The Paper Chase - Someday This Could All Be Yours, Vol. 1 (Cover Artwork)

The Paper Chase

Someday This Could All Be Yours, Vol. 1 (2009)

Kill Rock Stars

Every summer needs a soundtrack. It seems that just about every year, one album unexpectedly crops up that becomes synonymous with warm evenings, hanging out with friends and driving with the windows down. The Bouncing Souls' appropriately titled How I Spent My Summer Vacation is a perfect example of this -- a truly life-affirming album that you can always count on to lift your spirits.

Someday This Could All Be Yours, Vol. 1 is not that album. Yet in a way, this is the perfect collection of songs for the moment we are living in. The Paper Chase have become experts at crafting songs that ooze with anxiety and malaise, themes perhaps more appropriate for a year marked by economic recession, international instability and fears of a pandemic. Someday This Could All Be Yours finds the band at the top of their game, crafting songs that are simultaneously dense and desolate, meticulously measured and reckless.

Each of the 10 songs focuses on a different disaster. Some can be interpreted literally. "The Common Cold (The Epidemic)," which uses a prominent bass groove to create a danceable vibe, has eerily close parallels to the recent H1N1 flu scare that gripped the world. Others, like "This Is a Rape (The Flood)," use uncomfortably blunt lyrics to describe catastrophic events in a more metaphorical manner. The lyrical range keeps the band from ever being cheesy or contrived, a problem that often hounds groups associated with a dark image or sound.

The Paper Chase makes use of piano to complement the typical guitar-bass-drums instrumentation, but more striking is how they use it. The piano is used here primarily as a rhythm instrument, with staccato chords nervously pounded away at a feverish pace. In contrast, the barely in-tune guitar breaks up the plodding rhythm with jagged, discordant lines. An array of sound effects including air raid sirens, dial tones and pig squeals further complicate the aural landscape without ever cluttering it up. Frontman John Congleton is renown as a music producer, so it's no surprise that he fits such a divergent number of sounds into a single track while making it all work with the overall feel of the song.

Someday This Will All Be Yours, Vol. 1 will not be the quintessential "feel-good summer album" of 2009, but it may very well be the best album to come out this summer. The title suggests a sequel of sorts in the future and, as pensive and moody as these songs are, the prospect of more Paper Chase on the horizon should give everyone a little bit of comfort.