What’s made Paellas’ rise up the ranks over the last year so surprising is how the group’s songs are unrelentingly downcast. This decision to cloud the familiar funk and rock elements that have become trendy in recent years in a fog — a choice they’ve been making since their earliest indie-pop cuts, the group sounding more like damned lounge performers then Crayola-bright twee-sters — has helped them stand out with folks who maybe want city-based music that actually captures all the crappy parts of urban living. Yet breakout “Shooting Star” is so isolated and pained, a mood carrying over to last year’s excellent D.R.E.A.M. EP.
“Echo” is the rare moment of Paellas letting a little light into their nocturnal numbers. Unease and melancholy still powers the group’s music — Tatsuya Matsumoto’s singing always carries a weariness to it, even when it sounds like he’s pushing himself into a brighter mood — but now come flashes of morning. See it in the pre-chorus keyboards, or the little dashes of stardust grazing the hook. Or how loose-limbed the band allow themselves to get at points as Matsumoto sings “hold on, hold on.” What once always felt constricted now comes off as freedom. Listen above.