PAPER - Sunbeam
Record Label: Limited Fanfare Records
Release Date: July 10, 2012
You might know Mike Marsh as the drummer for Dashboard Confessional. You might not know that he has his own solo project that goes by the name of PAPER. And while Marsh’s musical chops have been evident through his work with DC through a number of albums, Sunbeam, the new full-length under the PAPER moniker, is a progressive, indie-pop darling that recalls both past and present, showing everything from strong songwriting to smooth melodies woven against an instrumentally impressive range of sounds. While not an instant success, the churning and bubbling of sounds in Sunbeam make for a honestly adventurous, if not also enjoyable listen through the textural differences we’re presented with through its 11 tracks. Marsh might be best known for his drumming, but Sunbeam shows his talents as a songwriter and vocalist aren’t too shabby either.
A bit proggy and a bunch poppy, Sunbeam challenges us without being completely out of reach on the surface, slyly hiding things amongst the layers of production and percussion heard throughout this record. This record is certainly a two-faced affair though, as while there is a feel-good foundation to much of the music Marsh pens (“Sunbeam”, “Shine”), there’s enough of a dark vibe (“Turn the Radio Off”, “Water and Wire”) to put a proper twist on the approach and build of what we’re hearing. The vocals aren’t hugely theatrical, yet control the melodies well enough that they blend in with the varied keys and guitars to feel like another instrument. I would be quick to suggest they are almost a bit too restrained at times, but in reality the tone fits everything else so well they would seem best untouched in future endeavors.
Marsh’s percussion background takes a big portion of the spotlight though. Whether it is the inclusion of mallet sounds (“Color”) or triumphant grooves laced with hand percussion (“Everybody Talks”), Sunbeam is arguably a percussionist’s dream creation in terms of the scope of things included here. There’s also a handful of synths and keys throughout, almost enough to suggest the use of guitars is secondary to everything else going on musically.
The biggest indication of the hits and misses on Sunbeam lies within the production and addition of layers to consider in any one song, or even section. Where sometimes less is more (“Counting Sheep”), and other times it doesn’t hurt to add a little spice (the percussion-heavy stomper “Heart of Ours”), you often can’t help but feel overwhelmed at the number of instruments being used to create what might not be a fully cohesive sound (“Regard”). But even in that sense, the often otherworldly vibe of this record is generally present regardless of what instrument, groove or tempo Marsh chooses to explore. It’s an interesting thought that he’s able to embody it as much as he does, especially considering the number of structures and backdrops we hear amongst these tracks.
I wouldn’t envision myself listening to this all the time, but in a relaxed mood, PAPER taps a part of the musical psyche that is thought-provoking without being too weird to comprehend otherwise. But when Sunbeam isn’t pushing your mind into strange places, it’s finding a way to transcribe a rather sunny feeling into your body through strong melodies and masterful arranging. While not perfect, PAPER’s debut is strong enough to spark the interest of music inquisitors of many genres – a more than good enough reason to take this record for a spin.