by Lexi Anderson
Capturing the elusive feeling of wistful longing, The Paper Kites’ new collaborative album Roses is chock-full of slow ballads that are bound to draw tears from any listener. From love songs reminiscent of the ‘80s to gentle acoustics, Roses is a full-ranging album that draws from every corner of The Paper Kites’ repertoire, skillfully matched with guest vocals to make a unique but unmistakably nostalgic project.
The Melbourne-based indie-folk band has been delivering quietly impactful albums since 2009, but Roses, their first collaborative album, uses female vocals in a way the band never has before. From Irish folk singer Rosie Carney to Australian singer-songwriter Ainslie Wills, The Paper Kites compile a wide-ranging, global list of collaborators that elevates the band’s already strong indie acoustic presence. Employing layered vocals and barely-there guitar to prompt visceral feelings of love and yearning, Roses is one of their strongest releases to date.
The central theme throughout the album, like many albums before it, is love. The way The Paper Kites approach it, however, is with a soft touch, commenting on the little moments of heartache and longing, each song infused with soulful lyrics and tasteful harmony. Roses as a whole is imbued with a sense of gentle sentimentality, a soundtrack to bittersweet memories. “Take Me Home (feat. Nadia Reid)” conjures the feeling of staring out of a car window, watching the scenery fly by while the mind wanders to a faraway love, while “Steal My Heart Away (feat. Ainslie Wills)” brings back memories of high school dances and young crushes with its synth-laden beat. Each song paints its own picture, drawing a distinct memory with its unique usage of vocals and melody.
Roses stands alone compared to The Paper Kites’ previous works. With their fifth studio album, the band has allowed themselves to break out of the mold of the upbeat, instrument-forward indie pop they have created in their previous albums and EPs. Incorporating imagery of flowers and roses, the writing on the album is more nuanced than their previous works. “Climb on your tears / like a ladder to a rose,” from the second track “Climb on Your Tears,” demonstrates pain through metaphor, employing slow melody and emotional vocals to make a moving, personal song. Even in their more upbeat tracks such as “Steal My Heart Away,” the lyrics carry the song: “And the light was creeping / down, down, down / While we were sleeping / Suddenly we hit the ground.” Each singer is paired with a track that uniquely compliments their voice, a decision that makes otherwise similar indie ballads stand uniquely on their own.
Though new to The Paper Kites, this genre of soft piano and introspective vocals isn’t new to the music scene. At times throughout the album, the lyrics seem to reach too far into the deep and philosophical, coming off as contrived instead of groundbreaking. Despite the slight pretentious hue that colors the album, Roses still stands as a beautiful example of its genre. Maybe the album isn’t redefining indie, but it’s doing what it does well.
With each track, including the acoustic exposition “Walk Above the City (feat. MARO)” and the quiet piano of the final track “By My Side (feat. Rosie Carney),” Roses delivers a soulful, beautiful depiction of love. Roses announces a new era for The Paper Kites, one focused on lyrics, vocals, and collaboration, which will define the band as both masterful and versatile.