REVIEW: Papertwin - Vacation

Laura Kerry

At first, summer seems to creep in slowly, the forecast rising and falling in a steadily upward trend until every day is warm. Only in the last week, though, as the season has officially started, has real summer settled. The air hangs thickly now; the heat is tangible. Summer has arrived in New York.

This is the setting in which Brooklyn trio Papertwin have released their newest EP, the aptly-named Vacation—and like its home city at the moment, the album is dense with heat. In the years since their first release in 2011, band members Max Decker, Francis Cardinale, and Nick Shopa have perfected the art of creating warm synth pop. The roles listed on their Facebook page include two musicians focused on synthesizers and one dedicated to “programming” (as well as vocals, guitar, and drums), an indication of the seriousness with which they approach the largely-analogue synths that drive their ‘80s-influenced music. On the six-song EP, that seriousness pays off.

Throughout Vacation, Papertwin build their music around gorgeous synth sounds. Most of the voices call on tropes from electronic pop from over the last thirty years, but Papertwin also includes a few unconventional voices—the mallets in the tender “Montclair,” for example, and the accordion-like sound in beginning of “Grey Is the Color.” But even the familiar sounds are rich and reflect their creators’ meticulousness; from the reverberating percussion to the pulsing bass, bright synth, and many other voices that enter and leave throughout the course of the album, the band takes care with each voice in building their lush textures.

In music that is, at its surface, pop-oriented, these textures stand out. Underneath the wash of instruments, though, lie some fantastic hooks and vivid lyrics. More image- than narrative-based, the songs on Vacation unfold like dreams or uncertain memories. Sifting through the synth, you find these clear moments: “In the morning I look out / The sun against my face / The violence of a quiet room in fever pitch today” (“The Sheets Are Made of Skin and My Skin Is Cloth”); “I miss the loneliness that haunted you” (“Montclair”); and “Beneath these trees I'll believe in anything” (“Deluge”). Surfacing for a moment before disappearing again under the waves of synth, the lyrics appear like mirages through the sweltering haze.

If those lyrics are any indication, Papertwin operate in a less sunny, poppy realm than their music initially suggests. They hint at this at the end and beginning of each track, as they strip the main elements of each tune away and create instrumental lines that lead into the next song, reaffirming the care that the band takes with its music—from each voice up to the album as a whole, even in the transitional moments. Like late-June nights, there’s heat even in the darker moments on Vacation.