Album Review: Faded Paper Figures, “Relics”

What do you get when you bring together a doctor, a successful music writer for a production company and a full-time English professor at Yale? In the case of Heather Alden, Kael Alden and R. John Williams, you get music.  Really good music.

Relics” is the fourth album from Faded Paper Figures, and it was released during August 2014 by Shorthand Records. During 2007, the band was formed between the three friends who met in Irvine, California. They took off quickly using platforms like Myspace to spread their music and grow their fan base.

Since 2007, their sound has come to incorporate aspects of synth-pop, electronica and indie pop. They rely heavily on synthesizers and soft guitars, as well as the clear vocals of R. John Williams, rounded out beautifully by the harmonizing voice of Heather Alden. Sometimes Williams will take the lead, but often the two voices meld together into a pleasing and pure sound. Overall, Faded Paper Figures has a very smart sound complete with versatile lyrics ranging from poetic to provocative to intensely reflective.

Rife with gorgeous melody lines and expressive lyrics, “Relics” is a calm and carefully constructed album. It is extremely cohesive in terms of sound and content, causing many of the songs flow into each other seamlessly. A good example of this is “Who Will Save Us Now?,” a simple but intensely yearning and powerful song. Most of the songs have a similarly relaxed vibe with a slower tempo and flowing lyrics, but a few songs like “What You See” break up the relaxation with a pumping beat. Toward the end of the album, this track layers synths, guitars, propelling drums and a more urgent tone in Williams’ voice.  Another key track is “Not the End of the World (Even as We Know It),” a clever play on R.E.M.’s modern classic.

It is clear from this album that the band has discovered their sound, and they know how to deliver it. One area in which they fall short, however, is their range. Although the songs all flow together well and form a unified album, FPF could use some more variety. To put it plainly, their highs could be higher and their lows could be lower. One of the album’s winning points, on the other hand, is its masterful lyrics. They are rich with emotional value and poetic qualities, and even include academic references to Descartes and Aldous Huxley – probably not surprising with an English professor penning the lyrics.

Faded Paper Figures has delivered another solid album with “Relics,” and the world can be thankful that the members of this band, who all kept their day jobs, continue to make music together.

Rating: 8/10