Updated: Sep 17, 2021
In the genre of lounge indie rock mostly made popular by Toro y Moi, Mac Demarco and most recently label mates Mild High Club, Jerry Paper is unlike anybody working in this area and that’s mainly because he’s up front with his listener. Paper (Lucas Nathan) is unapologetic, and lays his emotions, thoughts, and stories out and let’s them share equal space with the sometimes funky, sometimes melancholic jazz sounds, sometimes psychedelic rock music in his songs, and it feels more like you’re swimming in a river than listening to music. It can be relaxing and it can be work, but in the end, the experience is worth it. Unlike his contemporaries Paper’s music stays in the sound of psychedelia, with punk concerns, funk with hints of disco, and lounge, which makes him sound more like his own, and pushes the genre towards a playful yet conscious feeling. Because of Paper’s desires to be open, it often feels like, when he sings things like, “How can I confess my crimes/when I believe I’ve done nothing wrong,” on his latest album's Abracadabra lead single “Cholla”, a song about self authentication, he isn’t just expressing for his benefit but for us to commune with him and with our inner selves.
With a Morrisey meets Frank Sinatra voice, and a desire to penetrate falseness around him and inhibitions he's aware of in himself, Paper’s music makes the easy listening generic experience one you enter in, to feel your feelings, contemplate societal norms, and work through mistakes, instead of letting things be breezy or reckless. He deals with what he's dealing with, it makes for compelling and accessible songs. In the song “Apologist” a slow wah wah guitar heavy song that sounds like you’re surfing near a villa on a starry night in slow motion, Paper sings about a woman giving a "loose apology" for not filling up his car after she uses it and he trying not to accept it. Later in the story he sings, “I said I was sorry, That I blamed her for this/When it was my own internal bullshit manifesting in my words”. The chorus goes on with him saying “I knew I was wrong, I knew it was me”, and the song ends there, in this space of insecurity about decision, self blame, and a feeling that there’s something he knows he needs to discover for himself. It invites the listener to see someone truly struggle, consider if they were once like him, all with direct phrases and soothing sounds.
Often on the album the singer plays the observer of his own actions or others', giving encouragement, healthy advice, or hard truths. On tracks where he’s on the outside looking either in, or wondering about the inside, he comes off like someone wanting to help people consider another way of existing. On a song like “Body Builder on the Shore” a breezy surf rock track, about a bodybuilder who is caught smoking meth at his child’s birthday party, Paper paints the smoker as someone having issues with perfection, someone who’s life is not one to dismiss or envy, but to think of in a more full way, and gives an encouraging message of hope, “Head in your hands, it’s a bummer baby/but you’ll move on”. The man being caught by a clown, is Paper’s way of saying to us, that when a person is at the lowest point one can be in during uncomfortableness, there’s always the availability of laughter and laughter rather than struggle, is what keeps us alert of where we are in our life, and what's possible.
In a time where self reflection has become as important as wearing a mask outside, Abracadabra is one of the albums of this year that helps the listener with their own internal warfare and provides a friend to be with you in the trenches and in the sunshine.