By Maryjane Perez | 18 September 2023
When I first discovered The Paper Kites—consisting of members Sam Bentley (lead vocals, guitars, keyboards), Christina Lacy (guitars, keyboards, backing vocals), Josh Bentley (drums, percussion), David Powys (guitars, banjo, lap steel, backing vocals), and Sam Rasmussen (bass guitar, synthesizers)—I was drawn to the soft, stripped back sound of their Woodland EP. Over the years, their sound has shifted away from these acoustic leanings, toward a more alternative sound.
When they released their new album on September 1, I was anxious to see if they would experiment again with new sounds. To my delight, At The Roadhouse offers a completely different listening experience from their previous albums. Though the album is labeled as alternative, it is laced with country and folk, including one song that is reminiscent of 70s rock.
The opening track, “Midnight Moon,” is a mellow introduction to the album. Its smooth vocals, folk vibes, and chattering voices set a cozy scene. It feels like being transported to a bar stool in some southern small town. The song eases effortlessly into track two, “Til the Flame Turns Blue,” which maintains the relaxing pace. While both of these tracks are enjoyable and perfect for drives through the countryside, neither were stand-outs for me on this album.
“Black & Thunder” is what reeled me in to this album. The funky guitar riffs and groovy, gritty vocals immediately take you back in time to the era of Fleetwood Mac and the Eagles. It will definitely be on repeat for a while.
“Marietta” is slower paced, similar to the likes of the first couple of tracks. However, this is my favorite of the three because the lyrics were more notable to me: “There’s a certain kind of sadness / When a house is not a home.” The achy, empty feeling that flows from these lyrics will resonate with anyone who feels like they have outgrown the place that was once their home or the love that no longer exists.
“Green Valley” is another favorite of mine because of the references to the ocean and valleys. It’s a whimsical and serene depiction of being in love: “Moves like the tide on a seaside town / Turned every eye, and my eyes she found” beautifully encapsulates the feeling of being entranced and captivated by another person’s being.
A majority of the album follows a pattern of groovy, slow instrumentals and calming vocals. If you’re a fan of Sufjan Stevens, Bon Iver, or similar artists this is a perfectly paced album for you. At times, it can feel repetitive and too slow for my preference. I would love to see The Paper Kites churn out some more songs like “Black & Thunder” (if you listen to only one song it should be this one), but overall it is a solid album with some great standout tracks.