The Paper Planes – [Album]

Sunday, 10 February 2008

When we last heard Long Beach’s Paperplanes on 2006’s self-released Volcanoes, they had just taken their first baby steps into the alt-country wilderness, adding elegiac strains of steel guitar to their jittery, Velvets-infused sound. With Rhinestone Republic, however, the ‘Planes have eschewed the “alt” prefix, driving deep into real country territory. Here, twangy Bakersfield guitars, honky tonk rhythms and heartfelt lyrics of loss, escape and addiction coalesce into something undeniably authentic—and almost unbelievable given that the record is an entirely DIY affair, written, recorded and mixed by the band.

Trading off songs by guitarist Micah Panzich and bassist Pete Tavera, Rhinestone Republic uncovers remarkable songcraft and musicality. Panzich trades licks on his Telecaster with the virtuosic Cliff Kane on pedal steel, whose presence throughout the album is an outright blessing. Rob Harvick drums with an understated touch, rolling the beat across the saloon floor on the upbeat “You Know Sin,” but dialing it back on weary-eyed numbers like “In This Town” and “Full Bloom.”

Once the fiddle swells up alongside Panzich on the intimate closer “Don’t Make a Sound,” you’ll feel like turning the lights out. Although a companion album—the rock-oriented TransAmerican Lights—will be out later this year, you can’t escape feeling that with Rhinestone Republic the Paperplanes have achieved something definitive.

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