Australian quintet The Paper Kites are known for their indie-folk sound which propelled them into success with their first EP ‘Woodland’ in 2011, and ‘At The Roadhouse’ showcases a consistent and refined range in their musicality over a decade after their first release.
Recorded in an unconventional residency at the small Australian town of Campbells Creek, ‘At The Roadhouse’ has a very unique story – the band found an empty space and turned it into their own ‘roadhouse’, working on tracks for the record in the day and playing for their fans in the evening. And the wholesome live music motif certainly shines through on the record, which thrives with its raw instrumentation-led tracks giving it the feel that it was designed to enjoy live.
Being the band’s sixth record, they’ve had the chance to refine the storytelling that drives an album, and this certainly comes through in the cohesive lyricism. Written as an extended love letter exploring feelings of longing, introspection and reflection, it acts as a follow-up to 2018’s ‘On The Train Ride Home’ which tackled similar themes. On this record, the protagonist loses his great love as they move away in ‘Marietta’, and the subsequent tracks deal with the self-reflection that comes along with this, before ending on a hopeful note in closing track ‘Darkness at My Door’, which beautifully concludes the album with the inclusion of a gospel choir. Lead singer Sam Bentley uses his smooth vocals to gorgeously convey the story-like lyricism, which particularly comes to life in the metaphorical and thought-provoking track ‘Burn The Night Away’.
Electric guitars define and carry the album, but the overall sound is not limited to traditional folk. ‘Midnight Moon’, ‘Rolling on Easy’ and ‘The Sweet Sound Of You’, with its harmonica interlude, give the record a familiar and heart-warming indie-folk feel, but I was surprised to hear the inclusion of grungier and rock-like electric guitar riffs in ‘Mercy’, ‘Black & Thunder’ and ‘June’s Stolen Car’. It’s these variations which give the record an edge, set it apart in the band’s discography and transport you seamlessly from a secluded cosy cabin in Australia to a lively saloon. At sixteen tracks long, the album is on the longer side, but enough variation is present so that it lacks monotony, and each band member has a chance to showcase their talent. Sam Bentley, Christina Lacy and David Powys harmonise beautifully whilst Lacy and Powys also drive the records with their guitars and seamlessly coordinate with Samuel Rasmussen on bass and Josh Bentley on drums.
If you’re looking for a record perfect for autumn, then look no further than ‘At The Roadhouse’ – a truly stellar legacy left by The Paper Kites.
Words: Amrit Virdi