Burying Romantic Angst in Sweetly Retro Pop
“Unavailable” by Papercuts from Can’t Go Back
Youthful angst, romantic insecurity and naive innocence pervade virtually every moment of The Papercuts’ Can’t Go Back. Like the best pop groups with nostalgia for the ’60s, Bay Area singer-songwriter Jason Quever disguises his songs’ weighty themes in lush delicacy. By injecting overtly somber contemplation into summery, feel-good pop instrumentation, Quever wears his West Coast influences — not to mention his heart — on his sleeve.
Shimmering like a Summer of Love history lesson, the disc sweeps between the sprightly jangle of Buffalo Springfield or The Turtles and the cooing vocal harmonies of The Mamas & The Papas. Without the right atmospheric touches, it could easily come across as a transparent genre exercise. And, while the Dylan homage “Take the 227th Exit” borrows noticeably from “Rainy Day Woman #12 & 35,” the Byrds-inspired “Unavailable” sounds considerably more inventive.
The clean guitar arpeggios and airy vocals that open the song recall the familiar Byrds hit “Turn! Turn! Turn!” But rather than call for social change, the song speaks from a more intimate voice, as Quever confesses to an unrequited love, in the process conveying luminous gloom. “I don’t know, baby, if I can provide like he do,” he sings. “But I do know one thing’s for sure: I’ll be around while you wait.” Turning friendship into something more is a common desire, but the sentimental flourishes of light humming organ and acoustic guitar add an understated, vaguely cinematic quality. The result is as relatable as it is lovely.