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On Deck: Paper Lions

By ; August 29, 2013 at 1:29 PM 


There’s something to be said for understanding exactly where you fit within a particular genre.  And pop-rock quartet Paper Lions, hailing from Belfast, Prince Edward Island, have found a comfy home meting out chunks of indie rock to their expectant fans.  The group first came together when brothers John and Rob MacPhee began playing together with neighbor Colin Buchanan in a number of various garage rock bands when they were younger.  In high school, the trio met and recruited drummer David Cyrus McDonald, and the official roster for Paper Lions was set in place.  After a series of exhaustive tours over the next decade supporting various releases – not the least of which included playing a show in Alert, Nunavut, the most northern human settlement on earth – the band headed back into the studio with producer Howard Redekopp (Tegan and Sara, The New Pornographers) to begin work on a new album.

This new album, My Friends (out now on Fountain Pop Records), finds the band mingling smooth vocal harmonies and pop-centric melodies with just the right amount of jagged guitar lines and thrumming percussion.  As often as you’ll find yourself nodding along to the rhythmic thump of the drums or guiding bassline, there are times when you’ll catch just a shadow of something hiding within the track – some small detail that grabs your attention and won’t let go.  And it’s in these imaginative and unexpected details that Paper Lions’ sound really blossoms.  The band finds comfort in familiarity, but it’s more of a communal awareness of their own place within indie rock’s lineage and not some monotone acceptance of set aesthetics.  And so the more you hear these songs and recognize their base structures, the more you come to realize how expertly and subtly the band has expanded and oftentimes subverted the accepted ideas of established rock composition.

Recently, we spoke with Paper Lions guitarist Colin Buchanan about some of the records which have been floating around in his collection lately.  From the late 70’s sheen of The Rolling Stones to Jimmy Cliff’s socio-political reggae and on down to 90’s alternative radio heroes Our Lady Peace, Buchanan takes us through a host of influences and personal preferences that allow us a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the sounds that helped to shape the band’s distinct sound.  Check out his full list of records below in the latest installment of our On Deck series.

The Rolling Stones - Emotional Rescue
The Rolling Stones – Emotional Rescue

For some reason it’s generally accepted that The Stones in the late 70s SUCKED. I really don’t understand it. Both Some Girls and Emotional Rescue are just great, fun dance records. Sure, it’s not the Stones that everyone came to love in the 60s/early 70s, but I actually think those albums aged pretty well. Emotional Rescue still has a special place in my heart – not a summer goes by that my friends and I don’t put it on for a late night dance party.

Jimmy Cliff

Jimmy Cliff – The Harder They Come

I’m not really a big Reggae fan, but if I’m looking for that feeling that only Reggae provides (goofy euphoria), I always go for The Harder They Come soundtrack. I’ve never seen the movie or the stage production, (I think there is one?), but something about the sequencing of this album is just fantastic. Every song just flows into the next so well. The Melodians, Toots, Desmond Dekker and Cliff Himself, all geniuses of their genre. Another summer essential.

Major Lance
Major Lance – Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um

My friend Pat recently turned me on to this gem. Most of the songs were written and produced by Curtis Mayfield, who was a childhood friend of Lance. It’s got a very Motown sound, despite coming out on Okeh Records in 1964. I recommend it to anyone on a Motown-y kick, or just to those who love great pop songwriting.

Our Lady Peace - Clumsy
Our Lady Peace – Clumsy

This is an album I used to think I only enjoyed on a purely nostalgic level. I remember stealing my sisters boom box while she was at volleyball practice, and cranking Clumsy to 10 while pretending I was moshing around an imaginary pit in my room (it was 1997, why was I still trying to mosh?). I recently got my computer fixed by a friend who not only brought the ancient MacBook back to modern times, but also as an extra treat, filled my iTunes with a TON of music (much of which was from this era). It’s now made it’s way onto my iPod and back into my heart. Learning “Superman’s Dead” on guitar was once my single goal in life.

Tom Waits - The Heart Of Saturday Night
Tom Waits – The Heart Of Saturday Night

I’ve been listening to this album a lot lately. My friend Nathan lent his copy to me (a very extended loan at this point) and it usually makes it’s way onto the turntable every other night. I believe when most people think of Tom Waits they think of “Weirddddo Tom Waits.” I like that stuff too, but something about the simplicity of the songwriting on those early albums really hits the spot for me lately. It doesn’t feel like a gimmick or scare tactic, as on some of his other stuff. All the songs are just hard luck, truck stop love songs about people on the road. Something you can relate to being in a band.

Paper Lions’ latest album, My Friends, is out now on Fountain Pop Records. 


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