It’s easy to understand why a band would want to undergo a few changes on their second album. It keeps things fresh and can put a new spin on things, which can lead to a major improvement. At the same time, it can cause a band to lose what made them exciting, thus having the opposite effect. This is a risk The Paper Kites took head-on for their sophomore album twelvefour, with subtle changes made to their formula to truly set the album apart from their previous work. In this particular case, it’s easy to say that it was a roaring success.
The folk sound of the band is still intact; no matter which way a song goes, it always has that all important element to it. The most significant change for twelvefour is the increased use of electric guitar, which allows them to play with genres more than ever before. This is most notable on the album’s lone uptempo rock song Revelator Eyes, which manages to stand out more for its quality guitar work and vocalist Sam Bentley’s performance than its unique sound on the album. The country-infused tracks I’m Lying to You Cause I’m Lost and Woke Up From A Dream do a better job of showing off the album’s genre experimentation, and work surprisingly well thanks to the distinct twang of the electric guitar in both tracks as well as the harmonica in Woke Up from a Dream.
Even so, the album’s slower songs are still the highlights, largely thanks to the strength of the guitar riffs across the album. The moody, mid-tempo rock of Electric Indigo opens the album with one of its strongest offerings, setting its moody tone early with mountains of reverb on every element, but still sounding bright and uplifting thanks to its chorus. The first percussion free track Neon Crimson is carried by nothing but Bentley’s vocals and both an acoustic and electric guitar, working together with their distinct riffs: the acoustic guitar carries the song as its main element, while the electric guitar gives the song its moody atmosphere as it plays in the background.
It’s not until the album’s last track that twelvefour‘s true magnificence shines through. Too Late starts as a slow melancholy track, with its slow drum beat and sparse use of guitars and piano invoking the feeling of watching rain through the early hours of the morning. It’s the track that conveys the album’s loose concept best: As explained by Bentley, all the songs written between 12 and 4am, influencing the twilight noir elements throughout, though never quite as intricately as on Too Late.
The Paper Kites have gone all-out here. From its loose concept and thematic sound to the variety of genres experimented with across the album, there wasn’t a single thing that fell flat. It’s a logical evolution of their sound that shows off all their talents, from Bentley’s consistently moving vocals to the sheer quality of the guitar riffs that give the songs their power. twelvefour is an amazing piece of work that deserves all kinds of success, as does the band behind it.