Best of What's Next: The Paper Raincoat

Music Features The Paper Raincoat
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HOMETOWN: Brooklyn, N.Y.
ALBUM: The Paper Raincoat
MEMBERS: Amber Rubarth (vocals, keyboards), Alex Wong (vocals, guitar),
Kevin Rice (drums)
FOR FANS OF: Vienna Teng, The Animators, The Magic Numbers

Rapidly approaching her 50th birthday, a woman named Grace—the main character in New York City trio The Paper Raincoat’s self-titled debut album—returns from New York City to her childhood home to settle her recently deceased father’s estate. Feeling alienated, lonely and overwhelmed by memories, she’s a melancholy proxy for anyone who’s ever felt hustled about by life in the Big Apple.

The album, written by band members Amber Rubarth and Alex Wong, started as a stream-of-consciousness improv exercise suggested to them by their friend and fellow musician Vienna Teng. “We did this one time, and this story line kind of came out,” Rubarth says. “So we thought, well, it’s naturally gravitating toward the storyline, so why don’t we consciously develop the storyline and develop songs around that? And then it happened.”

The result is a collection of 11 lovely, straightforward pop songs that swell with strings and details of New York life. Though the band lavished care on the album’s lyrical story, it’s the music that makes it worth revisiting. Rubarth, Wong and drummer Kevin Rice suffused The Paper Raincoat with draping violin and viola sweeps, handclaps and lucid vocals, crafting an album that sounds youthful and quixotic despite its main character’s oncoming middle-age. Wong describes his band’s sound as “cinematic” and “visual,” but he also says, “It was very important to us during the writing process that we make the songs enjoyable and relatable on their own.”

WHAT’S NEXT: Rubarth and Wong relish telling the story of their experiences of the city through Grace and intend for their next album to continue their character’s saga. “We don’t have specific plans on where [it is] going yet,” Rubarth says, but just as they did with their charming debut, “We’ll follow where it leads us, I suppose.”

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