Currently playing in Europe and set to return to the UK for a tour starting on May 11th, Paper Aeroplanes are also releasing their third album just after the UK leg kicks off. Little Letters is another exemplary addition to their catalogue, a truly beautiful album of perfect pop vignettes – affirmation if it is needed of the mounting acclaim that surrounds them. Deceptively easy on the ear it still packs a real emotional punch through songs brimming with lyrical and musical hooks that adhere to the synapses like limpets to the rocks of their south Wales coastal origins.
Sarah Howells and Richard Llewellyn created Paper Aeroplanes in Wales in 2009 having already established themselves in the reasonably successful Halflight. Since then their modus seems to have been a combination of refining a mutual love of tunes married to an ability to capture the little details, hopes, fears, truths and lies that run through all of our lives. Added to that burgeoning song-craft is a work ethic that has seen them gig hard, steadily winning fans along the way, wilfully ignoring any pervasive musical trend and easy pigeon-holing. Little Letters is sure-footed proof of the merits of this strategy.
Described as having more of band dynamic than previous recordings, Sarah and Richard are joined on the album by a host of top players, including John Parker from Nizlopi on double bass and percussionist Martin Ditcham (Everything But The Girl, Talk Talk, Sade). Phill Brown (Bob Marley, Bombay Bicycle Club, Talk Talk) is credited with bringing some old-school, analogue production influence, with some of the recording done at his Yellow Fish studio in Lewes. Young producer Tom Loffman, who has previously engineered with Phill is also on hand to assist Sarah and Richard and judicious use of strings and various keyboards complete the line up, adding a luxuriant orchestration.
If the driving acoustic guitar that opens When The Windows Shook and the twanging riff that overlays it don’t set the feet tapping and the head nodding, then seek urgent medical advice. As opening moves go it’s a winner with Sarah’s commanding voice taking the lead. The song neatly captures a community’s dependence on the oil industry and the tragedy wrought by various disasters around Milford Haven where Sarah grew up.
Red Rover, Singing To Elvis and Fable shift the musical and lyrical focus into more intimate territory. Each launches form a finger picked guitar and Sarah acts as a confidante to guide through the joy and fragility of love. She’s admitted than song writing can be a cathartic process saying, “My main aim when writing is to express something that I would normally find hard to put into words.” In previous interviews she has also identified that she’s become better at capturing this and each of these three songs has a different mood at its core. As she has also said, “Whether it’s a good or bad memory, I think it’s an important process to capture those thoughts and keep them in a songlike bubble.”
The title track returns us to surging pop, albeit after a mournful piano and voice introduction that recalls Choir Of Young Believers before a stentorian string riff builds towards an epic climax. Multiple Love is the quiet balm of piano and voice by contrast, but once again affairs of the heart prove an ambiguous tussle as Sarah sings, “I am happy alone,” before confessing “I still believe in love at first sight”.
Sarah continues to pick her way through the lines the cut and thrust of love with the introspection of a fading marriage in At The Alter, balanced by the lively liberating Palm Of Your Hand in which she sings, “Maybe you were getting close but I’m already gone”. The sad seesawing strings of Silence The Bells are barbed with a confession of, “Sleeping with the enemy,” before she delivers the dart of “I didn’t mean to hurt you and I Know it hurts like hell, but I slipped, I faltered and I fell ”. In Sleeper Train she admonishes herself with, “I just let go of the rules I know, the ones I set myself”.
Finally Circus has a weary edge to the delivery and Sarah admits it’s one of the more honest songs on the album, about the trials, frustrations and pitfalls of making music for a living. It’s loaded with a sense of shadowy figures and questionable motives as someone’s advances are declined, “’Cause I’m good at making excuses, maybe playing with words has its uses”. Touché!
By rights this is the album that should make all the travails seem worthwhile. It may be shot through with melancholy and heartbreak, but is a joy to listen to. There will be moist eyed moments as the band sweep across the UK this month, but with the odd tear will come the ringing cheers to greet a band on the edge of greatness.
Review by: Simon Holland
Tour Dates 2013
GERMAN Tour 2013
TICKETS FROM UNDERCOVER.DE
Sun 28th April : FZW – Dortmund (Supporting Tom Lüneburger)
Mon 29th April : SingSing – Hannover (Door entry only)
Tues 30th April : Kulturzentrum das Haus – Ludwigshafen (Supporting Tom Lüneburger)
Wed 1st May : Nachtleben – Frankfurt (Supporting Tom Lüneburger)
Thurs 2nd May : Goldmarks – Stuttgart (Supporting Tom Lüneburger)
Fri 3rd May : Karlsruhe – Mikado (Supporting Tom Lüneburger)
Sat 4th May : Maja – Emmendingen (Supporting Tom Lüneburger)
Sun 5th May : Garage – Saarbrücken (Supporting Tom Lüneburger)
Mon 6th May : Prinzenbar – Hamburg TICKETS
Tues 7th May : Studio 672 – KÖLN TICKETS
Wed 8th May : HBC ( Ehemaliges Haus Ungarn ) – Berlin TICKETS
UK Tour 2013
Sat 11 May: Queen’s Hall – Narberth TICKETS
Sun12 May: Voodoo Lounge – Edinburgh TICKETS
Mon 13 May: Arts School – Glasgow TICKETS
Tues 14 May: The Cluny – Newcastle TICKETS
Wed 15 May: Komedia 2 – Brighton TICKETS
Thu 16 May: Junction 2 – Cambridge TICKETS
Fri 17 May: Deaf Institute – Manchester TICKETS
Sat 18 May: Wood Festival – Oxon TICKETS
Sun 19 May: Glee Club – Birmingham TICKETS
Tue 21 May: Colston 2 – Bristol TICKETS
Wed 22 May: Bush Hall – London **Official Album Launch** TICKETS
The 23 May: Glee Club – Nottingham TICKETS
Fri 24 May: Brudenell Club – Leeds TICKETS
Sat 25 May: Jericho – Oxford TICKETS
Sun 26 May: Spiller Records – Cardiff. Instore
Sun 26 May: Glee Club – Cardiff TICKETS
Tues 28 May: Milton Keynes – The Stables TICKETS
Friday 31st May: Wychwood Festival TICKETS
Sat 8th June: Cuffern Manor – Cuffern, Pembrokeshire
Sun 9th June: Town Hall – Fordingbridge (forest LIVE) –TICKETS
Fri 14th June: Cambridge Folk Club
Sat/Sun 15th June: Isle of Wight Festival
21st June: Secret Small Show, Wales – Venue TBC
22nd June: Pembrokeshire Fish Week Festival, Milford Haven Marina INFO
Paper Aeroplanes Little Letters is released on Navigator Records on May 13th