Remember to Return
It’s been three years since Jason Quever has released an album with Papercuts, but the songwriter made good use of all this passed time. Life Among the Savages shows that Papercuts is still very much the same, but their baroque dream pop is more refined than ever. The album was largely recorded in Quever’s studio in San Francisco and it’s marked by rich production and sleepy sounds. The guy’s got a knack for writing a catchy tune and his music leans toward a jovial sound, but don’t be fooled by the feel-goodery. The man’s got some serious blues in this brave new world.
The title, lifted from a book by Shirley Jackson of the same name, is wonderfully appropriate. Quever looks out at the modern world and finds too much savagery in this age of innovation. From an anthropological perspective, Life Among the Savages establishes Quever as an outside observer looking in on his own life. It’s an interesting and deliberate positioning, with themes that echo Papercuts’ larger narrative. After all, a paper cut is an unnoticeable nick that causes a steady pain.
The production is often elegant if overly dense, but more often than not, this tendency to overproduce is a good thing. Quever clearly likes layering and he utilizes quite the arsenal of accompaniment, which helps add flavor to songs that some might find too vanilla.
Really, the strongest case for this album’s merit lies in the often-indistinguishable lyrics. Quever’s interested in talking about depression and spends a good deal of time addressing the ways we try to mask it. On “Easter Morning,” Quever spends his holiday thinking, “Nobody cares / You’re putty on airs.” So maybe he’s not the type of guy who’s at his best when at a cocktail party. “New Body” laments how these facades fail to alleviate the problem, they only conceal it. And Quever’s good at putting on these masks too; a closer listen to songs like “Family Portrait” reveal that these songs only sound bright and happy.
Although the title track is arguably the best in the selection, many songs are strong in their own right. This album would be hard to hate, but still, it’s worth mentioning that there probably isn’t a single song on Savages that is truly remarkable. Quever created a very focused album that suggests that there’s no transcending this modern world, but the fact that it lacks innovation signals the same problem he seems to be addressing. It’s not that all music needs to be cutting edge either, it’s just hard to imagine someone remembering to return to this album.