Album Review: Marcus Paquin – Our Love

[Birthday Cake; 2022]

Marcus Paquin is not new to the music industry, having been working behind the scenes since the mid-2000’s and popping up in the credits of albums of such acts as The National, Local Natives and Arcade Fire. After fronting the short-lived indie rock project Silver Starling to critical acclaim in 2009, Paquin once again retreated behind the scenes. His sizeable resumé, however, showed that the skillset needed for the making of an album was there, if in need of a catalyst. That spark would come in the form of his separation from his partner of 18 years. The sudden need for catharsis moved him to songwriting, and alongside friend and collaborator Liam O’Neil (also formerly of Silver Starling) Paquin produced his first solo record, Our Love.

In a proper start for a breakup record, opener “More Than Alright” provides a snapshot of the moment when Paquin gave up on the relationship. He sings a single verse about abandoning something both parties know isn’t fulfilling, before transitioning into a mellow, atmospheric saxophone outro. It is a resigned, melancholic start to Paquin’s journey. “The Way Forward” follows the themes of the opener as, over soft indie pop production, Paquin sings off the uncertainty that joins the need to find your way in the aftermath of the end of a relationship. It’s not a hopeful song, but it denotes the willingness to look for hope. It calmly sets the stage for the emotional journey that inspired this project.

Our Love is a ballad-heavy album, as they make up half the tracklist. “Die For You” is dedicated to the singer’s child, an endearing mix of tranquil production and professions of paternal love whose emotionally charged framing saves it from reaching kitsch territory. “Tinsel Fountains” is a rather youthful take on relationship bliss, as Paquin admires the details of his happiness while the instruments backing him pour their heart out. The closing ballad, “Are You A Stranger”, mirrors the opener with a single verse, this time with the singer exposing his uncertainties before launching into an outro of piano and humming. Passable on their own, the opener and the closer are made much more worthwhile through their parallel.

Despite Paquin’s balladeer tendencies, however, Our Love is not entirely devoid of pop, thanks also to O’Neil’s drums bringing in some welcome pulse. “Hollywood Lights”, the album’s most refined production, has all the makings of an indie hit, as it includes the album’s best chorus and verses full of imagery that elevates the emotion. “Until It’s Gone”, with its drum-driven mid-tempo sound, is made the record’s most lyric-focused piece, as the verses play off the piano lines. It features the album’s most sincere and self-critical songwriting, as Paquin delivers the line “Sometimes I don’t know what I got till it’s gone” with pure earnestness.

The title track, with its guitar-driven rhythm and pulsating synths, encapsulates the album’s thesis. It speaks of questioning, regretting, and reminiscing, all through an 80s flavored production that invites looking to the past. Even more synth-driven, “Close To You” pairs a bustling synth sound with an honest exploration of the effort to welcome the vulnerability love demands back into one’s life. It has energy, it has emotion, it is a thrill.

The album’s most lively moment however is the single “Something Beautiful”. Bringing in more organic-sounding drums and guitar, it is the glimmer of hope the rest of the album seeks for. Rather than focusing on matters of love, the song chronicles a journey of love alongside a musical journey, in a very inspired parallel to how Paquin moved on from a love endeavor through this musical endeavor.

Marcus Paquin is a skilled music maker in every aspect, and very little inhibits those talents, save perhaps the fact that they belong to Marcus Paquin. Our Love will at many points cause the listener to recall great indie records from the 2010’s, even some Paquin had a hand in, the issue being that some listeners might choose to revisit those records rather than this one. His reliance on sparse ballads almost leave the impression that Paquin went through the making of this record in a hurry. Even when not doing enough however, what Paquin does, he does well. He has not achieved the ability to make a monumental album, but he can make songs worth listening to. Marcus Paquin has talent, his audience is left waiting for him to acquire substance.