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Last week I went to a gig in London at the Union Chapel, which is a spectacular venue that has breathtaking architecture, balconies that overlook the stage and stained glass windows that shimmer from the glow of the lighting rigs. The band I went to see were a semi-acoustic pop duo called Paper Aeroplanes, who performed on stage with a full band consisting of a drummer, a bassist, a keyboardist and a cellist.
They were supported by two fully acoustic acts; the first a duo from Mississippi who had only just started making music together earlier this year and the second an Australian solo artist called Stu Larsen. Larsen was a joy to watch; his face was a constant picture of emotion, putting everything he had into his slightly left-field vocals, whilst underpinning his subdued, yet refined, guitar playing with percussive techniques. The same can be said about the first duo, because even though their relative inexperience showed, the pair performed several beautiful arrangements (that were routed in folk and country) that held their own against the acts that followed.
As the tagline to my blog suggests, pop and acoustic music isn’t my normal choice of listening, however, I do have a soft spot for melancholic (or anti-) pop, such as The xx or Soley, which extends to experimental indie acts such as Alt-J and North Atlantic Oscillation. This particular gig was a suggestion from my girlfriend and after the first listen to Paper Aeroplanes’ latest release Little Letters, I was hooked.
Tracks like Multiple Love and Circus irradiate the darkest emotions, marrying the beauty of Sarah Howells’ vocals with the bleak soundscapes painted by a sombre piano melody and a swelling acoustic backing respectively. Little Letters also features up-tempo tracks, like the album opener When The Windows Shock, which features a memorable lick from guitarist Richard Llewellyn. However, the highlight of the album is the title track, which evolves from a gloomy introduction into an epic crescendo, making great use of strings, with close competition from the introverted indie track At The Altar.
Prior to Little Letters, which was released in 2013, Paper Aeroplanes released We Are Ghosts in 2011 and The Day We Ran Into the Sea in 2010, which follow a similar musical blueprint; mixing uplifting and sorrowful tracks, led by the superb vocals and melodies of the duo. Paper Aeroplanes are a great find and if you’re a fan of honest, well-crafted acoustic tracks, then look no further than this Welsh pairing and their heart-felt music.
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