Personnel: Ryan Jennings (vocals, guitar, flute, piano, harpsichord); Peter Stringer-Hye (vocals, guitar, organ); Noa Jacobson, Jonas Talbott, Ivey Netsch, Hayden Cash, Elsa Netsch, Ella Cash, Cy Jacobson (vocals); Luke Schneider (steel guitar); Asher Horton (cello); Matt McQueen (organ); Calvin Laporte, Dylan Simon (synthesizer); Walker Mimms (drums).
Audio Mixer: Cooper Crain.
Recording information: Nashville (06/2014-07/2014).
Photographers: Bekah Cope; Walker Mimms.
The Paperhead's third album, 2014's Africa Avenue, is stuck so deeply in the '60s that you'd need a jackhammer and a forklift to get it out. It would be worthwhile, since the Nashville quartet do a wonderful job of re-creating the sounds and feels of the best parts of the decade. Willowy folk-pop that sounds borrowed from Donovan's songbook meets up with twirling psychedelic pop singles, and Who-styled rave-ups smash and bash next to multi-layered Pink Floyd-with-Syd progressive pop. It's nothing that hasn't been done before by the original garage pop-psych bands or the trail of revivalists who have popped up like mushrooms in their wake, from the Chesterfield Kings to the Dukes of Stratosphear to Jacco Gardner. The Paperhead prove to be among the most successful of these, thanks to their careful arrangements and mastery over getting sounds that echo exactly the styles they're trying to rebroadcast, but most of all it's thanks to the songs. Whether hooking you right away with sing-song choruses (the pro-Jack Ruby "Eye for an Eye"), reeling you in with driving beats and a tight melody ("Nasty Girl"), or the insistent jangle pop of "The Avenue," which kicks the record off in fine fashion, the band have a sure-handed way with a hook. The melancholy and autumnal tracks that dot the album like leaf piles show that the band have the ability to craft some pretty and lingering moods. Check "Frustration" or "This Old House" for sterling examples. Not content to stick to just playing top-notch psych pop, the band stretch a little and lay down a few surprises, like the cosmic, Beachwood Sparks-y country ballad "Mother May" or the drum machine-driven, bossa nova-pysch interlude "New Trend," to keep listeners on their toes. it's not easy to faithfully re-create an era without giving it fully to its conventions and becoming nothing more than a nostalgia machine, cranking out one pastiche after another. The Paperhead certainly avoid doing that here and, with this album, show themselves to be one of the better modern-day practitioners of all things psych and pop. ~ Tim Sendra