I’ve always admired Clem Snide’s surrealist honesty; the band’s dreamy alt-country is/was equal parts earnest confessional and stream-of-consciousness metaphors amid generally light-touch arrangements. Paper Man’s “Bloodstream” evokes Clem Snide’s earnest lyrics and beautiful light-touch balladry.
Brian Sousa’s vocals jump out of the speakers with the urgent sincerity of a man who has gotten rid of all self-delusion. The lyrics reflect the vocal tone, as Sousa (ex-Strangers by Accident) starts off with “I don’t know if I’m a good man” and gets more incisively self-aware from there. The lyrics are addressed to a lover, a no more lies, here it is conversation that takes great risk to deliver. The clear and present vulnerability of laying it out there–a “Why would I do this unless I really, truly wanted to make this work?” feel–creates a love song without saying “I love you.” “I’ve got nothing without you” and ruminations on the future when they’re old are as close as Sousa gets to the stating the heart of the mood that his tone and the arrangement create.
The arrangement is truly lovely. The fingerpicked guitarwork is winsome while the bass, strings, and subtle percussion fill out the arrangement perfectly. The touch is light while still keeping the drama high. The musicians carefully balance the heaviness of the lyrical revelations with the underlying hope that impels the revelations in the first place.
“Bloodstream” is out today, from the forthcoming album Bad Karma.