While the sprightly stomp of opener “In Colours” has all the dizzy energy, boxy girl-group percussion and sing-along choruses that are hallmarks of Phil Spector’s “little symphonies for the kids,” Paper Dolls finds New Zealand Back to Mono fetishists The Brunettes tearing down the Walls of Sound they began with 2002’s Holding Hands, Feeding Ducks and absolutely perfected with 2007’s Structure and Cosmetics in order to fashion a series of synth-washed indie-pop tunes.
Intimate, sugary-sweet, and boasting more hooks than one would expect for what, I suppose, could be called the band’s own Kid A for the Kids, Paper Dolls skips the symphonic pop grandeur of The Crystals for the glitchy sheen of modern electronica and indie. “Red Rollerskates,” all skittering beats and sensuous call-and-response coos, sounds destined to soundtrack the next iPod blitzkrieg; “Paper Dolls” melds moody, string-drenched atmospherics and loops to a chain of minimalist melodies; and “If I” laundry-lists a series of “what if?” death scenarios discussed between lovers against a bedrock of arcing, ethereal vocal soundscapes, becoming something of a postmodern love anthem, if a little oddball.
No longer firmly fixing their gaze upon past, The Brunettes have begun to turn their lights toward the future with Paper Dolls; moreover, these bouncy little bedroom discos should be more than enough to ensure that the band’s present (and future) remain bright as well.
The Brunettes continue down Gumdrop Lane on Paper Dolls, this time with drum machines and synths firmly in hand in addition to their usual guitar, keyboard, clarinet, xylophone, and glockenspiel mix. With an updated outlook that lends modernity to their usual throwback sound, they remain as cute as ever, using call-and-response lyrics and peculiar storytelling tactics.