Hardworking Washington, D.C. indie act Paperhaus formed in 2006, but spent nearly a decade leading up to the eight songs that make up their self-titled 2015 debut. Those were by no means lazy years, as the group released several EPs of material and spent two years refining the songs of its debut, starting out as lengthy improvisations and fully fleshing the tunes out over the course of live shows and constant rehearsals and recording sessions. Well versed in the punk and hardcore ethos of their hometown scene, Paperhaus intertwine the directness of punk with a more exploratory compositional sense borrowed from '60s psych and Krautrock bands. This is clear from the army of neatly arranged guitars on six-plus-minute album opener "Cairo." A beefy, gain-heavy riff starts the song but quickly the palette opens up to include distant acoustic guitars, narcotic vocal harmonies, and spindly, echo-drenched lead lines, every turn somewhat unexpected. The second track, "Untitled," follows suit, starting off with a guitar pattern that would sound at home on a Nation of Ulysses album but fading into pseudo-gothy vocals and an overall sound somewhere between the shadowy production of early Factory Records bands and the hypnotic push of contemporaries like War on Drugs and Lower Dens. The inventive guitar work gels nicely with subtly freaked-out production and deceptively complex songwriting, resulting in an incredibly engaging, if somewhat brief, album. It's a debut that sounds like the work of seasoned studio vets, mostly because that's exactly what it is.
AllMusic Review by Fred Thomas