It seems like a lifetime ago that Papercuts’ Can’t Go Back received a Best New Music tag from Pitchfork. Hell, it seems like that long since the musical climate allowed for bands like Papercuts to get attention, period. Since that time came and went, Papercuts has quietly released a couple albums, including the strong but ignored Fading Parade for Sub Pop, and its sole fixture Jason Quever has excelled at producing albums for his friends new and old. While younger, more successful musicians are bailing on San Francisco because of the cost, Quever seems comfortable where he has ended up.
It’s hard to say whether any of Quever’s albums since Can’t Go Back are better or worse than each other, as they all seem to find the middle ground between ignorable and undeniable, mostly admirable due to the elbow grease he puts into his songs. This is apparent in a variety of ways, from the string orchestral breakdown of the title track, to the isolated piano lead of “Easter Morning,” to the closing minute of “Tourist,” which wants to spread its wings so badly but instead resigns to living in the environment it is caged in.
Moments of beauty are hard to miss on Life Among the Savages, but at the same time, the album has very specific terms that it must be engaged with to appreciate fully. It’s the same dichotomy that exists in sounding homespun while actually being quite ambitious for a self-made LP. The fortunate result for the listener is an album that gives back what you put in, with the melodies all holding firm and digging in their claws over time.
But, should you choose not to give Papercuts your time, only the title track, “Psychic Friends” and the near-perfect “Family Portrait,” seem to demand attention. In a world where it seems like you need to scream to have anyone pay attention, the humble artist has less of a place. Sure, it is nice to see Quever reach the sustainable mid-period of his career, but his consistency is drifting dangerously close to complacency.