On the eve of releasing the album The Playground, LA’s Paper Idol (AKA Matan KG and Adam Rochelle) have given Joyzine the singular pleasure of premiering the album’s title track on our site.
The Playground chronicles the eight stages of childhood in eight slices of electro pop which are light and airy with the occasional dark brooding moments. Through Matan we get to experience those stages from playing on the sidewalk and counting the bells on the ice cream truck to early innocent love and then the fleeting but intense passions of adolescence. Not only did Matan mine his childhood memories he also revisited his childhood homes and says, “I recorded the album in all three places I’ve lived – Los Angeles, Milwaukee, and Tel Aviv – which influenced the album sonically and gave me a deeper connection to the lyrics.” adding it was like therapy ,“It was a process of sorting out my best and worst memories growing up and trying to make something beautiful from it.“.
‘The Playground’ floats in on bubbles dipped in reverb before Matan’s voice plays hopscotch with an array of computer game bleeps. The pre-chorus is a widescreen view as Matan flies high above the playground looking down on his past, I miss the sand and the silly games. Cause in the playground nobody knows your name your name”, and then the sing-song chorus makes great use of children singing as a not-too-sweet call and response to his plaintive “Knows your name your name”.
Matan says of the title track, “‘The Playground’ is about missing the purity of childhood. It’s so easy to get caught up in status, envy, comparing yourself to others… there was a time when we were just “being,” soaking up the world around us with no ego. Me and my bandmate Adam tried so many different ideas for the chorus that didn’t work. Then the idea of a vintage children’s choir came up – perfect! I got in touch with The West Los Angeles Children’s Choir, and they totally nailed it. This was during the pandemic, so we had Zoom rehearsals and each child recorded his part at home. It was such a fun experience taking those records and fitting them into the record.“
The track’s overall effect emulates the bounce of a skipping game but played in the warm haze of a dream. I’ve been lucky enough to hear the album and ‘The Playground’ is a great exemplar of what you’ll hear. There are washes of classic synth sounds with arpeggios firing like popping candy and the super-tight drums are buoyant on helium. Matan’s crystal clear vocals jump for joy between his lush high tenor and a caramel falsetto. The production is pinpoint, but never clinical, and there is enough looseness and fun to fill a soft play centre.
Matan KG has an obvious joy in mining his past and with Adam Rochelle they have mixed enough analogue into the electronic that you can feel the human touch shine through. The great joy of The Playground is that it’s not dewy-eyed nostalgia, it has bittersweet qualities that stop it from being so saccharine you would get a cavity. You’ll want to play this a lot but just make sure you’re home in time for your tea and don’t forget to wash your hands first.
Review by Paul F Cook