It seems to have been a recurring pattern in my music-appreciating life that the bands I fall for most heavily and with the most passion are the ones that seemingly come out of nowhere.
It’s been the case with artists as diverse as Bombay Bicycle Club, who I came across quite by accident while listening to Australia’s publicly-funded national radio station JJJ, Pomplamoose, who were casually mentioned on a blog post I chanced across one day, and solo artist MINDR, whose debut album I impetuously picked and bought by, songs unheard, based simply on the album cover.
And now history has repeated itself with Faded Paper Figures, possessor of one of the most imaginative, evocative and playfully whimsical band names I have heard in some time, who followed me on Twitter a few days ago.
Intrigued by a band who appeared to follow me out of the ether, I made haste to iTunes – after first following them back, naturally – where I listened to and bought pretty much everything this L.A. and New York based band, formed in 2007 and made up of R. John Williams (guitar and vocals), Kael Alden (bass, guitar, drums, etc…), and Heather Alden (lead vocals), have ever released.
For a band that holds down down jobs, and happily admit to pursuing their ever-increasingly successful band in the “wee small hours and weekends”, they have managed to amass an impressive array of indie-pop songs, all of which owe a considerable debt of gratitude and reason for being to the ’80s-influenced synth-fuelled “electro-organic” sound that defines them.
What makes their songs so instantly likeable and accessible is the freshness of Heather Allen’s voice which seems to trip and lilt across and through the songs, none of which sound exactly alight and yet still manage to sound as if they occupy the same cohesive, genre-specific niche.
Self-described in the band’s bio as “alternately sparse and epic, harmonic and grinding, pensive and playful”, their music has developed and grown, something noticeable just from a listen or two to each album – the band has four to their name Dynamo (2008), New Medium (2010), The Matter (2012) and Relics (2014) – while still holding onto a recognisable sound, something few bands manage with any real success over time.
Underlying these alternately bright and happy, and pensive and thoughtful, melodies is an intelligent sensibility which eschews the usual filler lyrics which quite a number of synth bands tend towards – there’s nothing wrong with that of course since often the music is the thing with very danceable tunes but still it is enormously pleasing to be able to move your feet and think at the same time – for ones that dare to think and ponder deeply about love, life, the universe and everything.
It’s a highly appealing, intoxicating mix, the product one suspects of three people who aren’t satisfied with simply throwing something together, who, as in their demanding day jobs – Heather is a doctor, John a professor of literature and Kael an in-demand creator of music for films, TV and video games – seem to expect and deliver a great deal of themselves.
It isn’t enough it seems for them to just record brilliantly interesting music that entrances and seduces, it must say something worthwhile, a sentiment borne out in a statement made by the band, which I discovered on Paste magazine:
“To become a meditating astronaut, in our view, means using our technological and political tools to come to a more thoughtful, earth-saving perspective, realizing that our place in the cosmos is small, sacred, and fragile.”
It makes sense then, given my predilection for quality, clever pop that enriches the soul and feeds the mind, that I’d end up falling almost instantly, helplessly in love with a band as inordinately talented, hard working and thought-provoking as Faded Paper Figures.
Like all my instant head-over-heels musical love affairs, starting with ABBA all those years ago, I highly suspect this one will go the distance and I will be listening and thinking and dancing to the band for quite some years to come.
If you want to find out all about Faded Paper Figures from their own highly-articulate and down-to-earth mouths, check out this interviews with the band from Elite Music Enterprises and then CMJ Festival …