The Paperbacks
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The Paperbacks

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"Lit from Within"

Back in 2007, The Paperbacks released a cool little disc called An Illusion Against Death that helped shine a light on the great music scene in Manitoba beyond the Weakerthans. Interestingly enough, Jon K. Samson (main Weatherthan) produced that album, which may be one reason why so many compared the two band’s sound.

After a series of lineup changes, The Paperbacks have settled on a roster and spent the better part of the last year working on a 32-song double album opus, Lit From Within. Upon first listen, I have to say that there’s certainly been a growth and progression in the arrangements and scope of their sound, but Doug McClean’s signature vocals make this album unmistakably theirs. It’s a weighty affair, but one that pays in spades. Lit From Within is scheduled for release in early 2010, so I’ll hold back on a full review until then, but for now, you can hear the first fruits of their marathon recording session: -

"The Paperbacks: Lit From Within"

BY Chandler Levack January 06, 2010 21:01
Editorial Rating: 4/5 Stars

There’s something about Winnipeg. The snowy landscape tends to produce a certain sort of introspective artist, one prone to grandiose displays of effort. On their third album, Prairie boys The Paperbacks create the musical equivalent of a magnum opus with two discs of confessional indie-rock made for millenials, featuring frontman Doug McLean describing house parties and wayward art girls in Raymond Carveresque detail (“I’m examining your new apartment through grainy cell phone pictures,“ he sings on “A Dizzy Chain Of Bees”). Though comparisons to The Weakerthans will inevitably persist, given that their leader John K. Samson produced The Paperbacks’ previous album, these songs’ harmonies have a murkier tint than their Winnipeg forebears; also, The Paperbacks often layer their crunchy guitars with distortion. For those who say indie’s gotten too disposable, Lit From Within proves that there’s still room for albums in which careful listeners will be rewarded. -

"Baby Sue, The Paperbacks - Lit From Within CD Review"

The third full-length release from Canada's Paperbacks. This band has had its share of ups and downs since being created in 2001. It was originally formed from members of The Bonaduces and Painted Thin. At one point the band was put on hold...before reforming with a new line-up. Members came and went as the band meanwhile continued to record and release material. The Paperbacks really offer a lot with this release. This double CD features 32 new tracks. It's a rather amazing feat when you come to think of it. Most new bands are opting to only release their material as downloads (or a mere EP)...while these folks take the opposite approach releasing a wealth of material on a real format. The less-is-more approach of these guitar-based tracks reminds us slightly of early releases by the Young Fresh Fellows...or Guided By Voices albums from the 1990s. This album is all about songs. And, surprisingly, there's really not a lemon in this bunch. Cool reflective pop cuts include "Good Lives (For Bad Reasons)," "Slow Learners," "Caroline," "A Dizzy Chain of Bees," "No Fatalities," and "Thieves Guild." -

"The Paperbacks - Lit From Within, Scene Magazine Review"

The Paperbacks are a band who has been largely operating comfortably enough below the radar in the Canadian music scene, releasing a few modestly successful recordings that haven’t really made any kind of big ripples beyond their hometown
of Winnipeg. This may well soon change with the release of Lit From Within, a two-CD project that is going to take a lot of people by surprise. Despite the fact that the opportunities for tedious long-windedness and creative self-indulgence were enormous, this album is an impressive testimony to what focused creativity can bring to bear when it is backed by genuine songwriting and musical talent. Beautifully arranged and produced, this is a f ne piece of work that requires repeated listens to offer up its treasures. Recommended.

– Rod Nicholson
Performance: B+/Production: B+

"The Paperbacks — Lit From Within - Review"

The Paperbacks themselves have called their third record a "ridiculous" project. Not only is it is a double album, it contains a whopping 32 songs.

Lit From Within is at least a varied mix, sonically — the Winnipeg-based five-piece shouldn't receive any complaints about too many songs sounding the same.

Aside from their usual pop-rock fare, they wander into post-rock territory on the aptly named "Math Damage/Maggot Age," dabble in Death Cab For Cutie-ish acoustic pop on "Slow Learners," and pull off a few nods to the punk pop of The Weakerthans' Fallow.

