If I tell you I get about ten to twelve CDs submitted each week, I’m not lying. So for an album to get space on my site, it’s got to rise above almost everyone else. Paper Rival’s debut CD, Dialog, has managed to do just that, and largely because of one song: “Cassandra.” Most of Paper Rival’s work fits in the ‘90s alt-rock vein: Moderately hard rock and roll, heavy hooks, and slightly strained, soaring vocals that emphasize drama. It’s a solid outing, to be sure, and there are several surprises buried here. Like, “The Family Ghost,” a drum-driven stadium anthem reminiscent of Bloc Party. And “Foreign Film Collection,” a slow-burning indie rocker complete with Christmas jingle bells.
But the gem is “Cassandra.” It begins with light strumming, violin, and easy percussion. Then vocals straight out of America/1970s AM Radio come in and sing “Every day I spend alone/And think of life somewhere else/Is this a necessary evil/That I found within myself?” It’s sad, forlorn, and wonderfully painful.
On the whole, Paper Rival’s album is about craft not style: The eleven songs here feel indistinct at times, but each of them is well-written and focused. Nothing is here by accident. “Dialog” is a cohesive debut with some truly stellar moments.