Had The Blow’s Paper Television been released eight months ago, many of its ten songs would have most likely ended up on our Valentine’s Day Best Song Ever feature. Khaela Miricich already proved herself a deft purveyor of relationship wit on Poor Aim: Love Songs, a brilliant little EP with fat beats to match its quirky take on the long cliché standard of love songs (though not actually standards, of course). With Paper Television, Maricich and Jona Bechtolt (also of Y.A.C.H.T.) are a few stutter step beats and neurotic sex analyses closer to perfection.
As far as Maricich is concerned, courtship is never so innocent and mysterious. She puts it frankly on “Pile of Gold,” “You should treat us good/if you do that then you know we’re gonna…unh..unh…share more of our goods with you,” laying down the rewards system in a sort of classroom politics sexual negotiation. This sort of tease would do someone like Peaches well. But Maricich exposes a more tender emotional side on “Parentheses,” explaining that “when you’re holding me, we make a pair of parentheses/there’s plenty of space to encase whichever way my mind goes/I know I’ll be safe in these arms.” It’s in that parenthetical space where each love is unique, the part that’s defined by the two involved, their inside jokes and combined identity, and Maricich finds a simply profound way of turning it into an impossibly catchy chorus in one of the best indie electro pop tracks since “Such Great Heights.”
Bechtolt and Maricich make an abstract threesome between a boy a girl and, um, the universe bump like M.I.A. on “The Big U,” while “The Long List of Girls” finds Maricich declaring “I guess I’m on the long list of girls that love the shit out of you” over some near Missy Elliott rhythms. That this duo is so versatile makes the leap from that song to the French sung new waver “Bonjour Jeune Fille” such a smooth one, keeping the danceability meter somewhere between Timbaland and Moroder.
It’s not all punctuation and universal three ways; there’s the end of a bad relationship, which Maricich compares to being defecated, and thus identifying with refuse on “Babay (Eat a Critter, Feel Its Wrath)”. Were it not so cleverly written, it would just be gross, but she indirectly finds a way of tying together the absurdity of sexually desirable bodies and their ickiest functions. A bad relationship turns into a battlefield on “Fists Up!”, however, Maricich and her team of vigilantes preparing for the amorous fisticuffs ahead—”my love is an engine, my love is a nation/but it can’t really function against your dissent.” That this metaphorical uprising is paired with the album’s most insistent melody makes for an indispensable classic. That I didn’t have the chance to include it with my favorite break up songs this year is no matter, I’ll have plenty more chances later on.
“True Affection” brings the album to a soft landing, its slow, hypnotic melody lulling those hyperactive disco beats into a sweet lullaby. But the harsh reality, Maricich sings is that “true affection sinks like a stone” and “just because it’s real doesn’t mean it’s going to work.” Even if a girl is left to keep searching, Maricich has a voice that gives bad news well. And with love, dating and relationships in general, this sort of splash landing comes just as easily as the booty negotiation and parenthetical cuddles. It just so happens that with The Blow, mundane, awkward and neurotic relationships sound even more romantic than being swept off one’s feet or indulging in a wild, passionate fling. What Maricich and Bechtolt achieve on Paper Television could really leave someone smitten. I guess I’m on the long list of guys that love the shit out of them.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.