Last we heard from Jerry Paper, the L.A.-based singer/songwriter had logged an appearance on Tyler, the Creator’s Grinch-inspired Christmas EP, crooning about hot chocolate and jigsaw puzzles over orchestral production.
Novelty tracks like this would usually be an outlier in an artist’s discography, but not in Paper’s case. His latest LP, Like a Baby, is an intricately layered effort that weaves black comedy into a woolen sweater of Funk and Soft Rock. The record is equally a sleep aid and a wake-up call, drawing you in with drowsy chord progressions while whispering its thesis on consumerist malaise as you drift off.
Prepare for unpleasant dreams. Paper’s lyricism is delivered with syrupy detachment but reads like that cloud of anxious thoughts that builds up while waiting in line at the supermarket. On “Did I Buy It?,” he sings, “Money, fame, misery and those kinds of things/Did I buy it, or was it sold to me?”
“Lyrically, I was very focused on creating images that would convey meaning more than just me saying what I am trying to say,” he told Ad Hoc in a 2018 interview. “It’s been a gradual process of me moving from raw emotion to constructing interpretive worlds — places you can go and make your own meaning from.”
Like a Baby was conceptualized and recorded over the course of two years with the help of Canadian Free Jazz/Neo-Fusion outfit BadBadNotGood. Though some of the fuzzy, lavishly-arranged charm of previous efforts has been culled back, it’s undoubtedly Paper’s most realized effort to date. Thanks to the tighter production quality, Paper fits surprisingly well into the Stones Throw Records catalog, bumping elbows with aesthetically like-minded instrumentalists like Madlib and Washed Out.
As cozy and crushing as his work can be, one can’t help but feel that even Paper’s non-Yuletide material would pair well with a mug of hot chocolate — with extra whip, of course, to restore the state of a soul wracked by corporate emptiness.
Paper plays a free show this Wednesday (March 20) at 10 p.m. at MOTR Pub in Over-the-Rhine with special guests Vireo. Click here for more show info.