With songs this good, Paper Aeroplanes deserve a far wider audience.
Robin Denselow 2011-03-22
This is a mini-album of impressively fine melodies, gentle melancholia and the occasional burst of jaunty, breezy pop, from a Welsh duo who have quietly but confidently begun to build a national following with their charming songs.
Paper Aeroplanes is a new-ish venture – they started out back in 2009 – but its two members have a lengthy history on the Welsh music scene. Singer Sarah Howells, whose effortless, yearning and quietly acrobatic vocals define the band’s music, started out with a band called Jylt, who appeared to be on the verge of success when their bass-player and vocalist Nia George was tragically diagnosed with leukaemia, from which she died at the age of 21.
Sarah was compelled to keep writing and singing, and in 2003 moved on to help form another band, Halflight, in which she was joined by guitarist Richard Llewellyn, who had started out on the West Wales indie scene. Halflight won themselves some impressive reviews in Wales, where they toured with the likes of James Morrison; but Sarah and Richard decided to move on, and have built up their following thanks to a lengthy series of often low-key shows, a series of releases including a debut full-length set, The Day We Ran Into the Sea, released last year.
They have also embarked on some clever, understated marketing ploys. After tracks from their album were added to the playlist of a well-known coffee chain, they decided that this wasn’t helping to bring them new fans, so they decided to work with independent coffee shops. They produced a series of limited-edition, four-track CDs, with details of their favourite British cafes on the back. The cafes then gave away the CD with orders.
One of the songs popularised through that coffee-shop give-away is Safe Hands, which re-appears here. Only 22 minutes long, with seven brief songs, We Are Ghosts is a quietly impressive affair that was recorded in Llewellyn’s flat. There are simple, guitar-backed songs like the thoughtful Days We Made and the breathy and erotic Save It, which match strong melodies against easy-going vocals from Howells, who is skilled in effortlessly adding unexpected high notes. Then there’s Safe Hands, which has a jaunty country feel, the slow and yearning Same Mistakes, the drifting Stones Inside Your Shoes and the confident and catchy My First Love, the best track on the album. It’s both intimate and upbeat, with more of those high notes thrown in, and a great pop melody. With songs this good, Paper Aeroplanes deserve a far wider audience.