Band Name: Page France
Album Name: Hello, Dear Wind
Best Element: Charming, endearing songwriting
Label Name: Fall Records (www.fallrecords.com)
Band E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
It’s not very often that a sophomore release is more quirky than its predecessor. But if anyone was to make their second CD more endearing than the first by giving it more strange characteristics, it would have to be Page France- the purveyor of philosophy disguised in childish lyrics, of complex songs hidden in giddy, optimistic indie-pop, and of life-brightening uniqueness.
Page France’s first full-length outing, Come, I’m a Lion!, introduced us to the mind of Michael Nau- a mind obsessed with beautifully perfect, symmetric, joyful songwriting, as well as love, religion, and concrete imagery. It wasn’t perfectly produced, but it was close- everything retained a charming glow, and everything meshed beautifully. The album flowed reasonably well, and it was good.
Hello, Dear Wind expands upon everything Come, I’m a Lion! established- the songwriting is more endearing, the lyrical meaning is deeper while the lyrical front is even more catchy and fun, the melodies pop out with zest, and the deft mid-fi production makes the album brilliant.
There are two definitive arenas of Page France – instrumentation and lyrics. The musical side of Page France has changed some since Come, I’m a Lion! in the fact that the songs have many more layers. Many of the previous songs would hold the same two or three layers throughout the song. This new album sees Nau and his co-conspirators layering and layering and layering, producing songs that are much more full and much more realized than the minimalist ditties that ended up on the previous album. The opener “Chariot” climaxes in two guitar lines, a toy piano, a tambourine, and a drum beat. Now that’s full. The guitar lines themselves have gotten better- they stick much easier than before, and there are less filler tracks this time around. Nau has also refined his guitar playing- Nau now has, undeniably, his own style of guitar playing. Even so, “Elephant” sounds like a lo-fi Beatles take- the guitar playing may be unique, but tried and true songwriting flourishes never change. The single “Junkyard” is a jubilant track that employs layers as part of the song- not just as flourishes, “Finders” is a very mellow track that is like nothing Page France has ever done before, and “Trampoline” uses the signature Page France sing-a-long section with gleeful abandon. There’s never been a better use of a bunch of random people singing a chorus- ever. This includes you, Polyphonic Spree. In short, the indie-pop solo project that was so minimal last time around is now a full indie-pop band, and the album is much better for it. Every song is worthy of being called the ‘best track’, and that’s not very common with a 14-track album.
The second arena is that of lyrics. The lyrics are much more defined this time around, and while they still retain the characteristic of including random nouns into the song just for fun, the ideas make sense now. Whereas Come, I’m a Lion! was all about love, Hello, Dear Wind is about religion. Now don’t jump ship just because there’s a track named “Jesus” on this album. While there is a lot of religious imagery here (Nau is especially entranced with angels) this is not a preachy, Christian album. This is a songwriter with some religious undertones. There’s still a lot of room dedicated to love and disappointment, two more of Nau’s favorite themes. The album ends up being much more quotable than Nau’s previous work, which was scattered and not exactly cohesive. The best track here lyrically is also the shortest- the beautiful ditty “Finders”. “You’ll be a diamond in the sand/and all of the finders will clap their hands/glory abounds us, we’ve found dry land!/and all of us finders will clap our hands.” It may seem odd out of context, but in context of the song it’s close to rapturous. Other songs, like the wonderful opener “Chariot”, delve into a little bit quirkier territory: “Come and carry us, come and marry us, to the blushing circus king. Dance like elephants, as he comes to us, through a fiery golden ring…” Although odd out of context (again), it makes an unusual amount of sense when placed in the quirky indie-pop setting. That’s part of the immense charm of this album.
Michael Nau and Co. have created a completely charming, endlessly endearing, uniquely understated, and totally immersing sophomore album. I can’t take it out of my stereo, and I don’t think that I’ll have to for a while- it feels new every time I hear it. If you like any type of indie-pop, Hello, Dear Wind will be the best album of the year for you, and that’s not an understatement.