Almost every single review of Papercuts ‘ third album (2007’s Can’t Go Back ) mentioned the curious moniker given to Jason Quever’s songwriting outlet. The annoying flesh wound may be the bane of office workers everywhere, but most of Can’t Go Back and its predecessor (2004’s Mockingbird ) belie such a painful sobriquet. Quever’s hazy dream pop and reverb-swathed vocals also proved to carve out a healthy niche in San Francisco’s indie music industry beyond his associations with Devendra Banhart Gnomonsong and various spates of touring and collaborations with Baltimore’s Beach House, Grizzly Bear, Casiotone for the Painfully Alone and Cass McCombs.
Like his adventures in skygazing before, Quever’s You Can Have What You Want is an album stuck hovering midair. Quever’s lyrics may be preoccupied with the stratosphere but on tracks like “Jet Plane,” the title track, and “A Peculiar Hallelujah,” his arrangements arrive sluggish or even stillborn. His lyrics paint broader happenings: “Jet Plane” is ostensibly about a group of astronauts boarding “a plastic ship in the rain” and on the better “A Dictators Lament” the narrator pans over a throng of peasants “with their heads in their hands…watching the clouds for a sign.”
All are interesting subjects that never quite connect, like phantasms you forget by morning. By the time closing track, “The Wolf” comes along there’s been quite a bit of organ playing starts to seep into the background with Quever high-wire voice. Where ‘hazy’ was the de facto descriptor before, a turbid languor has set in. Even Quever’s best efforts only kick up more sediment to obscure his knack for melody. The lighter traces of electro-pop and folk rock on Can’t Go Back are substituted by 1960s noodling you would expect from a Nuggets devotee. “The Void” swirls around like a Krautrock tune drugged up on Quaaludes and “The Void” lacks much form.
That being said there are snatches of catchy songwriting here that won’t put you to sleep. “A Dictators Lament” and “Dead Love” bop along on a bed of vintage organs (Quever’s instrument of choice) and “Future Primitive” is buoyed by a sprite flourish of French ye-ye pop. Beach House‘s Alex Scally provided the beautiful string arrangements on the latter. Scally also added various percussion, bass, keys, and backing vocals elsewhere. For an all-analog disc though, You Can Have What You Want sometimes lacks the warmth that Quever was probably hoping for when he toiled away at his Pan American Recordings last year. By coloring within the lines of dream pop Quever has recorded a pleasant release but not necessarily one that goes beyond the normality of his band’s moniker. Sometimes staying in the air is worse than being grounded.