Paper Rival - Paper Rival (Cover Artwork)

Paper Rival

Paper Rival (2007)

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It seems being grandiose is all the rage these days. More bands associated (often loosely) with punk and indie are incorporating the sort of majestic, layered production once reserved for major label artists with massive budgets and Brian Eno on speed dial. Guitars don't crunch anymore, they swirl, and your singer, well, he or she better be able to chase those soaring echoes and lush crescendos with a ridiculous range.

On one hand, these artists can create uplifting/haunting/triumphant songs that pack a hefty dose of emotional resonance, but on the other hand they can merely come off as purely synthetic demonstrations of technology and pomposity, not music. It is these two states that Paper Rival seem to move between on their self-titled debut EP.

Paper Rival plays around with the same dynamics that bands like Circa Survive and As Tall as Lions use, but they never hit on the prog-like movements of the former or the deadpan ambience of the latter. Instead, they seem more interested in indulging their sweet tooth, a trend that is best witnessed on songs like "Alabama" and "Pacing the Cage." These two tracks reside in a much more indie pop territory thanks to some warm acoustics, handclaps and keys and the funny thing is that these stripped-down tunes sound better than the often-melodramatic bombast of the EP's three "rock" songs. Still, whether filled with pop inflections or not, Paper Rival's songs fail to create much more than a ripple in an already crowded pond.