"The Paper Crowns have this aura of honesty in their music that’s genuine, easy to grasp, yet also not a complete giveaway." (Waleed Rashidi - IE Weekly)
"They are making some incredible music!" (Vanessa Franko - Press Enterprise)
Upon hearing the original song "Virginia Caine" by The Paper Crowns: "That is one of my favorite songs...like, ever! Really solid story. Be proud. Be very proud. Goosebumps!" (Dave Bucholtz - Dead Show Of The Month Podcast.)
The Paper Crowns are that rare mix of ingenuity and tradition. They are timeless in their music yet unique in their delivery of sonic goods. Nicole Pond has a voice that has been compared to great artists like Patti Smith and Stevie Nicks.....strong, feminine and sensual and mystic. Spiro has a style that comes from the roots of Delta Blues and Kentucky bluegrass with the psychedelic nuances of Jerry Garcia and the raw ferocity of Hendrix or Neil Young.
Their songwriting and lyrics are a tour de force through the great songwriters of the last century. "Virginia Caine" is a song set on the Mississippi river in the old South in which a young girl torches her family steam boat with a vengance. The lyrics hit with such clarity and lyrical drama, inviting into your mind characters and situations that could've walked right out of a Twain novel or a Dylan lyric, or an old folk tale from America's far gone past. It is a female empowering song that is folk sized. These songs tell a tale and teach somethings about life.
"Devil Got To Play" has a cast of blues archetypes in their animal forms: Old Tom Crow, Bonnie the Cat, Mary and the Devil......these folk characters mix up a blues gumbo of love, betrayal, deals with the devil, murder and loss so deep that it's hard to believe such detail can be delivered in a four minute song. The Paper Crowns deliver their songs like Dylan has delivered, like Cash has delivered. Big shoes to fill for sure. Check it out for yourself and become a believer.
"Death, Where Is Thy Sting?" - A song that has borrowed lines from the Old Testament. The stark poetry that comes from staring at death in the face is hard won and seldom seen in songs today. The lyrics are reprinted with the artist's permission below:
"Death, where is thy sting? Are you angel or a devil upon the bird with broken wing? Should the cat eat the canary or should a caged bird sing? It's only food for thought, but a meal fit for a king. Every shade of autumn leaf will decorate your life....all except for love's eternal spring. The flowers for your sweetheart all fell beneath the knife....but for the fleeting joy that they might bring. Where is thy sting? Oh Death, where is thy sting? For prey or for the predator, what fate should fortune bring? After a long hard winter comes forth the bloom of spring. Lord, hand me down all of Your eternal things." There reverberates the vibes of Poe, Tom Waits, or Leonard Cohen....dark, Earthy dank, and lush with possibility that can shine a light side on the most fearful of eventualities.
The Paper Crowns can play like seasoned musicians. Their harmonies are lush and sweet evoking Hawaiian choruses in "First of Spring," or have a Nashville atmosphere as in the album's title cut "See You Tonight." That song has the rare mix of Grand Ole' Opry sweetheart slow dance and baby making music. It is one of the classiest songs describing getting naked and feeling the glory of human experience in one another ever written. The music is so sweet you will want to pull your sweetheart close and slow dance to the insinuating lyric that casts a spell and magically may make you two get horizontal for a while.
The indie sensibilities on the Paper Crowns album are not overcooked and cliche like most of what we hear on some college radio stations. Old Sweet song is a sonic opera of light vs. dark, of soft sonic terrane vs. emotional badlands. Nicole Pond's voice is haunting and etherial. She has the kind of voice that puts the listener into orbit. The gravity of her tone is at once soothing and mysterious - something that keeps you looking into each turn of phrase like facets of a finely cut jewel. The chorus thunders with drums and overdriven guitar dynamically raising the stakes of audio drama. The song has an ancient vibe and message...."I have always been, but have yet become." The mystery of constant change echoes through the song like cryptic verses from the ancient Vedas. The guitar solo Spiro plays has the melodic sensibility and sensitivity that is reminiscent of Jerry Garcia's musical voice....organic, subtle, and eventually embracing then releasing.
"Intuition" is the most indie rock stylized song on The Paper Crown's album. There is a tense tom tom driven beat over which the two singers call and respond to one another, then harmonize again. "Everyday Now" is similar in its use of heavy toms and harmonies throughout. There is a great feedback tapestry at the end that rides over the otherwise acoustic vibe of the song that has the beauty and sonic spectacle of a piano dropped off of a skyscraper.
Among the songs is a tango called "Twice a Child." As castanets and melodicas paint an Old World vibe, Nicole sings a song about aging gracefully in the face of Alzheimer's disease. There is an autobiographical twist to this song for her, having family experiencing this first hand. It is perhaps the most poignant song written on the subject.
The bluegrass and outlaw country two step rhythm is on fire in a trio of songs on The Paper Crowns debut. "River Song" has an Emmylou Harris vibe with a killer chorus that has a tip of the hat to California's river culture. There's a hot guitar solo to bring it all to a climax. Glory Glory is a banjo driven bluegrass song. There is a great bridge sang in the round and a banjo solo that gets to almost heavy metal dynamics. The harmonies are tightly delivered over an open tuned guitar propelled rhythm that gets the feet tapping and looking for the dance floor. "My Best Feeling" is somewhere between two step country and indie rock. The use of glockenspiel and handclaps is cute in a good way. There is the sound of a distant train whistle when Nicole counts down the song that is a result of this album's completely recorded at home vibe. The Paper Crowns are from Devore Heights California at the head of the Cajon Pass - the most dangerous and busy train pass in the United States. It's cool to hear the environment reflected from their red barn home recording studio.
The Paper Crowns debut album "See You Tonight" is the best example of Southern California's current psychedelic Americana scene. The state has a rich history in the genre from amazing bands like the Grateful Dead, the Eagles, Crosby Stills and Nash, Quicksilver Messenger Service, and even including Merle Haggard - the Paper Crowns weave these influences and more into a seamless and hypnotizing sound with lyrics that seem as time worn as a Sequoia forrest and as highway worn as a Grateful Dead road case. This album is perfect for a long drive with your lover or for a starlit night of revelry and wine. This is an incredibly literate band with lyrics that are both invoking of folk spirits and have the moral lessons of old stories from the oral tradition. Make a good decision and get this 12 song album now. Get a bottle, light a candle or whatever it is you may light up and let these songs and images make a home in your mind's eye. Get familiar with the characters from these songs like old familiar friends. Let them take you down that old river of lost America. It seems The Paper Crowns have found the way back home.
(John Jeffries - Indie Music Review)