(Half Awake Records, out Fri 8 March 2019)
The French duo of Armand Penicaut and Ulysse Cottin started making music some time in 2012, having both admired bands like The Strokes and The Libertines while growing up. This musical upbringing has somehow manifested itself, when it comes to their own creations, in dreamy jazzy indie pop – the sound of Papooz.
Now on their second album, Night Sketches, the band are at it again, with smooth lush grooves and beautifully decorated instrumentation. While the Parisian two-piece have always, for the most part, concerned themselves with a rhythmic sensibility, this new album adds a disco element. Tracks like Pacific Telephone and Theatrical State of Mind showcase this with a more rounded sound of choppy guitar lines over long-held synth chords and syncopated percussion. Prohibiting the tunes from entering full blown Motown/soul territory is singer Penicaut’s wispy vocals and the band’s insistence on various stops and starts in the groove.
The subtlety can be found throughout the album, although it sometimes borders on boring, if you don’t pay enough attention. But amidst the slick grooves, there is an earnest song-writing prowess, with the lyrics of the self-deprecating Danger to Myself conjuring up a gloriously clichéd Parisian image: “So I light up a cigarette at the corner / Watching human beings just for an hour.” The album does deviate somewhat, genre-wise, with tracks like Bubbles and Good for Nothing taking a more alternative folk turn, but not without the band’s romantic sheen.
Slick but accessible and humble in its delivery, Night Sketches is a solid LP with many choruses that etch themselves into your brain and many grooves that force you to move. But the album is lacking any stand-out tracks. If their trajectory from their debut Green Juices is anything to go by, this band are sincerely on to something. Just not yet, unfortunately.