We are now officially old enough to fall for a Paul Simon record. In our mind, he sits with Loudon Wainwright III and Randy Newman as an artist in the ‘classic singer-songwriter’ canon (yawn) whose records remain a mystery because frankly, we could never really be bothered. Paul Simon is not our thing, we’d always thought.
It seems the impetus for his 12th solo LP was ‘a guitar in [his] lap’, and he says it reminds him most of 1972’s Paul Simon. We’ll have to take his word on that, but we do know that it’s warm and witty and wise and more light-filled and wryly self-aware than we’d imagined possible. Every arrangement is a perfectly nuanced fit for the song, whether it be tin-can, Cajun or desert blues, gospel or highlife. The beauty of ‘Love & Hard Times’ bowls us over in the way that DM Stith does, its lyrics (‘anyway, these people are slobs here… I loved her the first time I saw her; I know that’s an old songwriting cliché’) providing bittersweet balance. And if you don’t swoon at ‘Questions for the Angels’, with its mention of zebra tears and Jay-Z, you should fear for your soul.