Last updated on September 12, 2017
Drone in indie-rock work is a funny thing: it features in some of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard (The Low Anthem’s “This Goddamn House,” Headlights’ “Get Your Head Around It”) and also can kill a song entirely. (I’m eliding electronic and metal uses of the technique here, because the ways that drone works there are very different.) The Pollies‘ “Paperback Books” uses warm drone as a gentle, subtle intro–a backdrop for the tune to play out against, invoked but not integral after the band crashes in.
Jay Burgess’ voice evenly balances the quiet reverie of memory with the rueful quality of the same; it’s a tune that can amplify either uplifting vibes or the sort of desirably-sad feelings that we all look for sometimes. It’s a rare tune that can fit multiple emotional spaces with a single sonic one. That drone helps it cut both ways–it can mean stability or uncertainty, depending on how you look at it. The lyrics revel in that sort of backwards/forwards look, that positive/negative combination that we can’t avoid in life. This song is quickly moving into my permanent rotation, because it so perfectly captures a mood that I’m often looking for.
But even if you’re not the sort to get emotionally attached to your tunes (should you, mythical creature, actually exist), it’s hard to deny the skill with which this song is crafted. The alt-country band transcends the genre here, focusing on meandering-yet-careful lead vocals, soaring bgvs, twinkly lead guitar, and a reverb-laden sense of nostalgia. The arrangement is carefully layered and mixed to perfection–it feels effortless, even though there’s quite a bit going on. All the pieces melt into each other to create one sonic idea–a feat that should not be downplayed. Even if you don’t want to get emotional and “remember the days when we were just teens,” “Paperback Books” is a warm, lush tune that deserves your attention.