Papercuts, a project of songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Jason Quever, has perfected hazy acoustics, layered instrumentation and lyrical themes of isolation and loneliness. All over Can’t Go Back, Papercuts’ second proper release, Quever casts tales of characters struggling to find their place and wavering in desperation and desolation — the narrator who’s unsure if he’ll be able to provide financially for his love interest, the one who struggles with his inability to connect with an old friend. But what sets Quever’s music apart from his peers’ is his characters’ naive hopelessness — that they’re too innocent to recognize their conflict makes the songs all the more lovable.
Most of Can’t Go Back consists of cloudy guitars, airy percussion, droning ambiance and Quever’s warm, gloomy vocals. “Dear Employee” uses discordant strings over Quever’s gentle acoustic strumming to create a musical atmosphere as jarring as its accompanying lyrical narrative. “Just Another Thing to Dust” features a sweeping acoustic guitar melody and bright, layered feedback in crafting grandiosity for Quever’s reminisces of hope and happiness and fear. “John Brown” is the most musically impressive. It begins with a mix of guitar, bass, echoed fuzz and strained vocals and transforms mid-song into an explosion or urgency with forceful drums, driving bass and lyrics to match the altered mood (“He’s mad as the devil/ over what’s become of this land”).
Can’t Go Back is the perfect template for Quever’s gift of storytelling. His ability to create sad and innocent yet lovable characters struggling to understand their situations is worth repeated exploration. At one point, we are all as vulnerable as these characters are, and the lessons learned in that state will always stay with us.