Essential New Music: Papa M’s “Highway Songs”


Guitar primitivist, post-rock smoothie, dry-throated balladeer, electronic prankster, sideman extraordinaire—over the course of a three-decade career, David Pajo has disappeared into each one of these guises. At moments, Highway Songs suggests a Real World bungalow stacked to the rafters with these Pajo iterations. Brooding metal clinics “Bloom” and “Flatliners” are reminiscent of stints with Zwan and Dead Child; “Adore, A Jar” and “Walking On Coronado” recall the syncopated, liquid precision of early solo project Aerial M and 1999’s Live In A Shark Tank. “Little Girl” feels like the logical apex of his creative trajectory post-Papa M Sings. The silver lining is that still more Pajos are on this RSVP list: a devious Pajo, tweaking and twisting “The Love Particle” into sonic shrapnel; a rowdy, punk Pajo wailing on “Green Hollers.” Consider the jarring Highway Songs a retrenchment in the wake of its creator’s publicly nightmarish 2015: the album as spirit quest, as bridge.

—Raymond Cummings