The Paper Kites released their first EP, Woodland, in 2010, and their first studio album, States, in 2013. Over the years their musical style has developed from sweet acoustic-folk to more synth based ambient pop, and their latest album, On The Corner Where You Live (2018), brims with 80s synths and smooth guitar riffs; a fine display of how they have evolved as a band, producing an absolute corker of a record in the process.
The album opens with a short instrumental track, ‘A Gathering on 57th’. I hear a train as it makes it way down the tracks. I’m lost in the city and there are sirens ringing out in the distance. I’m in a bar and the lights are low. It is a culmination of moods and tones, setting the album up through soft piano and a sultry saxophone. Within 90 seconds I am drawn in before being led seamlessly into the next track, ‘Give Me Your Fire, Give Me Your Rain’. A steady, punching rhythm and soaring electric guitar carry me through a waterfall of sound reminiscent of 1980s’ Toto. Lead vocalist Sam Bentley sings with emotion, his voice slightly raw with a longing reflected in the chorus.
‘Deep Burn Blue’ hits out with the same strength and band members Christina Lacy and David Powys provide backing vocals and harmonies that sync perfectly with Bentley’s. On track four, Lacy leads, introducing us to her sweet, drifting vocals. The guitar is trickled throughout creating a soft, mellow rhythm, and retaining the same underlying sequence of chords gives the song a sense of nostalgia, of another time that we can only remember.
The tempo slows for ‘Flashes’ and ‘Red Light’. These two tracks slot very neatly into the middle of this 11-track album. ‘Flashes’ is subtle and undemanding; there is a risk of it getting lost amongst the other songs, but it does have its place – a good album is bound to have variety. ‘Red Light’ is another slow number. It makes me think of late nights; those journey’s home, be it on a bus, train, or in a taxi. You sit within velvet shadows, gazing out of the window while the night passes, the yellow glow of streetlamps scattering across the glass. Towards the end of the track, a lulling guitar solo plays out and the song fades. You close your eyes and rest your head against the window.
We are only given a second before we are plunged back into the upbeat and driven ‘On The Corner Where You Live’, which carries a strong 80s influence. The guitar riff is powerful and memorable, and this song also includes chimes (what I like to call ‘sprinkles’) and they embellish parts of the song like glitter. The bass travels up the frets, giving the track a lift and a feeling that can make your skin tingle. Though it’s a close call between all of the other tracks, this is my favourite on the album. I can’t help but feel that Bentley’s vocal style contains similar traits to that of Richard Marx. They both have that balance between edge and emotion.
‘When It Hurts You’ maintains the 80s vibe, and the chorus is catchy. ‘Does It Ever Cross Your Mind’ is, instead, a song to wallow to. A melancholy piano supports the lyrics, with Bentley singing:
“Driving through this town
And I remember how it feels
But do I ever cross your mind?
This combination evokes nostalgia, and I find myself thinking, and feeling kind of sad. I confess, it’s one of those songs that we as human beings can relate to and interpret in our own way. It’s sweet. Perfect to add to the playlist you listen to while staring out at the rain and…wallowing. We all need it sometimes.
‘Don’t Keep Driving’ rounds off the album. I indulge in its eerie romantic feel and electric guitar that is silky smooth and rings with a not so subtle reverb. When Bentley starts singing, and the full chord progression is revealed, I pick up on the element of melancholy that lies within them. The song builds. Towards the end, the lyrics ‘don’t push me away,’ repeat softly like a mantra, leading into a guitar solo that twirls and sways through the final minute before fading out. In the way this record starts and sets the scene and mood, this final track is effective in bringing it all to a close. I’m cruising through those dark city streets once again; the city lights aglow behind my eyes.
Completing the band is Josh Bentley on drums and Sam Rasmussen on bass and synth. To my ears, this five-piece are stronger than ever and have really nailed their sound – the cover art for this album is a gorgeous reflection of it and provides a kick start to the evocative imagery each song generates. ‘On The Corner Where You Live’ delicately picked me up and placed me into a space where I could only listen and feel. To me, that’s what music is about, and I can’t wait to hear what they do next.