On disc one's "You Are A Reservoir," they recapture the fun of their An Episode Of Sparrows debut. But the non-stop rock of the second disc's first half is definitely Lit From Within's strongest segment. Disc two's "Patron Saint Of Atheists" is among the best songs The Paperbacks have ever recorded.

They probably could have shaved seven or eight songs off this collection and still had a solid double album. Lit From Within is a less diluted collection than you might expect, though. The Paperbacks actually pulled this off.

"An Illusion Against Death"

A few months ago, Winnipeg's The Details started getting hit with the "sounds like the Weakerthans" label (which is one of the biggest compliments a Canadian band can get), and while at times the Manitoba band did tip their caps to the Canadian indie anti-icons, their record was that of a young band still searching for inspiration and the sound they want to play. That's not to take anything away from the band, it's just part of the maturation process and I think that when they get it all put together they are going to be a fantastic band you hear on the radio.

On the flip side of that coin is their Parliament of Tress label mates, The Paperbacks. Seasoned vets, the Winnipeg band actually worked with John K. Samson on An Illusion Against Death and the record should have been a stepping stone for the band. Completely comfortable with subject matter and sound, The Paperbacks may have benefited from the guidance of a talented friend, but by no means did they try to emulate his work (but man, Things Get Abstract reminds me of the Sun in An Empty Room and shows how much talent this band has).

Saddled by lineup changes and setbacks, the band is finally hitting the road and recording new material in '08. But even if they hadn't worked it out, An Illusion Against Death is a record that is criminally overlooked. It's almost like a tale of two cities; musically the hooks and melodies are infectious, full of crunching guitars, keyboard and musical flourishes (like the trumpets on Institutions) but lyrically the band hits you with some heavy thoughts. In 14 songs, they basically remind me what indie rock used to be and why I fell in love with it. In fact, if indie rock still sounded like The Paperbacks, well, I'd still probably be excited by it.

A track like Institutions is a song that could easily fit onto an old Death Cab record, but instead of waxing about lost love and focusing on clever word play, the song is more honest and told in "words I think you'll understand." Doug McLean's gentle release into falsetto and simple guitar jangle balances the underlying rhythm section that is constantly urging the song to break into full gallop. The result is a stunning track, one that doesn't lose any momentum over the 6-minute time it runs.

The band can completely draw you in to a story, one full of sadness and grim human emotion. On Holocaust Art, you hear a man describe his days at a museum filled with relics from the war. Much like Samson, McLean strips away the judgment, tears and doubts and leaves the most human of all emotions in today's society; desensitization.

High Praise is an unashamed indie rock song that makes you want to turn up the stereo and roll down the windows, but actually cuts at scenesters (or just an asshole). Things Get Abstract is a summery jangle with sing along harmonies that finds The Paperbacks creating a loving haze that clouds the fear and depression of the confessional. The guitar crunch and female harmonies of Skinny Sidewalks make you sink into the track, almost oblivious to the terrific lyricism McLean adds.

I know this record was released in '07, but I'm not sure how it went so unnoticed. Every song is terrific, the sound is crisp and lyrically it's deep and well thought but still completely accessible. They control the pace with slowed down organ laced ballads like In The Absence Of Notable Guests (the interplay between Doug and the female vocalist is terrific) and more driving rock songs like Rattled By Failure. Basically, this record has little to no flaws and can be listened to over and over and over again. - Hero Hill

"An Episode of Sparrows"

With everything containing a touch of emotion getting lumped into the increasingly crowded "emo" genre, most often for financial reasons, it it nice to hear a sincere, refined indie sound and not see the word "emo" anywhere in he bio. The Paperbacks' debut LP is a very passionate and emotional record without being stereotypical. It's clear in the songwriting that the band leans heavily on its intricate indie-rock and pop influences. Doug McLean, formerly of The Bonaduces, writes some of the purest and truest lyrics and finds a way to deliver them with wholehearted conviction. The songs are all rather mellow, relying on the rhythm section and the piano for variety, while McLean's vocals supply the driving force. The more I listen to this record, the more I am reminded of the early Anniversary releases and the recent New Amsterdams record. For the most part, The Paperbacks have released an album unlike anything you've heard in a long time, and it's really, really good. - PunkPlanet

