Yellow Paper Planes – Building A Building – Album Review
Man do these guys GET it!
If you’re unfamiliar with the music of Yellow Paper Planes, introduce yourself and get used to it; sounds like this don’t stay a secret from the masses forever. I was impressed with their Feather’s Touch EP from back in 2015 and I’ve been singing their praises ever since. As much as I try not to have any expectations for any artist/band…I’m human too…when we like something, it’s natural for us to want it to succeed, isn’t it? So even though I tried not to get TOO excited about the new Yellow Paper Planes album Building A Building getting closer and closer…I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was actually fucking stoked to hear that a full record was being released. What WILL they do over twelve songs?
I’ll tell you what they do upfront – Yellow Paper Planes prove exactly why they’re one of the best out there right now. A complete hybrid of spectacular sound, the new album Building A Building evolves, moves, grows & grooves as it plays through a plethora of styles from indie to rock, psychedelic to pop and everywhere worth exploring in between. And can I also just say right off the bat – I absolutely LOVE the grip this band has on the songs they write…the way they get the maximum out of their sound, especially in the low-end tones continually makes their music thick, rich and spectacularly captivating to experience. The more I’d listened to their first EP, the more I got right into four-piece band from Columbus, Ohio…the more I felt like that music was completely a part of me; the connection to the new record was even more instantaneous – the music of Yellow Paper Planes is designed to flow right into your ears smoothly, gliding on a dreamy path towards the core of your very soul. On that first EP I’d reviewed, I realize now…I was hearing excitement and great songs; on their brand-new album Building A Building what I’m hearing now is confidence and sincere belief…they now know they’re onto something truly special and the start of what’ll go on to become the wildest adventures they’ll have in their lives. This is their time…and there is quite simply, nothing better to listen to – EVER – than a band that is truly hitting their stride and unquestioningly following their natural talents & instincts to victory like this; we are talking about a smoother-than-smooth flow and structure that creates one all-encompassing, massively-magical moment in time over the course of their new album. THIS…is real entertainment and a truly vibrant set of ideas all woven together perfectly to create a seriously powerful & moving album.
It runs damn deep too! As a side-note before I even get into the first song…on my first time listening through the album, I remember getting to song ten out of twelve and looking at the title, smiling. I was thinking to myself how rad it is to hear the hits & hooks still radiating from this record so deep into its set list…not a bad problem to have boys…not bad at all.
Alright…let’s begin at the beginning tho…because there’s no single snapshot of this album that will do its entirety justice on its own…Building A Building is a record that knows what it MEANS to be a record. There are no dead-spots or even dull-spots on the new Yellow Paper Planes album; they set the standard quickly with the tender intro to “Tearing Up” – you’ll hear from the way this ONE tune evolves and develops that they’ve put the work into making the material highly-memorable. Sometimes that means flat-out amazing hooks, other times it really refers to the way that their material speaks to you and connects right to your very core…but believe me when I say, this entire album WILL stick with you.
Between the hugeness in Petey Mendenhall’s bass-tones and the brilliant, distant vocals of Joshua P. James edging closer to the front as the drumbeats from Brandon Woods keep the track rolling along perfectly & smoothly…right til that third minute when Jeremy Ebert lets the guitars loose and takes the final moments of “Tearing Up” to its explosive ending. How’s THAT for development? It’s all right here…all the ingredients of what makes this band incredible being introduced piece-by-piece stunningly as “Tearing Up” builds to break – Building A Building starts with an impressively solid foundation. Not only do you want that strong beginning – but ideally, you’ve still gotta find ways to build the excitement straight out of the gate – and that’s where things go really RIGHT for Yellow Paper Planes on their new album. Both of the next tunes to follow, “Stare To Hold” and “Absolute” make great candidates for singles…I’d be partial to “Stare To Hold” myself if you forced me to choose but I certainly wouldn’t be dissatisfied with “Absolute” as a choice as well…in a way, I’d argue the latter tune is more widely-accessible. Looks like I win…or well, we ALL do – check it out below!
