The adjective “breathtaking” might be one of the most misused words in the English language, but I have to say the first (and several subsequent) listen of this duo, Planes on Paper, made me stop in my audio tracks. With a solo electric guitar, a rhythm acoustic guitar, and two phenomenal voices, they make some of the most incredible music I’ve heard in a while. This is folk music at the highest level.
Something about the recording just makes the simple construct of these songs remarkably effective. The opening track “Day Alone” has imagery of flowers, family, and trying to make a relationship work when you just need time alone together. It’s romantic and sweet. The best part of the song is its execution. The harmonies are great. Navid and Jen clearly have spent a lot of time singing together. Their phrasing is identical, which is really necessary for this kind of music (and something impossibly difficult to explain to someone who doesn’t “get” this).
The second track “Wolves” is not just the best track on this short album… it’s one of the best songs I’ve heard in years. I know that sounds like an over-exaggeration, but it’s not. I love the natural imagery. “We watch the trees go high. It makes us feel like we might be safe inside.” The lyrics continue to develop this careful blend of personal psychology and delightful, idealistic naturalism. The subtle acoustic finger picking and gorgeous harmonies just make the layered imagery seep deep into your pores. It’s a stunning track.
The last two tracks are related. “Zero Winter” has a minor chord structure that puts listeners into mind of some kind of far eastern exoticism. The harmonies, fantastic as with other parts in the album, offer a resolve to the unconventional melodic pattern. That sound, then, transitions into a happier more conventional melody in “Zero Summer.” The harmonies, along with the strum pattern, are lighter. It’s about love and reminiscing about the time that they first met. It is a beautiful note to end an album combining brilliant songwriting, performance, and genuine artistry.
This album is a definite yes for most anyone that reads my reviews. It’s folk music, fantastic harmonies, and performed at the absolute highest level. I don’t think I could give an album any higher endorsement. Yes, I do personally listen to it often and will continue to do so. Please, get it and enjoy it. You won’t regret it.