Paul Rocha “Apophenia”

Paisley Palm Records, 2021

A mixture of themes come together to form a fairly cohesive whole that takes the listener on an enjoyable, if uneven, journey.

Paul Rocha is something of a renaissance man: he’s been a bagel baker, a machinist, and even a part-owner of a skincare company, but it is music he now solely dedicates his time to; although even there he performs all of what is heard on his records, save for the exception of drums (no one can do everything after all).

Rocha self-describes his music as “Five Chord Power Pop”, and that’s a description immediately felt from the opening bouncy chords of track one, ‘The Other Side’, a song that explores the restlessness that comes with contentment coupled with the fear of missing out (“Flip the record over or I might miss something on The Other Side”). ‘Like Lavender Rain’ is much more mellow than the previous track, with a tune that has a lilting melancholy while the lyrics speak of happiness (“I’m so grateful that I found you here / In the color that surrounds you / Like Lavender Rain”), with real echoes of The Beatles (unsurprising since Rocha is a self-confessed “Beatles nut”).

‘Sister Silhouette’ – sonically a homage to great 60s folk – asks a lot of questions but fails to find any answers – “Who holds the key to the song in your heart that you sing to yourself? / Who shines the sun on your cheek when you weep in the night?” – but still, the mellotron, strings and flute add a real depth and beauty to the meditation. ‘Echoes of Never’ tells the story of 18th-century slavers in Newport, RI (Roche currently resides in the nearby town of Warren) and how their actions devastated not only those enslaved, but also their loved ones left without them (“You stole my love and pawned her off / To worlds unknown, now she’s gone / Lost to the Echoes of Never”).

‘The Day That I Fall Down’ is another music nod to Roche’s 60s pop influences, while the lyrics pay tribute to his elderly mother, lamenting her eventual loss but also musing on the potential circular nature of existence, while ‘Under the Influence’ veers between the dreariness of a hangover and the joyousness of the party that caused it. ‘Sweet Marianne’ is a wordy tale of love gone sour (“People sometimes fall in love and more often sometimes they just don’t / And your head has no clue what your heart’s gonna do, most times you’re the last one to know”) sung with a counteractive lightness, and Rocha pulls off a similar trick with ‘Klondike’, its upbeat but languid delivery belying its theme of loneliness and anonymity.

Taking a strangely twisted humorous view on things, ‘They’re All Dead’ – with Roche’s vocals giving shades of “Weird Al” Yankovic – looks at the fact that a lot of people from history are no longer with us (“They’re all dead” and variations of it are repeated almost 20 times throughout the song), with shoutouts to figures as wide-ranging as Anne Boleyn, The Ramones and J. P. Kennedy’s sons. ‘Speaking of Ella’ is something of a love letter to the tired idea of a woman as a Manic Pixie Dream Girl: “Speaking of Ella, did you see me first or am I just cursed? / Speaking of Ella, thought I saw her face through the Irish lace / Speaking of Ella, cigarettes and hearts abound / You can compromise, she says, any vice, only smoke ‘em halfway down”.

The album title ‘Apophenia’ refers to the “tendency to perceive meaningful connections between unrelated things” (thanks Wikipedia), and it’s not hard to see why Rocha picked it for this collection of songs, varied in themes, that still manage to fit mostly cohesively as a whole. Rocha has said of his music, “It’s all about the circle. It’s all about going home,” and here he’s made ‘Apophenia’ an unusual kind of home, bohemian and off-beat, but still a welcoming one that’s fun to take a trip to now and again, even though permanent residence might prove tiresome.

6/10
6/10

About Helen Jones 52 Articles
North West based lover of country and Americana.

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