That being said, “Stare To Hold” is where you get that crisp & clear dose of the extraordinary ability that Yellow Paper Planes has to insert insightful melodies into their music. Much like I’d experienced originally through their Feather’s Touch EP – Yellow Paper Planes show an incredible amount of restraint in their composition and never once over-milk an idea past its due-date. For instance…”Stare To Hold” comes out seriously strong through its guitars, drums and bass rattling the amps at the beginning before breaking into a super-sweet melody to guide its verse…the chorus is energetic, powerful & strong, delivered perfectly, there’s great instrumentation, dynamics and pure-tone to their parts along the way – ALL of it sounds impressive. So what am I saying? I’m saying that Yellow Paper Planes always have something interesting up their sleeve and “Stare To Hold” is no exception to this rule; as impressive as it’s been the entire way through as it unfolded, my favorite part of the song without question comes in that final breakdown. That’s about thirty-seconds…roughly about 1/7th of the total length of time on “Stare To Hold” – now you see what I’m saying about never exploiting a hook? They give you JUST ENOUGH to make you NEED it…like that scene in So I Married An Axe Murderer where Mike Myers’ dad describes what happens with Kentucky Fried Chicken. It’s so TRUE…and somewhere in that band…they KNOW it…they KNOW I’m going to, and YOU’RE going to repeat the experience multiple times-over in order to hear these amazing moments again & again. And they ALSO know that we’re not going to complain! Why would we? When one hook ends for these guys, another quickly begins – and that’s “Absolute”-ly what I’m talking about. As I mentioned, I think “Absolute” would be a great choice to lead people into the record or certainly to play live – the uplifting energy and rubbery bass-lines make this track really move & groove with a bright atmosphere that feels great to just listen to! Imagine writing it or playing it! Yellow Paper Planes would definitely be having a great time onstage with this tune…the excellent breakdown towards the second minute is definitely one of those real hand-clapping moments for a whole crowd to get right into it; love the vocals of the chorus and I really like the way they’ve written the music just outside of it as they exit the chorus – great attitude and character found there.
While I can’t always speak for everyone…I know what works for me when it comes to the sound of Yellow Paper Planes…which admittedly is ALL of it…but, specifically, songs like “Bottle Up, Explode” are what tell my ears this band has really got what it takes to catch on. Both verse and chorus of this tune are beyond amazing; the verse gives you the signature low-end smoothness & groove of the classic & signature style that Yellow Paper Planes have – and the chorus just opens-up as the song’s title would imply to reveal a really powerful moment in rock. In the thick of the ‘explosion’-half of this song, YPP ends up reminding me much of the early music by Big Wreck on their first album – I dig the extra grit & gravel that Joshua gets stuck in his craw in the vocals of the chorus…perfect for the theme of the song and energy of the music. Look at it from any angle you like…lyrically, musically, vocally…there’s a real focus on “Bottle Up, Explode” that you can hear reveals just how much thought this band puts into their material – and the results are justifiably impressive…absolutely an early highlight on this record for me.
Dialing it back from the previous explosion and expanding on the smoothness, they take on a ballad with “Sword And Stone” and find one of the most gentle, accessible & sweet tunes you’ll hear this year. The longest tune on the album at just-short of five minutes, it also happens to be one of the most inviting to the ears. Almost a real classic vibe running through the veins of this song…like the idea was ripped right out of the Etta James era and redone now in Yellow Paper Planes style…it swings gently and beckons you to listen to its every gentle movement and melody-line. As far as slow-tunes go, this is the kind of jam that you’ll ALWAYS have time for and never reach to skip ahead to the next dose of energy…everything about the atmosphere has such a pleasurable, easy-going vibe to it that it floats right into your ears without any form of resistance. Full of personal & introspective lyrics that hit home, reflecting on what’s important in life, love & relationships…all expressed in layers of descriptions and imagery that are often metaphorical – but if you’re listening close, it’s bound to be one of those songs where you’ll find your own personal relevance and meaning that connects you to it for a lifetime to follow.
“Bloodshot” gets those drums rolling along with solid toms & rhythms immediately…I really like the way this tune starts out low-key before switching the vibe later on. I didn’t mind the chorus on this tune so much as I felt it was simply outshined by the verse, there’s a truly great relationship between the drums, vocals and guitars throughout it. The chorus has punch…it’s still got a memorable hook…I dig the shortened-form of it…the longer it went as it raged into the third-minute, I grew less sure about it but appreciated the way that moment breaks into extremely rad instrumentation at the end. Still a solid tune…you have to recognize that when being surrounded by solid tunes left & right, we’re still going to find songs that connect stronger to us than others do…”Bloodshot” was a bit like that for me in the sense that I felt the least strongly about it by comparison, but I can still hear why it could easily end up being a highlight for others.
We all like what we like, know what I mean? “White Lies” continues back into the low-key, sparse-ballad territory with that familiar switch into the punch, midstream in the song to really mix it up. I really dig the evolution and growth of this song…great lyrics on this tune too…but absolutely “White Lies” continues to develop strongly as the idea plays on. The isolated way they present the opening, the thrashing middle, coming back to the verse with added energy and then building-up the music to quickly break it down in the final seconds, ending it memorably. Those slight bursts of energy begin to take the record out of its tenderized mid-section and back into the groove that quickly takes hold with “So It Goes” and sends the album into a series of songs that create a seriously strong run of tunes at the end of Building A Building. “So It Goes” screams-out fun, good-times and completely freakin’ GOIN’ for it – not only does it possess a powerful set of hooks in the melody that work perfectly, it also jettisons all the weight by its end and puts in a huge dose of freedom of expression in music as they amp up the madness supremely. Another extremely invitational sound leading the way through the verse – Yellow Paper Planes command the tone, energy and atmosphere of “So It Goes” masterfully and let this song unfold like the best of stories being told. Incidentally…I can’t not think of Kurt Vonnegut when I hear the term “So It Goes” – you can find him saying that at some point in pretty much every book he’s written. Anyhow…point being…it’s all laid-out incredibly well and ends at its maximum strength – every inch of the song is part of a ride worth taking.
