Album Review

Paper Dolls

Paper Dolls

by The Brunettes


Lil Chief
5.9 / 10
21st December 2009

Reviewed by Brannavan Gnanalingam


The Brunettes would have found themselves in an odd position with their previous Structures and Cosmetics. That album featured perhaps their strongest suite of songs in their long and excellent career, but their melodies and musicianship were incredibly underrated in the critical opinion which followed. Part of the issue was that critics were expecting the twee-ness which had initially given them a following around the world. Instead they got something world-weary and dense.

Paper Dolls initially seems like a return to the cute pop of the early days, but the joyfully insistent digital rhythms and boy/girl dynamics have more than a touch of Lil’ Chief labelmates Little Pictures. The sound is less organic than previous work, with hip-hop rhythms and stripped back instrumentation driving the sound. As the album progresses, the music shifts schizophrenically – unsurprising given the restlessness that Jonathan Bree and Heather Mansfield have shown throughout their career. Lyrically, Bree and Mansfield have never been stronger, and the lyrics are esoteric, sharp and evocative.

However, the album lacks the strong melodies which have made the Brunettes so memorable in the past, and the first half of the album in particular suffers from some strained melodies. The rhythms and unusual arrangements don’t compensate enough and are quite cloying at points. The slow start guts the album’s effect. The album gains more momentum in the second half – in particular ‘Magic (No Bunny)’ and ‘It’s Only Natural’ give a sense of a successful marriage of musical experimentation and catchy melodies. However, Paper Dolls did feel a little rushed overall, with some half-baked ideas taunting with their unfulfilled potential.






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