ReSounds: Paperwhite’s Beautiful ‘Magic’

Paperwhite is Katie and Ben Marshall. Photo by Lauren Kallen.
Paperwhite is Katie and Ben Marshall. Photo by Lauren Kallen.

ReSounds is a new Vehlinggo column dedicated to older and contemporary classics that deserve another look. This week, Vehlinggo looks at Paperwhite’s beautiful Magic EP, released in 2014.

I’ve found myself returning to 80s-inspired synthpop/dream pop duo Paperwhite’s Magic a lot the past couple of weeks. I’m going to the duo’s Aug. 21 show at Cameo in Brooklyn, and want to make sure my mind, heart, and soul are fully immersed in the experience.

Even if you’re not going to be seeing the Brooklynites live any time soon, you simply need to hear what they’re bringing to the world. From the first second to the last, sister-brother duo Katie and Ben Marshall (a drummer for Savoir Adore) offer up a mind-blowing collection of dreamy songs.

Truth in advertising.
Truth in advertising.

One of the things you need to know about this release is that its title is entirely appropriate: The six songs spawn a celestial, otherworldly realm of the fantastic and the emotionally evocative.

Katie’s vocals are angelic, and fit the gorgeous, galactic music she and Ben have created, but at the same time they’re also a grounding force. When the music has listeners levitating in the clouds or higher, Katie reminds us of our own humanity down here on Earth.

There isn’t an off moment on the release, so sussing out a couple highlights is tough. However, I’ll give it a try.

On the title cut, the colorful synthesizer textures and potent, driving drum machines blend into a powerful mix when they come into contact with the nuances of Katie’s longing vocals. By the time the chorus kicks in, there’s a moment where it seems as if the spiritual elements of Chvrches and HAIM have drifted away into the ether and found a home in Paperwhite. It’s a wonderful thing.

“Galaxy” and “Take Me Back” are both in many ways the apex of everything Paperwhite seems to be. All that I’ve written above about the Marshalls is embodied in these masterpieces. I’m not aiming to be overly hyperbolic here. Katie’s vocals and the ethereal instrumentation stay tender and close-to-the-chest in the verses, and expand into some kind of pan-universal splendor once the choruses hit.

Overall, I can’t emphasize enough the healing power of even a once-a-week check-in with Paperwhite’s songs. If you add some Phantom Ride to that regimen, I’m not sure there’s anything you couldn’t accomplish. Just a thought.

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