Folk rock legend Paul Simon’s latest album Stranger To Stranger is, as expected, a master course in songwriting. However, this LP is even more notable for its sound design and production techniques. From the popped, echoing guitar string sound that opens the album on “The Werewolf,” to the unique percussion on tracks like “Wristband,” Stranger To Stranger is unlike any album by a 1960s musician you’ve ever heard. Ironically, for a 74-year-old artist, this album’s blood feels fresh. By collaborating with Italian underground electronic producer Clap! Clap! on “The Werewolf,” “Wristband” and “Street Angel,” Simon has truly set the bar high for innovation in a genre that seems to be lacking such a trait. Paul Simon was introduced to Clap! Clap!’s music through his son, who is an avid music producer. This unique pairing of a folk icon and an underground electronic musician is rather groundbreaking. The distorted voice sample on “Street Angel” is something that one would have never though to be used on a Paul Simon recording. Yet it works so well, and these collaborations with Clap! Clap! are the pinnacle of Stranger To Stranger.
Although the production is the main highlight here, the songwriting is nothing to sleep on. With his poetic, groove-based approach to lyricism, Paul Simon truly has a gift for creating wonderful compositions. The discussion that figuratively takes place between Simon and his doctor during “In A Parade” is a perfect example of this. “Diagnosis: Schizophrenic, Prognosis: Guarded, Medication: Seroquel, Occupation: Street Angel,” Simon chants during this passage. To add even more mysticism and depth to this, “Street Angel” is the title of the fourth song of the album. These motifs and use of symbolism that exist throughout Stranger To Stranger make this feel less like a recording of music and more like a high fantasy novel series. Without a doubt,Stranger to Stranger is a testament to an artist who refuses to be ordinary and pigeonholed. With this LP, Paul Simon has created his best work in many years.
For more from Paul Simon, listen to “Graceland” in the player below.