Paper Tongues – Self-Titled: Review

One evening in February, I embarked to the House of Blues in downtown Chicago to see Switchfoot, a old favorite performing in support of their new record Hello Hurricane. I checked the House of Blues website a couple of days beforehand to see who the opening act was, and saw that it was this band I had never heard of…

Fast forward to the night of the show, and I am standing in the “pit” prepared to suffer through a band that surely must be yawn-inducing compared to Switchfoot…right? Well though needless to say I was unfamiliar with their material they held my attention, especially with frontman Aswan North’s ability to be charismatic and humble at the same time. Following the show, some venue staff was handing out flyers of a link to get a free download of their first single, “Trinity.” I got home, took advantage of the opportunity, and I had the rest of their debut shortly after it released.

Paper Tongues aren’t your typical band. For one, they have seven members on stage, which combined with their frontman’s pipes, fro and charisma make for a spectacle. Secondly, they have a love affair with fusing multiple genres, getting what’s I would call soulful dance-rock with a hint of hip hop.  I was shocked to learn they had been discovered by none other than Randy Jackson, since they still aren’t really that big yet.

The album is full of what could be summer anthems (not lyrically, but musically it fits in my book) with such rockers as “Ride to California” and “Everybody” that are sure to get any crowd moving.  Some more ballad-y type songs are present too (see “What If”) but these are really more mid-tempo that true ballads. I’m not much of an R&B guy but I love the groove Paper Tongues brings. Some spirituality is present too, most notably in “Trinity” and “Get Higher” which too my delight was recently added to RadioU’s playlist, getting them some deserved radio airplay.  Another thing that I can’t ignore are Aswan North’s pipes. Man, can that guy sing! And the guys doing backup aren’t too bad either.  The vocals are a bit comparable to what one hear from Coheed and Cambria but moved from a prog-rock to that distinctive Paper Tongues sound I described earlier. The only low point on the album is  the final track, “Love Like You” which I dislike more because its not really my cup of tea than because of it being bad music. Another area of potential improvement is its potential versatility. One would think that with with seven members they could do a bit more with their sound than what is heard.  Especially in the more mellow songs, I find myself wondering if it really takes that many people to pull off what I am hearing (which it may, though I love music I am not a musical person, per se).

In short, Paper Tongues are a group that successfully is able to reach out to many different musical audiences and are catchy and fun, whether in a live setting or not. You’d do yourself a favor to check them out.

4/5 stars.

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