The illustration on album covers and blogs of retro-styled musics with Polaroid (or simulated Polaroid) photography has become and is still becoming more and more rampant and is maybe the most visible symptom of the widely commented upon nostalgia love parade winding its way through the independent music world. While there is no doubt the demand for consumable nostalgia is certainly swinging, and critical eyes are rightly rested upon it, in truth the music at hand is fairly divergent in quality and the way it plays on listeners’ satisfaction in thinking or looking back. Or more appropriately hearing back.
I mention photography in relation to Jason Quever’s Papercuts project not because it makes use of Polaroids, but because the effect of his fuzzy, gently bruised songs tends to remind me of the disclarity produced when streaks or splotches of sun creep into and across certain pictures, like a veil, a haze, warm and obscuring. At least this is true of the last album, You Can Have What You Want, and latest, Fading Parade, which have more or less left behind the rickety folk rock of earlier efforts for something layered and slightly mysterious, tempted by morose matters of human relationships but with enough perspective to keep from simply reproducing them. There is a pleasure in melancholy recollection and the intractable morasses of adult romantic life.
“Do You Really Wanna Know” opens the album, strangely enough, by placing its narrator not in the position of the lover who loves unrequitedly but of the loved who is unable or does not want to return the love of the unrequited lover, yet is nonetheless happy to bask in the illusion of content the pair creates together when actually, physically together. It’s almost cheerful in its pleas for carrying on living without stating clearly what the emotional stakes are. Honestly though, a lot of the time I lose Quever’s voice in the bittersweet fog of these productions, picking up a line or a girl’s name and letting that through another grayish shade of blue along the borders of the sun spots. Ocean, fog, creases of light: it isn’t shocking that Papercuts is from San Francisco. The simple grace and beauty of “White is the Waves” approximates an empty and profound glance toward the Pacific, the type of effect that allows a Papercuts song to sneak up at some unexpected time and fill you with a wash of rooted or rootless nostalgia.
The image on the cover of Fading Parade is of pixelated people from the past at some sort of dance or ball. Red dominates, bodies blend together and a few faces or gestures peak out in greater delineation. That it is an image of our dances and parades, our pasts, being swallowed up by each new present is clear enough. The fading joys and sorrows of such events, which Papercuts manages to capture are generally places worth being caught when the light is beginning to wane but the night is yet to arrive and the world is not quite itself.