Best of 2010 Errata: New Medium

Posted in Music on March 24th, 2011 by Tom

So not to have an attitude about it or anything, but I didn’t really come upon anything on the multitude of 2010 lists that struck me as a huge oversight. That’s not to say that everyone’s lists looked like my own, far from it, in fact, but only that I didn’t see any of the really popular stuff that I’d missed completely, or had heard of and ignored.

That said, there was one 2010 review that I just never got around to writing, and I figured an errata entry a decent way to make amends (they also snagged spot 13 on best albums of the year, which is nothing to sneeze at).

Faded Paper Figures’ New Medium was actually a really great listen. Their previous album, Dynamo, had been my jam for most of the summer. Their current effort, with its bright synth and smooth vocals, got me through my first cold winter in Boston.

The sound has matured a little; so much of Dynamo was a feel-good record, so it’s nice to here the tone get a little darker in places. ‘Limelight’ as well as ‘When the Book Ends’ are welcome departures in this sense. Even still, FPF still knows how to play to their strengths with immanently danceable tracks like ‘Small Talk


‘Small Talk’
[ mp3 ♫ ]

It is to this record’s credit that virtually every song is as listenable as the next; there are no especially dull spots, making for a rock-solid 40 minutes of listening. The price you pay here, however, is that there aren’t really any stand-out tracks that leave the others in the dust. ‘Small Talk’ and the opening track ‘Invent Them All Again’ have a little bounce to them, but the only real exception to this, and in my opinion the gem of the album, is ‘Kodachrome Earth’.


‘Kodachrome Earth’
[ mp3 ♫ ]

Aside from the fact that it’s the only song I’ve ever heard to make an honest lyrical stab at including the phrase “tesla coil”, the tune has this fantastic refrain combining a great musical idea and really beautiful lyrics to match:

We thought the whole world would begin
to finally see that it’s round round round
a tiny blue gem in the darkness gliding
(round round round)
borders and refugees barely surviving
(round round round)
civilizations and temperatures rising
(round round round)
Are we like gods or confused by the lightning?

The imagery of planet Earth as both ‘tiny’ and ‘gliding’ was really pretty to me, and the other lines say a lot in just a few words. The final track, the namesake of the album (which is almost unheard of placement, to my knowledge), is also a really solid anchor, which was the principal fault of New Medium‘s predecessor.

I was really pleased with how this album turned out. It sheds the dead weight of FPF’s debut, branches out from the band’s standard MO, all the while remaining exquisitely pleasant to listen to. Due to the new sound, these tracks likely won’t get snapped up for episodes of Grey’s Anatomy (Dynamo had three, count them, three!), but that’s alright. The band is still producing quality music that’s as gentle and insightful as it is fun, which is a rare niche to have filled.

Faded Paper Figures – New Medium

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2010 Best Of

Posted in Music on December 11th, 2010 by Tom

Read the Full List Here

I’ve been hard at work on my top albums of 2010, and it’s finally done! Head over to the article for the complete list, commentary, songs, etc.

In the next few weeks, I’ve got exams and the like, so I probably won’t have more to share until I get home later in December. Until then, I hope you enjoy the list.

-Tom

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Dynamo

Posted in Music on September 24th, 2010 by Tom

At the start of this past summer, I spent a little time with Dynamo, the 2008 debut of Faded Paper Figures. My initial draw to the record was because of the odd place it falls on the tempo spectrum. It’s upbeat, but is it dance music? A lot of people will compare it to the now-defunct Gibbard-Tamborello Postal Service project, and while that’s a good starting point, it really doesn’t tell the whole story.

For one, it’s less industrial. Give Up was (over?)populated by clicks, snaps, and clacks that always evoked images of machinery for me on some level. Faded Paper Figures, in this dimension, is softer, almost more ‘acoustic,’ if you can think beyond the synth for a moment. That said, if you like synth, this band has it in spades, and while their use of it isn’t groundbreaking or experimental, it is really, really pleasant to listen to. An example is in order:


‘Metropolis’
[ mp3 ♫ ]

This is a quintessential FPF song: tempo moves along at a quick enough clip, elegantly simple application of synthetic beats, and a guitar riff that is just smooth as hell. The above ‘Metropolis‘ as well as the opener ‘North by North’ are the band at their most listenable, and are relatively upfront, representative samples of what the group has to offer.

‘Logos’ is a little darker, a bit more abstract than its cohorts, but follows the same schematic. If you want a full record of easy-listening, slower songs like ‘B film’, ‘Polarioid Solution’, and ‘Being There’ will help prolong the magic, but some of these don’t stand as well on their own. This is perhaps in contrast to the lyrically interesting ‘Geneva’s Gone’ and ‘The Persuaded‘.


‘The Persuaded’
[ mp3 ♫ ]

The same catchy hooks are present in this song, but the contrast of the verses with the fuzzy sound of the chorus instrumentation makes this an edgier (both in sound and lyrical content) surprise towards the close of the album.

And while the end of the record really sputters with the political couplet of ‘Speeches’ and ‘Red State’ (the former of which is solid, but not fantastic), Dynamo is a worthwhile investment of time.

Switch it on, and let it fill the silence behind whatever you’re doing. I really enjoyed it because I tire occasionally of haveing to work so hard to like some music, and Faded Paper Figures was a welcome reprieve from that.

Faded Paper Figures – Dynamo

NOTE: FPF actually released a new record around the exact time I started listening to their debut, so I’ll try and log some time on that and get a post on it up before the year is out.

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