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JFH Music Review

Paper Route, Real Emotion

Paper Route
Real Emotion

Artist Info: Discography
Genre(s): Indie Pop / Alternative
Album length: 16 tracks: 55 minutes, 31 seconds
Street Date: September 23, 2016


Four years after releasing the magnificent The Peace Of Wild Things, Tennessee's electronic rockers Paper Route return with a sixteen song opus, Real Emotion, that runs the gamut of sounds, textures, emotions and themes in one of the best albums of the year. Real Emotion is an old-school concept album that tells the story of the stages of a relationship, that alas, has run its course.

After a left field intro number (titled "Intro," naturally), built around what sounds like an ABBA sample (a melody line which is repeated later in the song "Untitled"), "Writing On The Wall" explodes with an aggressive guitar line and an ironically detached and over-processed vocal by JT Daly. "Writing" reveals a new, highly aggressive flavor for the band, and the higher harmony of Daly's processed vocal is matched with a more traditional, lower range melody line that adds to the overall effect of the track. With a name that demands attention like "Writing On The Wall," and its position as an opening number, this song needed to be a stylistic standout. Mission accomplished.

"Pretend" falls into the category of a classic break up song, mixing the sweet sadness of an 80's New Wave track (like something from a John Hughes movie) with the irony and edge of the 90's alternative scene. This breakup theme continues in the album's first single "Chariots," a rhythmically interesting, yet ultimately sad song about the pain of a relationship ending. ("I'm chasing every shadow off the wall / I am caught in time / All these chemicals I take / Can't erase you from my mind / All of this tethered to a thought / I am holding here / If it's really what you want / Then I'll patiently prepare")

The following "Untitled" is a chill, coming down song, that floats through a haze of synthesizers and detached spooky vocal pleading with someone (a former lover perhaps) to "profess your love because a storm is at hand / take my hand." Or, perhaps it's the voice of the Lord pleading with the protagonist to take hold of something solid during his time of trial. The nearly instrumental "Blue Collar Daydream" continues this mood. It's a good series of songs, with a solid narrative, multiple angles and textures, and it's only the beginning quarter of the album.

Things pick up with the title track, and the narrator seems to have some perspective back when he wonders "how long will there be devotion to cloud my mind? It's real emotion killing me." "Mona Lisa" is another continuation of this theme, with the narrator seeming to be going through the stages of relationship grief, and landing here on bitterness ("You think you're Mona Lisa / You can't believe the irony now"). The following "Second Place" (a telling title), has several distinct movements within its four-and-a-half minute running time, and is followed by the upbeat "Laugh About It," where the narrator is in a lighter mood, but still melancholy. "Zhivago" (a title that sounds like an inside joke between lovers, or perhaps a reference to the classic book and film, Dr. Zhivago) finds the narrator in "kiss off" mode, telling his lover "look at all the love I've found."

The good news is that by the time the epic and grandiose "Balconies" rolls around, the narrator has found peace in surrender (to God, to the passing of the relationship), admitting "It's the simple things that I can't get right / And for every wound there's a hill to climb," but thank the Lord there's "grace enough to hold you and me." "Balconies" is a stunner of a song, and an emotional release for all the tension (the "real emotion") that has come before. Ending tracks "Love Is Red (With Every Shade Of Blue)" and "Vanisher" bring the album to a low-key ending, with the narrator coming to grips with "the bruises in our history / and friends that are becoming strangers."

Real Emotion is, in a few ways, like an electronic / alt rock version of the Biblical book of Ecclesiastes. It's a sad, thrilling, emotional and redemptive ride set to good storytelling, epic music and masterful songwriting, and quite possibly, the best album of the year.

- Review date: 9/26/16, written by Alex Caldwell of

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JFH Staff's Second Opinion

Four years since their last release, Paper Route is back in grand fashion with a generous 16 track opus, Real Emotion. With the tremendous sonic difference between Absence and The Peace of Wild Things, it was hard to know what to expect from their third full-length album, but the result is a smart mix of some of the experimental electronic sounds from Absence and the catchy pop melodies of Wild Things. Real Emotion contains some of the band's best material to date. Between the steady piano, JT Daly's falsetto in the bridge, and the infectious hook, "Pretend" is an early highlight and "Balconies" is one of the band's more spiritual tracks with fuzzy synths and a powerful delivery. The songwriting finds the band more vulnerable than we've seen them in the past, and nowhere is this more obvious than the closing ballad, "Vanisher." Anyone struggling with insignificance will really connect with this one. The musical backdrop on "Vanisher" is equally impressive as the band reaches back to their early days (Paper Route EP and Are We All Forgotten EP) with some Americana mixed in with the predominately Absence-styled soundscapes. In the middle of the album, "Real Emotion," "Mona Lisa," "Second Chances," and "Laugh About It" deliver one of the best consecutive four-song runs on an album in recent memory. While Real Emotion is a shoo-in for year-end lists, trimming the album of some of its less spectacular moments would have pushed this into masterpiece territory. The most significant cut would have been "Blue Collar Daydream," which, despite its intriguing title, is an uninteresting 2-minute interlude of floating electronic sounds. Other moments on the album that aren't as strong are the all-over-the-place vocals on "Writing On The Wall" and the black sheep "Zhivago." Though not as tight as their two previous releases, Real Emotion shows a band that pushes boundaries and engages you in a way that actually leaves an impact on you rather than being another record for quick consumption. The music industry needs more artists like Paper Route. - Review date: 9/23/16, written by Christopher Smith


