Paper States - Be Alone EP
Record Label: Self-released
Release Date: Dec. 18, 2012
While many musicians are hell-bent on recreating the sonic landscapes of the 1960s and 1970s, Pittsburgh's Paper States are focusing more on the halcyon days of late 90s alt. rock. And man, do they do it well. Their debut EP Be Alone has a zest and zeal unlike few of their contemporaries. The best example of that is the spritely opener "Day Spins," which features jangly guitars, a rollicking beat and vocalist Ryan Stack's effortless delivery. That sense of effortlessness is what makes Be Alone so compelling. From start to finish, there is a definitive sense of calm and coolness about each of these five songs. Whereas many bands can sound disjointed, strained or forced, everything about Be Alone feels relaxed, comfortable and self-assured. Lead single "Aim to Please," is a touching narrative that has a buoyant chorus, sturdy vocals and a refreshing swerve that seems tailor-made for summer afternoons by the pool.
The affecting title track is an emotive acoustic ballad that is destined to become a fan favorite. A delicate study in restraint, "Be Alone" has a subdued grace that further augments the band's collective talents. Penultimate offering "The Way I Left You" is the EP's most urgent cut and arguably its most accessible. Whereas its three predecessors were consigned to coast on the strength of an air-tight rhythm section and the group's inherent knack for melody, "The Way I Left You" ups the ante and lets Stack croon and sway like a seasoned vet. His impassioned pleading, which turns guttural towards the end, helps separate the song from pretty much everything else on the EP. Up to this point, we've heard pretty tunes that were well-executed and summery, but on "The Way I Left You," the intent is more personal, immediate and undeniably indelible. Be Alone closes out with the towering yarn "Old Soul," which serves as much as self-affirmation as it does tearjerker. A slow-building epic, it packs a heavy emotional wallop and soars on the wings of cresting guitars and guest vocalist Sam Ritzer's heartbreaking delivery.
In less than thirty minutes the Pittsburgh quartet has already done and said more than many will bands will strive for in a lifetime. Given that most of them have't even celebrated their twenty-third birthday, there's a renewed sense of optimism for those that enjoy no-frills guitar-driven pop-rock. Direct, to-the-point and utterly polished, Be Alone is a sterling statement in a cluttered and noisy musical landscape. And for that it should be celebrated.