Much has changed for the members of The Paperhead since the release of their eponymous debut back in 2011 - tours both domestically and abroad, more releases, college, life, work, love, tragedy. The span of time and growth are reflected in the 10 tunes on the band's third album Africa Avenue (2014). Recorded by the band themselves in bassist Peter Stringer-Hye's Nashville garage and mixed by Cooper Crain (Cave, Bitchin' Bajas), Africa Avenue finds it's groove in it's unabashed melodicism and pop hooks. The title of the album is an homage to a street the band hung out on as children, and the experiences and memories created there drift in and out of lyrics that are appealingly abstract, but hint at an unspoken narrative.
The jaunty opener "Africa" sets the scene with guitarist Ryan Jennings' acoustic strum and sly synth squiggles, before unloading a crunchy guitar hook unlike anything the band has done previously, letting listeners know that something new is happening here; a step towards a full and comfortable immersion in the sounds they love. The band makes no bones of it's affection for '60s and '70s psychedelia, but Africa Avenue quietly tiptoes around easy comparisons, mutating itself into something more textured and intricate, leaning more towards avant-pop.
The rest of the album has it's fair share of stunners like the cosmic country of "Mother May," the folk-raga of "In A Corner," or the harpsichord-sprinkled majesty of "Old Fashioned Kind" all fight for ear-space in an album full of highlights. The true key to the album's success lies in the band's synergy that comes from playing together since they were teenagers; the "hive-mind" that enables each to anticipate and play off each other, achieving an effortless grace in their arrangements and performance. Africa Avenue feels more organic, sounding like the work of a cracking live band in action rather than a heady, studio construction.