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Paper Tiger

Made Like Us
Doomtree Records

Instrumental hip hop is a strange beast. For every DJ Shadow and RJD2, you get a thousand producers who sample an obvious record, loop it for three minutes and stick it on MySpace. When it’s done right however, there’s nothing quite like it and with this record Doomtree’s Paper Tiger has done it perfectly. When his False Hopes EP was released, he showcased his ability to render jaws well and truly dropped thanks to his smooth percussion and understated melodies so breath was certainly held when the announcement of his full-length debut was made.

The Cloquet 7” released around the Doomtree Blowout at the end of last year gave a great indication of what to expect with the tracks ‘2nd Day Back’ and ‘And The Camera’ both included on the album but it’s the third track on the record, ‘The Bully Plank’ that kicks the music into the highest gear. A piano introduction flows into drums and vocal sample that weave magically together to make every neck muscle bulge and force the head to nod. It may not be a club smash, but you’d be hard pressed to find a beat as catchy and instantly enjoyable as this in 2010.

There are vocalists on the album too, with fellow Minneapolis’ Maggie [of Digitata and Lookbook fame] providing the words on ‘The Painter’s Arm’ and Doomtree crew-mate Dessa lending her untouchable vocals to ‘Palace’, the standout track on the album with its dusty drums and twinkly melody winding its way around the singing as well as making an appearance on the aforementioned ‘And The Camera’ which started its life an instrumental. Even when listening in awe to Dessa’s singing, it’s the beat that takes charge with more use of pianos and crisp snare.

Heavier beats can be found on the album too, ‘The Ritual’’s lilting bassline and thunderous drums bouncing off the soulful vocal samples and  the preceding track ‘The Tarrio’ also providing a sense of ominous foreboding punctuated with deep claps and legato strings. So, how to wrap up the album that offers so much depth and variety? ‘Cigana’ has beautiful strings and lifts off to place where the sun is setting and the sky has turned orange and pink and the final secret track is as “Paper Tiger” as a track can get, serene lulling vocals and almost reversed melodies, carrying the album to its peaceful end.

Mentioning Papes alongside such luminaries as Shadow and RJD2 could be a little eye-opening, but once Made Like Us has made its way through to the listener’s ears, there’s absolutely no doubting that this man belongs right alongside them. Never brash or in-your-face but always capable of evoking numerous emotions which cry out for the repeat button, Paper Tiger has released one of the albums of 2010.


Palace by doomtree