Album Review: Paperplain – Entering Pale Town
Today, whimsical female singer-songwriters are a dollar a dozen – a person can’t turn around without being assaulted by hordes of sweetly unassuming females, swathed in floral prints and brandishing guitars and gently-lilting ditties about cups of tea and bicycles – however, if you are going to devote your attention to just one folky female, it might as well be unfathomably precocious 19 year old Helen Page – aka Paperplain – who’s debut album ‘Entering Pale Town’ is as gently buoyant as her chosen alias.
Refreshingly enough, on ‘Entering Pale Town’, Helen makes no excuses for her fancifulness – she wears her cross-stitched heart on her cardigan sleeves, making ‘Entering Pale Town’s twee aesthetic so utterly absorbing, it’s impossible not to allow yourself to drift off into a sepia-tinted, pleasantly snug daydream – something akin to the centrespread of a Cath Kidston catalogue.
Sometimes this blissful state of torpidity works for Paperplain – ‘Rescue Boat’s gently-ebbing melody recalls an adolescent Kimya Dawson, minus her often devastating bouts of cynicism, or even Kate Nash, minus that supremely intolerable mockney drawl – however, Paperplain fares best when veering slightly out of her comfort zone – ‘Foreign Fingers’ sees Helen come across like Laura Marling dosed to the eyeballs with Prozac, lightly skimming the surface of a relationship fretted with all kinds of moral dilemmas – ‘I know that your girlfriend is home on her own/ But you’re not in the country so nobody knows/ We’ve had nine or ten now so don’t close your eyes/ But I’m not sure we’ll sleep great with a whole stream of lies’. She even swaps the infernal cups of tea for gin, ye gads.
In the end, ‘Entering Pale Town’s eventual downfall is its ceaseless vagueness – Paperplain seems incapable of making a statement without wrapping it in dulling, cotton-wool swathes of gaucheness – and it’s this lack of lyrical assertiveness that renders ‘Entering Pale Town’ merely pleasant, rather than genuinely affecting. However, it’d be foolish to write off a debut that is, all things consider, still a solid achievement for one so young – and it’s more than likely that in a few short years, Helen will return with an album that will pierce through the heart, rather than drifting, inoffensively, in one ear and out the other.