From the moment those bass lines start bumbling their way through the evaporating, disco-shimmer that opens “A Song You’d Never Want to Hear,” it’s clear that the brilliance of Joy Downer‘s debut album Paper Moon coalesces around her lush soundscapes. Inspired and textured by all the retro-dreaminess of 80s rock and electronica, Joy has found a very specific niche in which to flourish, looking to a kind of retro-transience and a neon-hued bildungsroman for her album. Counting the likes of David Bowie and Beck amongst her musical heroes, it’s no wonder that Paper Moons finds her bee-lining between various genres.
By the time the buoyant, hook-filled “A Song You’d Never Want to Hear” has ended, you will have lost yourself utterly in the bliss of Joy’s euphonious cries and witty lyricism. Then there’s “Plastic Wrap,” with its driving beats and “do-do-do’s” offering a nod to the similarly hypnotic “Tom’s Diner.” Here the neon glow of concrete motorways illuminate Joy’s escape, soundtracked as it is by a mixture of haunting atmospherics in the vein of Metric (“Getaway Car”) and dizzyingly-melodic soundscapes (“Over & Out”). And instead of slowing down, Joy Downer leans on the throttle in “Neon Turns,” throws the e-brake on the proverbial off-ramp, and offers up her bittersweet ode to the “city of stars.” A kinetic anthem that views the glitz and glamour of Los Angeles through the reflection of the rear-view mirror in Joy’s sunglasses, “Neon Turns” is a sublime lament for connection in a city that doubles as a dream-world.
Paper Moon revels in that world; with Joy Downer using the picturesque and nostalgic to imbue her musings on love and relationships with a similarly mesmerizing quality. As the album nears its natural end Joy deepens the introspection into a fine point on the beguiling rock piece “Good / Bad.” And that dreamy introspection grows into harmony on “The Fool,” before emerging as a sonorous, flittering ballad on the album’s eponymous title-track. And with a “crash and collide,” Paper Moon reaches a catharsis amidst the otherwise midnight hues that birthed it–breaking like the sunrise.