The carefree and melodic songs on Manitoba five-piece Paper Moon’s latest release, Only During Thunderstorms, are misleading. On the surface, their subjects are fairly routine pop music fare: post-collegiate confusion, post-breakup disillusionment, falling in love. The jangly keyboard riffs and Allison Shevernoha’s vocals are always just this side of being too precious. While it doesn’t cover any groundbreaking emotional territory, Only During Thunderstorms still manages to pack an emotional wallop a couple of times. If you look beyond the band’s frothy pop sound, you can see that there’s real bitterness in the lyrics, and the fact that this goes unacknowledged by the music makes it all the more startling and disturbing. The evocative opener, “Cambridge Canal,” channels the heat and dread of thunderstorms into an image of emotional apocalypse, with Shevernoha crooning, “The sign on the bridge says no diving/What about being stuck by lightning?/Tonight is the worst night of our lives.”
The jarring tone of the lyrics makes the band’s light accompaniment sound a bit farcical after multiple listens. Rather than coming away satisfied with food for thought, the listener simply feels awkward, as though they’ve just inadvertently witnessed a private moment they should have averted their eyes from. The only track in which the music and lyrics really fit each other is the closer, “The One For Me.” Stripped-down and intimate, it gives listeners a glimpse of vulnerability without making them squirm uncomfortably in their seats.