What does 2020 mean to you? Seizing this moment, wordsmith Joseph Hitchcock clearly defined his own eclectic experience in his third release. Paper Anthem’s The Year You’ll Never Get Back via Sophrosyne Sounds creates a unique indie-rock universe.
Hitchcock is no mere songwriter: his father’s blues-singer roots merged with his poet mother’s voice, emerging with a timeless, universal style. In eleven songs with a host of talented studio musicians, Paper Anthem trips through a stylistic array in a wildly diverse musical stream of consciousness. From the opener “Sign Language” with its weird pop vibe to the melancholy “Receipt,” it’s obvious something special is happening. Reminiscent of All American Rejects’ Tyson Ritter, Hitchcock’s phrasing increases each lyric’s emotional impact. “Within Walls” shines as one of the best of this record. It’s timely, considering our personal isolation. Introspective, voyeuristic, and even stalkerish, this track is socially distanced yet sonically perfect with backing vocals from Christopher Daddio, Zach Wilhite, and Jason Alderman.
His choice to use contrasting producers in Oakland based Christopher Daddio (Everyone Is Dirty) and Fraser McCulloch works. Recording in Oakland, Los Angeles, and Kent (U.K.) from 2017-2019 allowed for a musical evolution. Kristofer Harris (Ghostpoet, Belle and Sebastian) mixed a cohesive sonic experience, with expert mastering from London’s John Davis (Foals, Snow Patrol).
“Mistakes” drops a haunting aesthetic, offering an ethereal confession of humanity’s weakness. I can’t think of a better representation of love or its terror-inducing state. Producer McCulloch’s restrained synthesizer soars, fitting Hitchcock’s perfect mood music. Songs like “Shatter” show the exponential growth this band’s frontman has undergone from his previous two albums. Emotional, authentic connection through simple words is all it takes here. Strutting into “Sunday” with its UK groove, the shift to punk rock feels reminiscent of The Clash. The track blends self-aware spoken word, backline magic from Christoper Daddio’s bass, and Tony Sales’ provocative drums. That’s a weighty statement.
“Patience” invades the space in all of us that hopes for love. Simply poetry set to music, Keegan Leonburg’s acoustic guitar provides a resting place for Hitchcock’s emotive vocals. Diving further inward with each track, “Daywalker” defies vocal reason. Sivan Lioncub’s violin helps develop lush soundscapes with Cheyenne Rain’s cello. The lilting musicality of “Dreamweaver” gives space to the stunning lyricism. Artistic introspection set to a spacious sonic palate, authenticity never sounded quite like this.
Closing out his third album with “Clarity” fits. Enveloped in self, distracted yet self-aware, the track’s sonic busyness fades with the same introduction as the album’s opening song. Masterfully sequenced, Paper Anthem’s The Year You’ll Never Get Back gracefully illuminates the self-discovery journey, patiently becoming the mirror for us all.–Lisa Whealy