by Juliana Van Amsterdam
The effect that mid-level fame has on artists is fascinating. Everyone knows about the zero-to-hero stories, the shooting stars who burn out as quickly as they rise, but little attention is paid to bands who consistently put out pretty good material and slowly build up a fan base over many years. The Paper Kites are a perfect example of this mysterious latter category. Based out of Melbourne, they have been on the indie scene now for the better part of the decade, and have recently built a pretty solid fan base in the U.S. since the 2013 release of their debut LP, States.
The Paper Kites completed their first North American tour after the 2015 release of twelvefour, which was produced by the prominent American producer Phil Ek. Along the way, they garnered a solid reputation among North American fans, which led to a frequent touring schedule, keeping them from their loved ones back home. On The Corner Where You Live, which was created as a book-end their other 2018 release, On The Train Ride Home, is a reflection of the mid-level fame mindset: trying to strike a balance between setting down roots and pursuing your artistic dream.
Musically, the album presents as an extension of twelvefour’s moody, slow-burner aesthetic, but now with the occasional heavy-handed 80’s pop ballad. The Paper Kites started out as a folk-centric band, and certain tracks (‘Flashes’) feature acoustic guitar; for the majority of On The Corner Where You Live, however, heavily-produced electric guitar and drum tracks dominate. The Paper Kites’ sound is tight and cohesive, but is somewhat lacking the rawness and ingenuity of twelvefour; tracks begin to bleed into one another towards the middle of the album, and never quite reach the mark of melancholy, wistful reflection.
The album does open and close on a strong note: ‘Give Me Your Fire, Give Me Your Rain’ comes in with a bang after the unnecessary intro track, ‘A Gathering on 57th,’ shaking away the cobwebs from the band’s three-year hiatus. ‘Don’t Keep Driving’ is another gem, a simmering track that plays to the band’s strengths and redeems the album’s more middle-of-the-road tracks.
Sam Bentley is a creative and talented front-man, with a knack for storytelling and incorporating concepts into his work. He wrote both 2018 releases during a year-long break in between tours, and most of the tracks were penned while he was working night shifts at a local Melbourne movie theatre; ‘Midtown Waitress’ reflects this cinematic influence as the one narrative-based track. Yet he seems to have fallen on familiar, unimaginative tropes for On The Corner Where You Live; the tracks are comforting, almost cocoon-like, but never quite fully engage the listener.