Paul Simon | In the Blue Light | Album Review

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Paul Simon has had a solo career for over 50 years and yet his new album, In the Blue Light, has not experienced any of the typical burnout common in the new work of older artists. On the contrary, Simon’s soft, poetic style seems to transcend temporal bounds. The album is topical without being preachy, all the while backed by an inventive mix of folk and blues sounds.

This sound is characterized from the get-go in the album’s first track “One Man’s Ceiling Is Another Man’s Floor.” A bluesy piano break interrupts what begins as a more wistful jazz groove. The lyrics echo the title of the track, reminding listeners of how society is connected with the image of apartments sharing walls, ceilings, and floors. The juxtaposition in styles mirrors this sentiment as if playing two opposing personalities off one another.

The sounds of jazz resurface in “How the Heart Approaches What It Yearns.” The subject matter is comparable to something along the lines of Tom WaitsNighthawks at the Diner while the lamenting saxophone reminds one of early Chet Baker albums. Simon continues his exploration of the genre in “Pigs, Sheep and Wolves,” a social commentary in the form of a bestiary with a New Orleans flair.

Though every song on the album has a degree of social commentary, these themes come to a head on “René and Georgette Magritte with Their Dog After the War” and “The Teacher,” where he focuses in on the immigrant experience. The latter of which sounds the return of that lamenting saxophone as it seems to wail out over the story of a struggling teacher.

Though some songs such as “Love” are lacking some originality, the album delivers some pointed social commentary and surprising instrumentation that makes it a fun listen.

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