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Posted on April 4th, 2011 (11:53 am) by Clayton Williamson

Don’t get me wrong; synthesizers, drum machines and samplers have allowed countless musicians to create full-bodied pieces of art while under the constraints of a tight budget or a lack of personnel. Unfortunately, the indie music world has been deeply saturated in synth pop bands for the past several years, mostly due to artists’ futile attempts to sound like Tears for Fears. Behold my surprise when a guitar-based quartet, the burger and fries of rock music, offered up a refreshing alternative: a live band orbiting around big melodies and the almighty riff.

Formerly known as EX~PO, the Toronto-based Papermaps employs a pinch of various genres (shoegaze, punk, and yes, a bit of synth) while exercising the energetic lightning of rock and roll underneath the Sparks music label. Though EX~PO was more or less a one-man band led by vocalist/producer Dean Marino, Papermaps was conceived as a creative democracy that succeeded in crafting some blatantly kick-ass tunes. The first half of their self-titled LP is a guitar-heavy bash of pop hooks, echoing licks and snarling aggression. The second half, well, isn’t as much fun to be around.

“Guitar’s alright but you can’t make a living” Marino sings on “Can’t Make A Living”, borrowing a famous phrase from John Lennon’s history to create the thundering centerpiece to this angry anti-anthem. Opener “Angela” starts life as a Doves song that never was, and “Complicate Things” is a raucous attack of dance rock delivered in a vocal deadpan calling back to Joy Division, being one of those rare songs that you wish didn’t end so quickly. With a punk drive and a chorus constructed like a ‘70s FM staple, “Exit” makes you hungry for the next killer. By this point, the album has only gotten better as these songs have progressed, but all that zest and fire evaporates once “Coddled” takes over.

Attempts are made to mix up the guitars, but the ivory-tinged buzz of “Coddled” is harsh without a payoff, and the EX~PO leftover “You Glided Down” is a gentle shoegazer that should be far more concerned with picking up the pace. The lullaby “Wishful Thinking” stakes a genuine emotional claim, but its power isn’t enough to save the closing half from sudden, unexpected lethargy.

When Papermaps are enjoying themselves, their self-titled debut is a blast, and the majority of its 35 minutes are indeed a bopping good time. They are proof that mind-bending innovation isn’t necessary for great music, since sometimes you just want to throw your fist in the air and sing along to honest tunes. For the most part, Papermaps are happy to oblige.

Track List:

1. Angela
2. Reunion
3. Can’t Make A Living
4. Forever
5. Complicated Things
6. Exit
7. Coddled
8. You Glided Down
9. Wishful Thinking
10. You Are My Gallows

papermaps album cover
Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

Our Rating

79 / 100
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