Paperplain - Entering Pale Town
Richard Wink 08/02/2010
Nineteen year old singer songwriter Helen Page is a timid little creature, her voice almost apologetic in tone. So shy, she operates under the brittle moniker Paperplain. A lot of comparisons are bound to be made to the likes of Alessi's Ark and Laura Marling; Page is far closer to the former of those two singer songwriters, since she doesn't possess 'the voice' that sends a shiver down your spine, though she is able to create a sense of intimacy, making the performance veer into private.
Starting with the ring of a telephone, a patter of piano joins Page's feeble voice; and I say feeble not in a negative way, just that she sounds wounded, unsure, naïve. There is nothing assured about her vocals. The bulk of this mini-album written was when she was sixteen; now, three years later, the record has this weird, uneasy feel to it. Because these performances are stripped back, it seems that these songs have gathered dust on the shelf like old knitted jumpers whilst she's been doing her A-levels and downing snakebites in low rent indie bars for the last three years; and now, belatedly, Page is trying them on again, there appears to be a sense of discomfort.
There are some pleasant moments - 'Go Go NY' is lyrically intriguing: "Buttons on clothing are riding till open, the pressure is building on this friendly park / Fingers are folding the lines on the paper I keep in my folder, I keep in the dark". Page paints the picture of the reluctant artist in intimate detail, the bedroom musician who records on an eight-track and steps out on stage, grabbing the mic with shaking hands. 'Foreign Fingers' and 'Rescue Boat' also reveal the seeds of potential of Page's abilities as a deft storyteller.
Potential, I think, is the key word. This is a record that calls out "I'm here, listen to me!" The next release will hopefully go further and present a mature sound, presenting Page as a woman, rather than a teenage girl. The problem for Page is that she's a grain of sand in a decent of introverted emotional outpouring.
Steady and deceptively engrossing, Entering Pale Town possesses layers of intrigue, and on repeated listens we have more then just another sad sack with an acoustic guitar going through their Dylan phase (note: this is not gender exclusive and applies to both blokes and birds).