Friday, July 1, 2016
MUSIC REVIEW OF THE DAY: PAUL SIMON - STRANGER TO STRANGER
This is certainly one of the oddest Simon albums. It's filled with different rhythms and unstructured melodies, almost completely abandoning normal verse and chorus structure. There doesn't seem to be any overriding lyrical theme, and in some cases, it's hard to make sense of what's up, if anything. Prepare to be confused, initially.
In the notes, Simon explains himself, how he based some songs on sessions with Flamenco musicians, others include work from an Italian EDM guy named Clap! Clap! There are even a couple of short instrumentals Simon composed for a recent play.
Eventually songs emerge from all the odd rhythms that do stand out, especially the final three on the record. The Riverbank has an infectious groove and a soulful vocal, kind of like a Daniel Lanois number. Cool Papa Bell references a famous baseball player from the old Negro Leagues, one of Simon's good lyrics that tackle aging. The Insomniac's Lullaby is the most fascinating piece here, a quite lovely guitar piece that then gets treated to a small orchestra of the bizarre microtonal instruments created by composer Harry Partch and his followers, including the zoomoozophone, cloud chamber bowls, and the chromelodeon.
Here's how this went for me: One listen, and I was totally confused and writing negative things, in preparation for the review. The second listen, after I read Simon's liner notes explaining a few of the concepts, I had a few ideas of what to listen for. Third listen, and I'm starting to like a lot of it, but it's definitely an album for study, rather than party time.