JFH Staff's Additional 2 Cents

    After four years between releases, fans finally have an all-new studio album from Paper Route. It gets off to a bumpy start with the hit-and-miss rocker "Writing on the Wall" (the droning verses sung in the same vein as the words "Finger in ink" make my skin crawl), but the rest of the record becomes a melodic mix of upbeat ("Pretend," "Balconies") and softer ("Vanisher," "Real Emotion") highlights. Some of the tracks get a bit monotonous for their own good ("Chariots," "Zhivago"), but multiple listens to the album reveal that it's a rich listening experience that will surely stir our own emotions. - 9/21/16, John DiBiase of

    It's been four long years since the Tennessee-based Paper Route released their acclaimed record, The Peace of Wild Things. The long-awaited follow-up, Real Emotion, satisfies every expectation that grew during those years. As the title suggests, the album is full of lush sonic landscapes ("Untitled," "Real Emotion" and "Balconies"), hopelessly catchy pop tunes ("Pretend," "Laugh About It"), and heart rendering falsettos. Intertwined with the musical diversity is an overarching theme of lost love and redemption that never shies away from being honest. Although some moments are weaker than others (As has been noted, "Writing On The Wall" is a little too chaotic for its own good) there isn't a bad song in the bunch. Real Emotion is certainly among the year's best. - 10/3/16, Lucas Munachen of

    I didn't get into Paper Route until the year after The Peace of Wild Things came out. While everyone was already in love with the indie pop group, I was just beginning. Even as a late bloomer, the wait until Real Emotion was still a little too long...but now that it's here, I'm satisfied! While the beautiful intro track may not have been followed up in the best of ways (the Jonezetta-esque "Writing on the Wall" is a little jarring and one of the album's weak links), there are plenty of moments of wonder here. I love that the intro track is brought back in the untitled songs a few tracks later, but stripped down at first and made to build up. "Mona Lisa" is an infectious pop track, while "Zhivago" borrows from the 80s for some of its synthy melodies. There's a lot to like about Real Emotion; if you're a fan of bands like Bastille or Youngblood Hawke, you may want to pick this up. - 10/9/16, Scott Fryberger of

    Paper Route's long-awaited follow-up to The Peace Of While Things is (if it could be summed up in two words) epic and melodramatic. In scope, in sound, in construction, and in its movie references. In comparison to the rather homogenous approach to both of their previous two albums, Real Emotion shows the diversity and the wide range of sounds and emotions they are capable of. Even the shorter, intro or in-between tracks enhance the overall experience of the album, allowing it to breathe and beautifully set up their following tracks. The biggest flaw of the album, however, is the direct result of that diversity; its disjointedness. Not even the concept-album-esuqe breakup story can salvage the fact that the album sometimes jarringly jumps around from style to style in a kitchen-sink-like approach. But it is hard to really argue against the inclusion or pretty much any of the sixteen songs, since they each are solid and entertaining works in their own right. Aside from that, Real Emotion is a real treat to listen to. - 10/20/16, Mark Rice of



. Record Label: Kemosabe Records
. Album length: 16 tracks: 55 minutes, 31 seconds
. Street Date: September 23, 2016
. Buy It: iTunes
. Buy It: Amazon Music (MP3)
. Buy It: Merchnow
. Buy It: Vinyl

  1. Intro (0:43)
  2. Writing on the Wall (3:08)
  3. Pretend (3:40)
  4. Chariots (4:34)
  5. Untitled (4:08)
  6. Blue Collar Daydream (1:52)
  7. Real Emotion (4:40)
  8. Mona Lisa (3:45)
  9. Second Place (4:45)
  10. Laugh About It (3:27)
  11. Lara (1:14)
  12. Zhivago (3:02)
  13. Bleary (4:09)
  14. Balconies (4:15)
  15. Love Is Red (With Every Shade of Blue) (2:31)
  16. Vanisher (5:26)


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