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Jerry Paper - Free Time Music Album Reviews

Jerry Paper - Free Time Music Album Reviews
On their third album for Stones Throw, the L.A. avant-pop practitioner juggles themes of identity and physicality with music that reclaims the eccentric aplomb of their early records.

Jerry Paper’s syrupy sonic world comes straight from the pages of a tripped-out children’s book, where the secret to happiness is just being yourself. For the Los Angeles experimental pop practitioner, that’s always seemed to come naturally; since their early releases for labels like Orange Milk and Hausu Mountain, Paper has shown fearless individuality as they’ve built a peculiar toybox of multicolored MIDI funk and post-Mac DeMarco bedroom R&B, brought to life by their joyous, crooning live performances.

But as Paper’s profile has increased, some of what made the project so special has sadly gotten lost along the way. Since 2016’s Toon Time Raw!, Paper has slowly swapped out their uncanny-valley keyboards and tick-tocking drum machines for a more streamlined full-band setup, graduating to the Stones Throw roster in the process. Their first two records for the label, Like a Baby and Abracadabra, sounded like hi-def Jerry Paper, but those gains in fidelity came at the cost of originality: The excessively mellow songwriting didn’t sound terribly different from the lackadaisical chill-dude-core you’d hear from the likes of Homeshake or Mild High Club. For an artist who up until then had excelled at inventing their own rulebook, these records came across like an unfortunate case of just trying to fit in with the crowd.

Fortunately, Free Time spells out a fresh beginning. Paper’s first record since coming out as nonbinary in 2020, Free Time is the most dynamic they have sounded in years, with hilariously expressive grooves that feel like a great casting off of chains (there’s more than one way to read into its punny title). Juggling themes of identity and physicality with music that reclaims the eccentric aplomb of their early records, Paper expands their sound into wily new territory, wrangling together knotty garage rock and tripped-out dance music to serve as the backdrop for personal tales of self-discovery. It taps into that goofy magic that made Paper’s music so fascinating in the first place.

The concept of self-actualization is front and center throughout Free Time, from the second that “Kno Me” fires up the album with Paper’s most overtly glam-rocking song yet. With its Elvis Costello-ish snarl and chugging guitars, the song recounts the first time Paper decided to leave the house wearing a dress, its instantly hummable chorus capturing the anxious defiance that comes with having to worry whether the cashier at Ralph’s is going to make an uncomfortable comment about your nail polish or not. This charged-up energy manifests in myriad ways throughout Free Time. On “DREEMSCENES,” Paper delivers their tribute to house music—a genre that has long acted as a bastion of queer acceptance—in a cosmic-jazz workout complete with vocoder and an absurdly wailing saxophone solo.

Even the songs where Paper works in their usual style reflect a melodic and textural depth that fully capitalizes on their strengths as a singer/songwriter. With its elevator-music flutes and campy Marvin Gaye crooning, “Just Say Play” goes down smoother than a glass of lemonade on a balmy summer afternoon, complete with cartoonishly harmonized “why, why, why”s as earwormy as anything Paper has ever written. “Gracie III” moseys along on a softly yearning Steely Dan strum, while on “Duumb” Paper returns to their squishy Tim & Eric-style funk for an extended slow jam that culminates in a kooky sound collage (topped with screams straight out of Tom & Jerry). On all these moments, Paper is clearly in command of their element, fleshing out their bizarro universe with songs as cheeky as they are bracingly heartfelt.

If on previous records Paper has kept a lid on their wacky, oversized personality, Free Time feels like a huge leap toward a more liberated sound. Part of what’s always made Paper so compelling is their theatrical balance of silliness and sincerity; between all the clownish sound effects and drawled references to “shaking ass,” there’s a vulnerability to Paper’s songwriting that’s surprisingly moving, their jerky movements reflecting an awkward soul just screaming to be let out. As the album reaches its close with “Flower, a Square,” Paper confronts one of the saddest aspects of coming out: reckoning with all the time spent in the closet that you’ll never get back. “I’ve wasted hours, countless hours of my precious time/Calling a flower a square,” Paper weepingly intones as the song blossoms from its quiet intro into a warm, brass-laden R&B anthem. It’s a melancholy moment, but before long, Paper breaks it down into a funky, acoustic-guitar-riffing strut, shaking off the sadness to simply bask in the sun. It’s a delightful final flourish, one final wink so sweet you might miss the tear behind it.

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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Jerry Paper - Free Time Music Album Reviews Jerry Paper - Free Time Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Friday, April 22, 2022 Rating: 5

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