among the Savages’ we find a more refined, more focused Papercuts than before – with Quever’s hushed vocals floating over a backdrop of lush folk pop.
Now six LPs in, Papercuts — a.k.a., singer/songwriter/arranger Jason Quever —has been an outlier in the new-century San Francisco scene. Eschewing the gritty garage punk of Ty Segall and Thee Oh Sees as steadily as he’s steered clear of the more bombastic psychedelia of Wooden Shjips or Sleepy City, Quever’s put pop craft at the top of his checklist since debuting with 2000’s Rejoicing Songs. But by those early lo-fi standards, the songs on Life Among the Savages are Quever’s most ambitious set yet.