Paul Bergmann never rests. Last winter, he put out an EP with his full band project, The Fair Moans, and the winter before that he delivered a concise, quiet release under his solo moniker. Even more records have come prior to that, and each has in some way contributed to Bergmann’s experimentation on the guitar, which feels galvanized on his recent Paradise EP.
The folk singer’s reputation is marked by melancholy; Paradise stands out for its transparency—there are few uplifting melodies to disguise the malaise. “Lover of the Good Times” was a leading single for the release, and it contains a certain skeptical joy about southern California, seemingly from the point of view of a wealthy man from decades past. The title track builds on our protagonist’s comfort, yet it gets twisted in the first stanza:
“Think it’s time to let go
Let the good times go”
Buzzing background ambiance can be heard in the crevices of each song on the EP, encouraging an intimacy between the sounds and our ears. This is an overwhelmingly DIY record, where Bergmann flexes his mastery of songwriting, even including a stream-of-consciousness story typical of country music. Having toyed with reverb and echoes for the past few records, he manages to transform the purpose of the guitar on Paradise. In both “High Times in the Desert” and “Stars” it takes on a new role; rock bands rely on guitar for melody and rhythm, but Bergmann deconstructs it, allowing it to speak as if telling its own story underneath his vocals.
If this record proves anything, it’s that paradise is in the eye of the beholder. Listen and frolic in Bergmann’s own haven, lousy with apathy and depression.