By: Sam Kayuha, In The Record Store staff writer.
It might be strange to say that guitar rock ever fell out of style, but there was a definite period in indie rock when playing loud and fuzzy guitar wasn’t the coolest thing. For a while there, the trend was to be folksy — with straw hats and acoustic guitars — when hipsters were buying violins back in 2009.
Garage rock would make its comeback, with artists like Ty Segall and bands like Japandroids and Parquet Courts.
But some of the best indie bands of the past two decades were ones who influenced both trends, toeing the line between Americana and gritty rock ’n’ roll. My Morning Jacket, the Louisville five-piece, comes to mind. The band achieves both arena-rock highs and lo-fi intimacy, sometimes in the same song.
My Morning Jacket is also the first band to come to mind listening to the new album by Yellow Paper Planes, “Building a Building.” The local band alternates between bombast and subtlety smoothly, complementing epic choruses with poetic verses and sharp musicianship.
Yellow Paper Planes straddle the line between the rocker craftsmanship of bands like My Morning Jacket and Drive-By Truckers, and the spontaneous rawk of JEFF the Brotherhood and King Tuff. In the moments when “Building a Building” starts to sound its most composed, the band’s improvisations and flexibility shine through.
The album opens with “Tearing Up,” which burns slow as drums crash and the adrenaline buildup is rewarded. It charges into hard rock on “Bottle Up, Explode,” with a chorus loud enough to fill an arena, then fades gently into “Sword and Stone,” which is downtempo and melancholy.
Although it hardly breaks new ground in terms of sound, the band stays far from song structure cliches, cutting off a chorus unexpectedly here, turning a verse in an extended soliloquy there. “White Lies” is one long first verse that crashes into a left turn of guitar feedback; “Take a Step Back” is an upbeat knee-slapper in the midst of an album that is fairly pessimistic.
“The whites of my eyes/ they haven’t been white in a while,” sings frontman Joshua James on “Bloodshot.” “The more I come down, the more I wanna get high,” on “Sword and Stone.” The record is not entirely depressing, but it is the moments of sadness on the first half of the record that hit the hardest and set the stage for something of a rebirth on the second.
None of the band’s members are rookies in the music scene, all hailing from roots or rock groups in Ohio. The band is distinctly its own project, reaching a solid cohesion on its first album, but past sounds remain a heavy influence, intended or not.
The album is the band’s first full-length, the follow-up to EP released in spring 2015.
On the whole, “Building a Building” is an excellent modern rock collection, one that, despite its trendiness, feels unencumbered by the current state of the genre. It feels like it would exists exactly as it does no matter the climate of the local scene, or rock music as a whole.
Essential tracks; “Tearing Up,” “Sword and Stone,” “Take a Step Back.”