Album Review: Jerry Paper – Like a Baby

By Josh Pettis, Contributor
[Stones Throw; 2018]
Rating: 8/10

Key Tracks: “Grey Area”, “My God”, “Losing the Game”

A hint of lofi, a dash of vague mourning, a cup or two of chorus-dripping guitars to taste, three tablespoons of warbly synthesizers and an overwhelming dose of gloomy, indulgent vocals stacked on psych drums and grooving bass lines. Those ingredients make for the thick, lazy pseudo-summertime beverage that is Jerry Paper’s sixth studio album, and his first on Stones Throw. If Like a Baby was a drink, it’s the one you’d sip on a synthetic beach vacation, or in a funhouse shopping center in the background of a ‘90s coming-of-age film, or maybe on a never-ending elevator ride through molasses. With a long list of collaborators ranging from BadBadNotGood to Mild High Club, Jerry Paper and friends have created an album bordering on easy listening, psych rock, boom bap and synth-pop slow-wave in the least angular fashion possible. The contours and fluid stylistic musings of the whole blend gently, and the finished product feels so deliberately consumer-oriented that the experience carries a sense of swaddling oneself in the softest blanket of the most user-disillusioned fabric.

Read more: Album Review: Basement – Beside Myself

Like a Baby begins with as much relaxed reluctance that an indifferent temperament could retain of itself under the melting emptiness of the casual despair in Jerry Paper’s voice. “Your Cocoon”  is enough to turn any listening body into a freeform projectile in an infinitely cushioned room. An aloof pulsing bass fills its listeners’ ears, hugging stray thoughts into a warm corner and subtly filtering in the somber discontent of Jerry’s pop-drone vocals that are carried on a wave of detuned synth chords; his lyrical musings (“You say there’s nothing else for me / That’s only true if I’m not free”) provide a backdrop of futility for a track that feels designed to activate a mall employee sleeper agent.

Shifting across a territory defined under the jazzy and psych-surfy vibes of guest musical pals pressed against the smooth, forgiving surface of Paper’s own eclectic electronica, “Everything Borrowed” waxes poetic on product-driven commercial culture until it shines like clean plastic filmed on 8mm. Here he confronts the sobering reality of ownership, breaking the news as tenderly as possible: “The car is never far / You know it’s really not mine / Well I guess it is until death.” “Everything Borrowed” carries with it the accumulated nostalgic guilt of night-time shopping channel purchases, blending conventionally sad singer-songwriter guitars with terminally-ill Wii channel tones.

Even in the foregrounded simplicity of its closing track, “More Bad News”, Like a Baby can’t help but wash in the jaded, outdated futurism of past synthesizer ambitions; the dreary-eyed grocery store sentiments and light electronic elements characteristic of the entire album conclude in the crackling of ‘50s vinyl memories and crooning, prompting the perfectly orchestrated melancholy sunset. Jerry Paper’s Like a Baby has created reasonable soil for the sickly-sweet, dully-radiant, paradoxical flowers of his musical garden, a breeding ground for the bonding of often mutually exclusive concepts; every nod to accessibility and the cultivation of a sound that’s own instrumentation serves as a digestive auditory aid has been conditioned with an awareness rooted in Like a Baby’s buyer-driven disenchantment.   

Listen here:

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