Since the release of their hit single “Bloom” in 2010, The Paper Kites have developed a distinctive sound that provides a serene escape from the typical feel of pop music today. The indie–folk band, originating from Australia, boasts a discography of five studio albums and four EPs. Lead singer and guitarist Sam Bentley describes their sound as “whatever we released on the last record.” Roses, The Paper Kites' fifth studio album, does not drastically diverge from their classic “last record” indie–folk sound. Instead, the ten–track album synthesizes this characteristic frame and expounds on it, featuring an international female vocalist on every song. 

The mellow tones and delicate compositions interwoven in Roses follow in the footsteps of The Paper Kites’ previous releases. The nostalgic overtones and sleepy vocals that each track renders are mirrored in albums like 2015’s twelvefour—which Bentley created between the hours of midnight and 4 a.m. in a lethargic daze—and 2013’s EP Woodland—featuring the hit “Bloom.” Roses emphasizes the themes of love, relationships, and heartbreak, parallel to the typical storylines of The Paper Kites’ music.

Each track on Roses is born out of a cohesive mold: soft guitar picks, sweet melodic vocals, and a mellow drum beat silhouetting each song. However, when delving into the purposeful choice of featured artists and the lyrical meaning, the beauty within each respective song takes flight. The most incredible aspect of Roses lies in its distinctive spotlight on an array of international female artists, enriching the album with glimmers of equality and strength.

The opening track of the album, “Walk Above the Town,” highlights the unique sound of Portuguese multi–instrumentalist MARO. This beautiful composition is a perfect opener for the album; it is soft, imaginative, and romantic. Bentley’s voice is a sweet breeze, his guitar feels like meandering barefoot through a silent forest, and MARO's instrumental features—an electric guitar and muted drums—provide an elusive yet strong foundation. The lyrics are equally wonderful and poetic in nature: “Cars are underneath us now / The stars are underneath us now / We walk above the city / You and I.”  

Following a smooth transition into “Climb on Your Tears,” Bentley shatters a crestfallen tale of fighting back against heartbreak. American artist Aoife O’Donovan joins Bentley on this track, adding a comforting bluegrass feel. Its music video encapsulates the emotion that Bentley poured into the lyrics, along with the reiteration of the sentimental lyric: “Climb on your tears / Wash all your fears away.” The backbone of “Climb on Your Tears” is brimming with unconcealed despair and heartache, providing support for grieving. The track is raw with the sorrow that colors a breakup or lost love.

Other highlights on the album include “Dearest,” a love song that surpasses romance and delves into caring for one’s family. This track, featuring Lydia Cole, is backed by a finger–style acoustic guitar that gives the whole piece a delicate and dreamy aura. Cole is also featured on “For All You Give,” which serves as competition against “Dearest” for the most wholeheartedly emotional song on the album. The two unite through harmonious vocals and authentic, heart–swelling lyrics. Cole and Bentley’s tone match perfectly in this euphonic song about being wildly in love: “Like a road runs straight and true / For all you give / I’ll give it back to you.” This track is tattooed with impressive harmonies and warm, romantic lyrics, displaying the true artistry of both singers.

Although Roses is characterized by sedated, poetic tracks in the band’s typical fashion, “Steal My Heart Away” diverges from the rest of the album. It's a bit more like a classic rock ballad against a dreamy rock beat, synths, and a lively chorus. Australian artist Ainslie Wills brings an incredible spirit to this song, breaking into a melodic duet that weaves together a love story. In a sonorous voice, Bentley opens “Without Your Love” against a lone guitar, exploding into an indie song that features another Australian singer–songwriter, Julia Stone. These romantic tracks keep with the theme of Roses—ultimately boosting the album into one beautiful love story. 

Roses is not ostentatious in its production: It is simple, clean, and strikingly romantic. The Paper Kites, taking on a team of nine featured female artists, utilize poetic lyrics and gentle acoustics to outline the dreamy sound that they paint. While the album is somewhat ponderous, each track is a must–listen for those who appreciate sweet and pensive music. The Paper Kites continue to surpass the norms of typical pop music, showcasing their ethereal sound against a dreamy canvas and a whimsical feel.