Paper Wings – ‘Listen to the World Spin’

Track By Track: Paper Wings break down their third album, Listen to the World Spin

Listen to the World Spin
Album cover for Listen to the World Spin by Paper Wings courtesy of the artist

Long-time friends and collaborators Emily Mann and Wila Frank, known together as Paper Wings, dream up warm, pastoral folk songs furnished with delicate banjo and spellbinding harmonies so close you often can’t tell their voices apart. On their latest project, Listen to the World Spin, the Nashville duo’s songwriting flourishes, displaying their exceptional ability to reference nostalgic sounds of American folk music while maintaining their own compelling style of artful and unpretentious lyricism. Embracing themes of solitude, nature, and passage through time and space, Listen to the World Spin is a beautiful exploration of how we are never alone in our search for meaning and certainty in difficult times.

In the exclusive track by track that follows, Emily Mann and Wila Frank graciously provide in-depth descriptions of the songs on Listen to the World Spin.

“We needed these songs to guide and comfort us through the last few years. And we hope they’ll do the same for others.”

—Wila Frank

1. ‘I Know’

W: Em and I wrote this song together during the pandemic when we were missing loved ones and places. This song spilled out as a voice of comfort. Before we finished the full album, we actually parted ways as a band and thought we wouldn’t be playing together anymore for a couple years. This was one of the few songs we had recorded before parting ways and I remember listening to it, moved to tears, thinking, “we have to finish this album and put it in the world” and here we are.

2. ‘Listen to the World Spin’

This is the title track of the album and encapsulates a feeling of being lost, searching for identity and purpose, and ultimately finding okayness in just stepping back and being still. We are both inclined to look to nature and its precise and abstract order of things that somehow end up perfect.

3. ‘Mad Thing’

‘Mad Thing’ is a mad little song about getting to know someone, it could be a friend, it could be a mysterious crush, it could be oneself. It gets into the nooks and crannies of wanting to understand and care for someone.

4. ‘Ashby’

E: In my mid twenties I learned that the parts of my life that were the most painful could be altered by new choices that I was in charge of making for myself. I remember the feeling of wanting to escape the crush of traffic, noise, a past relationship that kept on my mind like burrs in my socks. I wrote this song in the midst of a breakup, a big move and the realization that I could no longer be passive in the way that I was used to. Thank goodness for all of it!!

5. ‘Nine Hundred Miles’

I picked up this version of ‘Nine Hundred Miles’ from the playing and singing of Barbara Dane. I love how moody and relatable this song feels. The classic American theme of trying to get home.

6. ‘Long Lost Love’

W: I wrote this song many years ago reminiscing on past love and how time and distance from someone can sometimes make you feel even closer on a spiritual level. I used a sort of traditional timeflow form to reflect how feelings of longing can affect one differently throughout the day.

7. ‘Tell Me’

We wrote this song together with the idea of playing truth or dare with someone you have a crush on. Trying to figure them out and see if they feel the same way, asking all of the little questions you have for someone and hoping they get the drift. Humans in love make such silly roundabouts when we could just be direct – but where’s the thrill in that!

8. ‘Marigold’

W: This song came to me pretty much all at once one morning in my front yard. It felt like a premonition and a prayer and always gives me a redemptive feeling. It’s a reminder that no matter how far you go from yourself or another, you can always come back again and start over. Nature shows us this cycle, and the same is true for us.

9. ‘Is It True’

An ode to the hard working people in our lives who aren’t afraid to get stuff done in the dirt. Sometimes the most practical things are the most romantic. Some would say nothing is more attractive than a well cared for pair of work boots, a little dirt under your fingernails and the inclination to make, mend and grow things.

10. ‘Airport’

I know some people love airports but those travel days can be hard. The feeling of longing and emotional rawness is rarely stronger than when on a plane, looking down, and thinking of someone dear. As musicians, we are not often in one place for too long. Always leaving someone behind…

11. ‘Funny Little World’

W: I wrote this song about mortality and appreciating the precious things we have while we are here. Friendship, music, love, good times. The world is a scary place and the more mysterious it feels, the sweeter the things that make us feel at home become.

12. ‘Left Hand Lane’

This is our little rebellious number we wrote while driving down the highway in the Bay Area in California. We were leaving a show late at night, ready for bed, in a silly delirious headspace, full of a sassy folk spirit, possibly speeding and definitely singing to keep ourselves awake.

Here we are adding electric guitar and harmonium to the album with Jake.

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