Backed by 414 fans who pledged a collective $36,299 earlier this year, Asheville-based tour veterans Papadosio independently released the new album Extras in a Movie in October. The 16-track collection feels like a joint expedition with lots of artistic pit stops along the way. And the composite parts’ distinctiveness — even to a casual listener — is what makes the album both widely accessible (because the new sounds will reel in so many types of listeners) and highly debatable (because there are so many moving parts to assess).
“Epiphany” could have served as the album’s opening track, although it sits at third. Hinging on slow-strummed, dissonant chords, a militant bassline and swelling, falsetto “ahh’s,” it’s viscerally enticing and a fitting allusion to the work’s eventual deliverables: mellow then driving compositions with an aspirational aftertaste.
But what’s often an instrumental catalog of moods is punctuated by some true outliers, with “Wrong Nostalgia” a predestined favorite among those. With a minimalist opening bass riff that recalls the iconic intro from The Breeders’ “Cannonball,” the song ostensibly laments the passing of a purer, less commercial era in recent music history. Over time, however, the flannel rock number matures to take on a more modern, electronic feel — perhaps a clue to understanding what the song title calls unfounded sentimentality. Why dwell on the past when you can write a badass song today?
“Out of Hiding” is lively yet laid back — a new addition to the band’s most-streamed tracks on Spotify for good reason. It’s an exercise in the art of omission, particularly on the bass, which sneaks in and out of the spotlight at will. After a couple of changes of pace, the song settles into an affirmative sing-along backed by pronounced floor toms. It’s agile and brisk, achieving the tone of a self-directed pep talk (that happens to have occasional video game sound effects in the background). Lots of the new songs are similarly vocal-heavy.
Elsewhere on the album, the musicians wander. Opening track “The Last Leaf” is a choir-like ode to a leaf with the strongest grip; “2AM” sees the band testing out a southwestern twang; “Ritual” begins as a spellbinding lullaby before interjecting drums, synth and guitar; “We Can Always Come Back” and “Gazing the Great Oscillator” are alike in their calm beauty; and “Distant Days” provides the most irritated look at the world, despite its whistled hook.
Of all the creative directions explored over the course of the collection, Papadosio seems most dexterous employing basic instrumentation to replicate an intense feeling — a phenomenon at play by the end of “Bypass Default.” The initial six minutes juxtapose troubled lyrics with light guitar and fun keys effects before grinding to a full stop in anticipation of the song’s epilogue. The remaining seconds are massive — the sonic equivalent of calling back to say exactly what you meant the first time around. It’s an impactful distillation of emotion that doesn’t require any specific literal meaning to feel complete — the Papadosio specialty.
As a relatively new listener, I’m not qualified to compare the latest batch of tunes to Papadosio’s catalog, but I’d be surprised to find such variance among the group’s earlier works. It’s probably safe to say that the myriad sounds and styles on Extras in a Movie quenched a lot of creative inclinations for the musicians, both during initial composition and the purposeful organization of all component parts. Listeners should then prepare to exert equal attentiveness, as Extras in a Movie contains little background music.
Visit papadosio.com to keep up with the band or check out bassist Rob McConnell in action when his local group Badger plays a double set at Asheville Music Hall on Wednesday, Dec. 9, at 9 and 11 p.m. Free.