Papercuts’ Jason Quever has continually made music that demands attention. Whether craning your ear to decipher the whispers on 2004’s Mockingbird or embracing the heavily effected production of his Sub Pop debut, Fading Parade, Quever’s work has become revered for its dreamy melodies. Coupled with saccharine, often indistinguishable, lyrics, the two listlessly blend together in the background of a coffee shop as easily as they accompany many a folkster’s meditative nights.
Taking its name from the 1952 novel by Shirley Jackson, Papercuts’ fourth studio outing, Life Among the Savages, addresses the chaos of modern life through featherlight sincerity and tongue-tied temptations. Still tramping in the footsteps of West Coast folk charmers like Fleet Foxes and Vetiver, Quever’s subtle vocalizations have blossomed into existential dreams on his latest release. Accompanied once again by Beach House’s Alex Scally, Papercuts skillfully employs the multi-instrumentalist’s talents that helped Quever shift from small town simplicity to haughty hi-fi on 2009’s You Can Have What You Want.
More than just a play on Jackson’s collection of short stories, the Humboldt County-native proves he is a well versed dystopian as the chorus of the title track, “I don’t want to go back / Out here among the savages / Life is a gas,” nods to the savages of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, who are free of the illusionary happiness their civilized counterparts enjoy in the ‘World State.’ Coping with his relocation to San Francisco from a Northern California commune, “Family Portrait” again tackles the ugliness of modernity as the songwriter confronts a family that no longer recognizes him.
The outsider blues continue on “Easter Morning” where Quever’s breathless la la las hover ethereally beyond poignant piano driven melodies while he casts away metropolitan excitement in favour of the simpler life, “Pick up the paper today / It’s your face just like in the mirror / Nobody cares / They’re puttin’ on airs / Don’t you know it’s Easter morning?” Following the transcendental topics covered on “Psychic Friends” and “Afterlife Blues,” Quever plunges into an introspective free fall on the closing “Tourist” where Quever shakingly admits he has lost his way, “I just want you to look out / I see you standing at your window / Why won’t you help me / I can’t find my way home.”
With 2011’s Fading Parade, Quever made it clear that he had no intention of returning to his ascetic roots as Sub Pop production filled the shoes of Scally’s contributions to his first hi-fi venture You Can Have What You Want two years earlier. Nevertheless, for the past decade projects like Iron & Wine and Vetiver have bent the label’s allowance for ethereal folk, making Papercuts’ second release for Sub Pop a welcome addition to its growing appreciation for the genre.