Jerry Paper Asks the Big Questions on Like a Baby
Jerry Paper has returned with his newest album, Like a Baby, out October 12 on Stones Throw. Throughout the 13 tracks Lucas Nathan (the human life form inhabited by Jerry Paper), contemplates life, death, and whatever might happen afterwards. The songs touch on heavy philosophical ideas all while backed by gentle tunes that alternate between full on electronic freakouts and breezy soft rock jams.
On Like a Baby Nathan enlists the aid of Matty Tavares (from Badbadnotgood) to assist with the production. With an impressive guest list and Tavares’ help producing, Nathan is able to expand on the more organic live band feel present on the last Jerry Paper album and incorporate the electronic elements from his earlier work to create his most sonically diverse album yet.
The album opener, “Your Cocoon”, finds Nathan asking the listener to burn their cocoon and open themselves up to what life brings. The track is driven by an animatronic sounding orchestra filled with woozy synths, that is perfectly accompanied by the 3D animated music video. The video is a similar style to the other 3D animation Nathan has been working with throughout his career and remains as bizarre and surreal as his other work. The video together with the song feel like a fever dream hosted by the Chuck E Cheese house band.
On the second track, “Grey Area”, Nathan is joined by Natalie Mering of Weyes Blood. Nathan and Mering create a lush atmosphere with horns and breezy strings while the two do do do doo around the cereal aisle trying to stay grounded in this big boy world. With Mering’s insouciant vocals the gentle music comes off much more carefree than what the words might have you believe. This combination of reflective lyrics and generally upbeat music on “Grey Area” perfectly encapsulates the balance the entire album tries to maintain.
The next track, “A Moment”, finds Nathan locked into a synth groove reminiscent of Yellow Magic Orchestra dotted with whirling woodwinds. Throughout “A Moment”, Nathan takes in the small moments in which we are able to temporarily lose ourselves before remembering the anxiety that comes with life. Those brief moments are captured as Nathan croons about a cashier getting lost in their work while they chase a dollar sliding across the counter or images of sitting on a bench next to a shopping mall forgetting about the future for just a second.
For “Did I Buy It”, Nathan teams up with Alex Brettin of Mild High Club. The pairing is a natural fit as Brettin’s work with Mild High Club inhabits a similar space as the typical Jerry Paper song. The two share some musical similarities which allows the track to fit in with the rest of the album with Brettin’s only notable contribution being the jagged guitar solo around the halfway point. Being familiar with Brettins work from Mild High Club I expected his influence to be a little more apparent but the two we're able to put together a solid track.
The albums centerpiece, “My God”, explores the afterlife as Nathan toys with the idea of our entire existence revolving around the money that consumes us. Nathan starts the song asking to “bury me with receipts, my history and transactions. Calculate the cost of my life, down to a single cent. We’ll see how my life went.”. While “My God” verges on an existential crisis it is also one of the more tuneful songs on the album and seems to really strike the sweet spot Nathan hoped to find on Like a Baby.
The music video for "My God" opens with a newspaper clipping that reads “International soft rock sensation Jerry Paper died last week at the tender age of 121. A lover of toads, Jerry was known to sit on the porch croaking into the early morning hours.” The video shows Jerry Paper getting his affairs in order before heading down to Heaven's Gate Express Entry Services, where he and God work through his finances. After reviewing his life Jerry Paper is turned away from heaven and told he would be have to try again. While many of the Jerry Paper music videos have utilized surreal 3D animation Nathan and director Steve Smith use practical effects and elaborate makeup to take the absurd ideas in the song and bring them to life.
On Like a Baby, Lucas Nathan covers a lot of ground and tries to tackle some big philosophical ideas. Throughout the album Nathan is more concerned with posing the question rather than providing an answer and with most of these songs clocking in under 3 minutes Nathan gives very little time for the listeners ruminate on these ideas. While this album isn't going to solve life's greatest questions it is a wonderfully fun bunch of songs.