When I was a wide-eyed teenager (well, fully-dilated, let’s say that), I heard one of the greatest Rock songs I’d ever experienced on the radio, a slamming Pub Rock anthem called “Hi Honey Ho” by a completely unknown band named Daddy Cool. Soon after, I happened upon a mention of the band in an issue of Billboard and discovered that Daddy Cool was, in fact, an Australian band and hugely popular Down Under. My ongoing musical education uncovered the cogent realization that some of the best and strangest Rock sounds were being produced in Australia — Split Enz, The Triffids, The Clean, The Chills … the list went and continues to go on.
The Paper Kites is yet another sterling example of traditional and contemporary musical influences refracted through the unique Antipodean lens. At its heart, The Paper Kites’ sound is rooted in traditionally tinged but modern Folk Rock, but not the sea shanty yo-ho-ho-ism of Mumford & Sons or The Lumineers. The Paper Kites create a palpably quiet atmosphere, like Brian Eno at his most aggressively Ambient, in the service of songs that shimmer with a hushed power, like a humming, city-energizing dynamo. On the band’s two albums — 2013’s States and last year’s twelvefour — The Paper Kites exude a gentle yet visceral force that suggests U2 and The Cranberries time-tunneling to ’60s New York and San Francisco to absorb their respective scenes’ Folk vibe, then hitting the U.K. to catch some rare Nick Drake gigs before returning to the present to assimilate it all into a beautiful soundtrack suitable for clubs and cathedrals.
The dynamic between co-vocalists Sam Bentley and Christina Lacy hearkens back to the earliest Folk singers sharing a mic at center stage, but with an electric modernity that is hair-raising in its intensity. The Melbourne quintet made a big impression with its first two EPs and debut full-length, but twelvefour — a concept piece centered on the idea that creativity peaks between midnight and 4 a.m. — amplified all of its best elements into an album that swells with the immutable impact of the incoming tide.
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