The vocal-flow and melody-line in the vocals & verse of “Pinch Of The Sunrise” should win awards. Joshua is absolutely killing it! With just the barest of ingredients in the music held steady by the rhythm of Brandon’s drums – you can hear the insightful way that Joshua hears melody and where it exists in a song before it would even be there…dude’s got a serious connection to what really WORKS and what connects with us in turn. Great bass-lines in this tune too…nothing about “Pinch Of The Sunrise” that doesn’t absolutely represent what I truly love about this band. Awesome, lasting-hooks in the verse and they kick it up perfectly with the distortion fueled riffs that line the chorus. The moment they explode the first time and drift sweetly back into the verse, it’s magic all-over again…part-after-part, YPP has loaded this track with ways to keep your attention affixed without a possibility of complaints.
Infamous track-ten…the tune I’d cited towards the beginning of the review. Wasn’t saying it was my absolute favorite…was just relating my experience…BUT…there’s also a damn good chance that this could be my favorite tune. You know me…I try not to call it out directly…but undeniably, “Take A Step Back” was one of the examples of Yellow Paper Planes doing it all RIGHT once again at their most focused & finest. I LOVE this mix of pop/rock/indie…a lot of what they do reminds me of what it might be like if you were to combine the strengths of two-bands like The National and The Strokes to come out with one completely killer band. Don’t get me wrong – I love both The National and The Strokes…they’re freaking fantastic examples of everything that’s amazing about music…BUT…if we’re going by average of songs I like per-record or even per-existence…I’m already leaning towards the impressive stats that Yellow Paper Planes are stacking up through my stereo over the course of an EP & an album. I think Building A Building has certainly cemented all of what I’d assumed and thought about Yellow Paper Planes and their potential…this album is absolutely fantastic. Here we are, deep in at song ten and YPP lets out what could possibly be the most accessible tune, roll & rhythm on the entire record – this is the kind of song that could pull people in from miles away…a song more than likely to be loved and adored by all universally. Nothing to pick apart here whatsoever – whether it’s bass, drums, guitars, vocals, background vocals…IDEA itself – you name it and you’ll find Yellow Paper Planes at their best here. As Joshua lets his vocals loose, wild and free just prior to the three-thirty mark and rip to the ending, you’ll hear an indescribable, highlight moment that allows you to hear some of the amazing character in his voice that makes his vocals so consistently rad to listen to.
Joshua continues to really bring out the best in himself as the album heads towards its end with “C’mon” perhaps being one of his strongest performances to-date on the vocals. A demanding tune in its structure, writing and sound – Yellow Paper Planes as a whole entity had to rise to the occasion to fully deliver on this particular set of ideas – and I’m proud to say they certainly did. The guitars in this song are insanely cool…the way that they’ve got it all moving and structured overall shows much skill and the smart directions they chose to shift this song around. The uplifting vibe that you get in the music as this song heads to its chorus and soaring guitars following quickly afterwards is damn inspiring to listen to – “C’mon” is a string of seriously fantastic ideas combined perfectly, leaving no area unexamined or us as listeners possibly wanting anything more from them. Love the instrumentation every bit as much as I love the vocals on “C’mon” and the way they chose to end it on a chorus-chant between them all was the icing on the cake I was already completely enjoying.
Dragging out syllables and shifting their sound into a hazy, pop-inclined melody to start “Monterey” – you get the full-circle effect here with Joshua singing out the title of the album in the song’s chorus. I will be the FIRST to admit that I have NO IDEA how they’ve gone about creating this song…or how they even uncovered it to begin with…and that once you hear it, you’ll instantly want to hear it again. The first half of the tune is wildly innovative…minimalist in style but maximum in its overall effect on us as listeners – that’s pure audio-enticement to the ears right there is what that is. “Monterey” delivers such a satisfying to Building A Building that it’s impossible to ignore…loaded with diversity & versatility in the music throughout its middle and coming back once more to a sweet ending with Joshua alone in the chorus as it finishes, they nailed it. Not just the song…the entire experience! This whole record has been so stocked-full of impressive tunes that every member of the band and wonderful talents like Jason Ferrell & Jay Alton that assisted in the music…these people should all be high-fivin’ big-time right now over a job massively well-done. I had justifiable but enormous expectations for this full-album from Yellow Paper Planes – and every inch of this record exceeded them. A highlight in my 2017 without question – Building A Building shows that this band is absolutely ready to go on all-fronts; the material is 100% there, 100% of the time – now it’s up to you to support them and listen. Believe me…they’re not going anywhere but UP…and if you’re around for them now, I guarantee they’ll be around for you in the future.
I mentioned somewhere in here that I really dig Yellow Paper Planes right? You will too, trust me.
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