Intimacy Ebbs and Flows in Paul Bergmann’s New LP, Stars and Streams
Words: Zoë Elaine
At my college radio station, a friend of mine created and hosted a beautiful folk show. It was a program filled with soft melodies and emotional croons. When she graduated, I took it over, but never was able to capture the same spirit that she had cultivated during her tenure. Folk musician Paul Bergmann makes me miss those days of sifting through music, trying to determine if it was good enough for the legacy my friend left. Bergmann’s new record would have fit the show perfectly.
The Los Angeles-based songwriter is about to release his debut album, Stars and Streams, which was recorded in one day. These are songs he decided to put to tape seemingly on a whim, with an honest and raw energy that shines through on every single track. “It’s my most intimate and unaffected release, and in that way it’s very meaningful to me,” he told American Songwriter.
The intimacy he mentions ebbs and flows throughout the record. The opening track is an expansive anecdote, laden with reverb to make it feel like you are listening to him play from the back of a large, empty theater. The scope narrows as the album wears on, drawing us closer to that metaphorical stage where he sits on a stool, alone, singing to the ceiling. By “Always, Forever,” Bergmann includes us in the narrative.
“The ghosts of our thoughts and the fleeting white lies
Fall quiet like snow on the boughs of our sighs”
This record is quiet and restrained, relying only on Bergmann’s guitar and voice. It reminds me of the great Sufjan Stevens record from last year, Carrie and Lowell, which similarly featured only Stevens’ voice, acoustic guitar, and the occasional whining synth. There is power in this simplicity; it draws the focus to the poetry in the lyrics, and the melodies bring emotion to the forefront.
As I ponder this record, the final image is one that I can’t seem to shake. Bergmann arranged the album so a track called “Goodbye” feels like everything is coming to a close, yet is only the penultimate track on the record. The song that follows, “100 Years,” releases not only the body, but also the soul, in a view on afterlife that carries a great weight.
“I won’t be around
100 years from now
My throat will close somehow
And I will be a cloud”
If there is an existence that awaits us beyond our earthly form, it seems fitting that we would become wisps of vapor, buffeted around by indiscriminate and unrelenting Mother Nature, never again able to experience Her wonders.
Stars and Streams comes out on August 26th. You can stream and / or purchase the album via Bergmann’s Bandcamp. To celebrate the new album, Paul Bergmann’s will have his record release show at the Bootleg on August 30th. Tickets are available here for only $7.
Watch Paul Bergmann’s video for “100 Years”