"The Paperbacks Lit from Within Beatroute Review"


The Paperbacks
Lit from Within
By Spencer Brown
Winnipeg power-popsters The Paperbacks release their 32-song double CD magnum opus, Lit from Within. And it’s the best album(s) they’ve ever done. The Paperbacks greatest strengths have always been their ability to craft catchy enjoyable songs that sill have enough of an edge to not drown the listeners in saccharine sweetness. Coupled with Doug McLean’s comforting voice and sharp lyrics the Winnipeg quintet is at their fighting weight. Examples of McLean’s lyrical ability are demonstrated in such songs as Good Lives (for Bad Reasons), Slow Learners, Do You Sleep and Make Art to randomly pick a few favourites from what the double discs have available. There are few weak points in the album, except for a couple of forays away from their trademark sound which while interesting, aren’t nearly as engaging the rest of the songs. Still, this leaves Lit from Within with an A-average of the songs, which means The Paperbacks are bringing both quantity and quality. The songs are soft when they need to be and are loud and raucous when desired with each piece of the band contributing to make each song the best Paperback’s song you’ve ever heard. Until you get to the next song.


"Paperbacks Lit From Within"

By Michael Edwards

Of course, the notion of putting together a double album is ludicrous because everybody knows that they would always make a better single album ? just ask Stephen Merritt. Yet there are still bands, like Winnipeggers the Paperbacks, who get it into their head that an epic collection of 32 songs spread over two CDs is a good idea. In this case, however, it is. Lit From Within is a huge jump forward for the band in so many ways. They've always had consistency but their level of focus on such a sprawling album is impressive. The easiest point of reference is still the Weakerthans, or rather a less spiky version, although there's a bit more fuzz on display than previously. The songs have wit, emotion and introspection, all with chiming guitars and tasteful harmonies, and most importantly, don't all blend together even after a couple of hours. Naturally, a little bit of fat could have been trimmed, but it would lessen the overall effort. The only issue with Lit From Within is that because it's released in January, it might be forgotten by the time the lists of top Canadian albums for 2010 are compiled. If there is any justice at all, it won't just be remembered, it will be near the top. (Parliament of Trees) - Exclaim!

"CD review : The Paperbacks, "Lit From Within""

Jeff Nielsen | Jan 25

One hundred and twenty-six minutes is an unusual length for an album. Yet, that’s the exact duration of Lit From Within, the new album from Winnipeg’s the Paperbacks. It’s an extraordinarily ambitious length, like the musical equivalent of a David Foster Wallace novel.

Unleashed a decade into the 21st century — a time when the album is being hunted to extinction by digital predators — the Paperbacks' (singer/guitarist Doug McLean, bassist Jaret McNabb, guitarist Kevin Andrechuk, drummer Corey Biluk and keyboardist Kevin McLean) newest is a towering double album, an opus with a length that recalls the triple L.P.-era of Yes’ Tales From the Topographic Ocean.

So, since Lit From Within is not a progressive rock piece or post-modern novel, the question arises: “Is it too much?”

Well, to begin with, a band which released only two full length albums in their decade-long existence (building up a backlog large enough to create a work longer than Smashing Pumpkins' Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness [but shorter than Wagner’s “Götterdämmerung”]) could hardly be accused of being overly-prolific or self-indulgent.

Furthermore, Lit from Within needs time to speak its piece. Lyricist McLean has — as Sylvia Plath implored poets to do — become an expert packer of suitcases. The lyrics, laid out in a six-page, tiny-type booklet, are packed to bursting with words, with cutting references to Axl Rose’s whistling, anarcho-punk politics, deferred adolescence and the facelessness of God. Plus, how many lyricists can use the word prelapsarian well?

Lit From Within isn't exactly a concept album, but more a series of connected short stories on the ravages of death, disease and disillusionment. Thematically, it’s almost a sequel to an album by McLean’s old band, the Bonaduces' Democracy of Sleep, and the connection is referenced explicitly in the haunting track, “Illness as a Metaphor.”

