Faded Paper Figures | Dynamo (Shorthand)

cd_faded-paper.jpgDynamo pulses with the ghosts of ’80s indie music.







Where does the line between flattering imitation and straight-up rip-off get drawn? There’s no strict formula in place. What’s more, so much of pop music is built on cribbing, stealing and trying to sound like your musical heroes. The Rolling Stones were what they were by virtue of being white, English and trying like hell to be bluesmen. Same with The Who, just substitute (no pun intended) R&B. How many dozens of perfectly good bands have built careers out of mining the same pop and psychedelic veins that the Beatles created lock, stock and barrel? Sometimes, new acts can rejuvenate and illuminate old paradigms. At times, a good song is just a good song, even if it doesn’t necessarily feel wholly original. But then, is anything original? Heady stuff, I know, but this dilemma sits at the core of Faded Paper Figures’ Dynamo.

"North by North" quickly sets the tone, whisking the listener away with effortless, highly honed eletcro-pop. Think a sophisticated, hyper-dimensional fusion of all things Ben Gibbard, right down to the glitchiest bits of The Postal Service and the weaving melodies and subtle turns of phrase of the most recent Death Cab for Cutie albums. "B Movie" then swoops in and instantly charms the pants right off. It doesn’t matter in the slightest when you eventually realize that not only does it sound like something from The Postal Service’s Give Up; it even sort of nicks the movie-making subject matter of one of its songs. "The Persuaded" bounces along with an assured, measured cool straight out of a John Hughes film soundtrack. "Polaroid Solution" is utterly infectious, making you dream of winter afternoons spent exploring snowy cities and ducking for cover down in subway stations. The intricate male/female vocal interplay in that track, and others such as "Logos," is one of the disc’s major strengths.

Dynamo pulses with the ghosts of ’80s indie music. New Order-style lead basslines propel "Metropolis" and many of the disc’s songs; chiming, rollicking guitar lines often appear out of nowhere to buoy lagging tunes, as if a telekinetic gift from Johnny Marr. The combination of the two heavily recalls the hallmarks of Marr and Bernard Sumner’s early ’90s project Electronic. It’s an instantly recognizable, smile-inducing extra little wrinkle in the band’s sound, even though its source is instantly recognizable. The album’s frenetic and near-constant bopping does finally slow down with mostly acoustic album closer "Red State," an understated, affecting ballad that offers a fleeting glimpse into other tricks this band might have up their sleeves in future efforts.

Faded Paper Figures sport some very naked influences, but their songwriting chops are so sharp that, more often than not, they get away with it. However, it’s also impossible to ignore that they tread a very singular path. Dynamo doesn’t even begin to transcend its influences, but it does a superb job harnessing those infatuations and focusing them into a batch of rather irresistible songs. B | Mike Rengel

RIYL: all things Ben Gibbard, synth pop, Peter Hook, that kind of awesome, kind of nauseating feeling you get when you drink too much coffee

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