Paper Castles

Alice Phoebe Lou

Independent release, 2019

REVIEW BY: Vish Iyer


Paper Castles is a heavenly record that’s dreamy and calming throughout... it feels literally celestial. This album aims high, but Alice Phoebe Lou goes about it with total humility, which is as charming as her songs. However, this South African singer-songwriter’s tenacity and clear drive for being unique also contributes hugely to the character of this sophomore release. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Paper Castles is airy and ethereal, but not without passion.

Lou has a crooner way of singing, which sounds classic, but not dated. Although there is a sense of nostalgia in the way she sings, she seems distinct and modern, and most importantly, super self-assured and stylish. Her playful nuances work splendidly, rightfully showing off her confidence in her ability as a great vocalist. For instance, on one of the album’s best and dreamiest cuts, “Galaxies,” her goofy vocal inflections come as a total surprise amid the number’s tranquility, adding a bit of mischief, but without diluting the song’s core mood.

This disc is nothing if not atmospheric. But Lou has set out to reach this result by putting thoughtful song-crafting and musicianship first, and not by creating atmosphere just for the sake of it. Her incorporation of jazz to achieve this gives Paper Castles a distinct flavor, much like her vocals do.

“New Song” exhibits Lou’s modern take on beloved music of the yore, with her mesmerizing vocals sounding like a timeless crooner, while artfully played beautiful instrumentation accompany her. The title track has the same effect, but with the twist that it is backed up by funky disco beats and bass lines from the eighties soul era.

Paper Castles is defiantly different, but not just for the sake of being so. Lou might embrace disparate influences, but she effortlessly makes them her own. Her elevated musical aptitude and talent requires her to be unique to express herself, and she is just following her calling. No wonder her music appears so natural.

Rating: A-

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