As far as the huge sound of the album, it’s surely a result of McNabb having grown into a producer (and engineer and mixer!) of power and subtlety. Harmonica, piano, violin and banjo add to the dense, shimmering layers of guitars and vocals that dominate the album. The density of the production (as well as the songwriting) shows that the Paperbacks have upped their game in an era where anyone with a laptop and bare minimum of an idea can make an album. While the band shares lyrical and musical ground with indie-rock figures like the Weakerthans or Ted Leo and The Pharmacists, The Paperbacks’ designs — as even a cursory listen of the swelling sound of “A Year on Trial” will attest — are boundless.

The whole band is perfectly controlled throughout. There’s no indulgence, no bloat; no extended jams, no rock opera, no skits, no dub excursions, no sound collages. Every song has a strong melody, a clear point-of-view and fitting instrumentation, and each adds to the effect of the whole — just listen to “Regrettable Tattoos” (with the priceless line, “I’ve got insignias for bands who’ve sucked since 1989”) for proof. Indeed, try to hack out the filler as you build your mp3 playlist and you’ll see — no chaff remains amongst the wheat.

Much, much more could be said, but no one wants a review longer than the album in question. Listen to the entire 126 minutes over a few sittings, and savour the lyrical detail, the stirring tunes, the supple playing, even the cover art that matches the band’s entire discography like it’s a series of books in the same edition. Then, if you need to hear a really short album, go play the Circle Jerks' 15-minute long Group Sex.

????.5 out of ????? - The Manitoban


An Episode of Sparrows, 2003. Pshaw!
IPX #1, 2004. Split EP with Wolf Colonel on Endearing.
An Illusion Against Death, 2007. Parliament of Trees.
Lit From Within, 2010, Parliament of Trees.



Formed in 2001, The Paperbacks have operated consistently and quietly from their home base in
Winnipeg, Canada, gathering a dedicated following and building up an impressive catalog of songs and
accomplishments. Singer/guitarist Doug McLean, whose previous groups (beloved pop-punkers The
Bonaduces and the more politically-oriented Painted Thin) had dissolved almost simultaneously in
2000, founded The Paperbacks with members of both those projects: bassist Jaret McNabb, drummer Jack
Jonasson and guitarist Mike McKenzie. It was a step into slightly unknown territory; though the
signature lyrical style of McLean remained, the harder, sloppier edges of both the previous bands had
been shed to create a more delicate sound, putting greater emphasis on harmonies and layered

After the release of a 7” single and a cross-Canada tour the following year, McKenzie left to pursue
academics; thereafter the band added Jason Churko (guitar) and Tanya Jonasson (keyboards). “An
Episode of Sparrows,” their first full-length, was recorded by bassist McNabb in his home studio; it
was released in 2003 on Minneapolis-based Pshaw in North America/Newest Industry in Europe. Heavy
touring was done throughout Canada, hitting various festivals (Pop Montreal, North by Northeast) and
opening on a number of large shows across the the country (with The Weakerthans, The Hold Steady, AC
Newman and Feist, among others). An EP with K Records’ Jason Anderson was released on the Endearing
label, and the group toured with him, both as The Paperbacks and as his backing band. A major
European tour was launched in 2004, bringing them to England, Germany, France, The Netherlands and

In 2005, The Paperbacks convened to record their sophomore CD “An Illusion Against Death” with
Weakerthans front man (and longtime fan) John K. Samson producing. Despite the high profile session,
however, the conclusion of these recordings saw several members leave for other opportunities, both
musical and personal; this left McLean and McNabb as the sole remaining members. The album was
released quietly in 2007 on their own Parliament of Trees label, and toured coast-to-coast by the two
founders along with new drummer Corey Biluk and what would be a rotating cast of guitarists and

The line-up solidified in early 2008 with new guitarist Kevin Andrechuck and keyboardist Kevin McLean
joining permanently. With the new personnel in place, the group tackled their next recording project,
which became the monster 32-song, double CD set “Lit From Within.” Produced once again by McNabb in
his home studio, the album took just over a year to complete and is set for release in January of
2010. Plans to tour at home and abroad, as well as release additional new music, are underway.