Dealing with overwhelming emotions is an all too familiar task for Jason Robert Quever, the mastermind behind Papercuts. The San Francisco-based singer, songwriter, producer and engineer can trace his beginnings in these endeavors to the time immediately following his mother’s death — an event that orphaned him. His first 4-track recorder, purchased soon afterward, was surely a mechanism to help him cope with the past, but turned out to also be an inspirational tool that guided his future.
On the Papercuts’ new album Life Among the Savages, a maturity is present that can only come from years of overcoming tough circumstances and trying to understand the feelings that follow.
Quever has a history of collaborating with artists, such as Vetiver, Cass McCombs and Beach House, to create unique sounds that define the recordings for many listeners. With Savages, he appears to have reached a “sound pinnacle” of sorts that could very well extend his music to a much broader audience, much like Teen Dream did for Beach House. These songs are musical landscapes in the truest sense. There’s a lot to take in and process — the melancholy of confusion coupled with the joy of ignorance — but there’s a certain wonder throughout.
“Still Knocking At The Door,” the record’s opening track, sets the tone perfectly. Quever’s vocals are effortless and breathy but also reach an intensity at times that creates tension, only to gently release the listener back into the relaxed groove. The song, along with the memorable track “Family Portrait,” is a little loose and carefree. These tunes have a weightlessness to them that keep the surrounding numbers afloat.
There’s a portion of this record that stays just out of reach. “Easter Morning” and “Psychic Friends” — the sixth and seventh tracks on the album, respectively — can never be completely grasped. Both songs are hypnotic and lull you into a sort of stupor before you can completely wrap your head around them.
“Afterlife Blues” brings you out of the hypnotic wilderness. There’s an attitude shift towards one of acceptance and wonderment at just how little we know about ourselves. The opening line of “Tourist,” the climactic finishing number on the record, sums up the journey that has been taken on Savages:
It’s such a lovely day For taking a stroll Down the rabbit hole.
By and large, these are great pop songs full of meaning and heart. Although the record pushes the listener towards the abyss, it has a gravity that keeps you just close enough to reality as to begin to understand its theme. Quever seems to be saying that life can be so amazing if we can simply let go of constructed barriers. Towards the beginning of the album’s title track, he sings, “Just leave me here, I don’t want to go.” This is a feeling we all know. Don’t ask me to the rock the boat of my day-to-day life. I don’t want to know what else is out there.
But what happens when we do let go? Are we enlightened to more happiness? Do the people we’ve left behind try to pull us back? “I can hear you calling me… back to the shore,” Jason sings later in the title track. Is it ever truly possible to let everything and everyone go and drift off into the vacuum? These are certainly worthwhile questions that Papercuts inspires, and the hardest ones in the world to answer.
Life Among the Savages will be released May 6 via Easy Sound Recording Co. (in the U.S.). To purchase the album, visit easysoundrecordingcompany.com.