Roses, a new album from The Paper Kites, showcases the ethereal soundscapes and delicate songwriting that the band has become known for. The Australian indie rock-folk quintet is best known for its touching love song “Bloom,” which was independently released in 2010. Since then, the band, composed of Sam Bentley, Christina Lacy, Dave Powys, Josh Bentley, and Sam Rasmussen, has released five albums—with the last two albums released in 2018.
The band remained largely silent until late August of 2020, when it released what would be the first single off Roses, “For All You Give.” The Paper Kites have since put out four more singles throughout 2020 and the beginning of this year. Prior to their newest album, The Paper Kites had never collaborated with other artists on a project, but on Roses, each track features a different female singer, hand-picked by the band. Every song perfectly suits each artist’s individual voice and style, and the layering of audio makes it difficult to distinguish where the voice of lead singer Bentley ends and the featured artist’s voice begins.
Spanning ten tracks, Roses features delicate electric guitar sounds and synths along with gracefully picked acoustic guitars. The soft-spoken, dreamy vocals encourage the listener to lose themselves in the sounds and feelings each track evokes and to fully explore the 44-minute world The Paper Kites have built. While a few songs may feel drawn out or even a bit simple, with a little patience and attention to the lyrical messages, it becomes clear how thoughtful and deliberate Roses really is.
“Climb On Your Tears,” for example, requires an especially close listen. This track comes in at a little over six minutes and features Newton, Mass. native Aoife O’Donovan. The most prominent instrument is a dreamy electric guitar, which pairs nicely with the muted drums. Together these instruments create a feeling of intimacy between Bentley and O’Donovan, as well as between the song and its listener. While the meaning of the chorus—“Climb on your tears / Like a ladder to a rose, baby”—is not obvious, it seems as though The Paper Kites were aiming to capture a feeling of vulnerability between two people, rather than convey an outright message in the song.
“Climb On Your Tears” is not the only track to feature lyrics that require a bit of extra reflection. In “Walk Above the City,” the chorus recites “Flowers underneath us now / Towers underneath us now / We walk above the city / You and I.” While the lyrics might not make literal sense, accompanied by the tender tones of Portuguese singer MARO, the track conjures up the images and feelings that come with sweet, even sappy, love—a theme that appears over and over again on Roses.
“Dearest,” another love song, goes beyond romantic love, as Bentley and Lydia Cole sing about caring for parents. The two are backed almost exclusively by a single fingerstyle guitar, making “Dearest” one of the most delicate and heartfelt songs on the whole album.
“Steal My Heart Away” diverges from the softer and slower sound of many of the other songs on Roses. With dreamlike synths and chimes, “Steal My Heart Away” feels more like a ’90s ballad than a typical Paper Kites song.
“For All You Give” may be the only track that can compete with “Dearest” for the most sincere song on Roses. The track features a warm and welcoming, tenderly picked acoustic guitar, providing the perfect setting for its lyrics.
In the second chorus, Bentley along with Lucy Rose sing “Like the night comes black and blue / I’ll give it back to you / Like a road runs straight and true / For all you give / I’ll give it back to you.” While these lines may seem simple, the guitar and the pair’s subdued, yet beautiful, voices combine to make “For All You Give” one of the best and most wholesome songs on Roses.
Roses is not flashy and contains no fancy production for the band to hide behind. Rather, the band, along with the 10 female featured artists, relies on thought-provoking lyrics aided by airy and gentle acoustic and electric guitars. For some, Roses may present itself as too slow or folkie. But, for those who truly enjoy sitting and appreciating sweet yet pensive music, Roses is a can’t-miss.
Photo Courtesy of Siren Records