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  • Jonathan Widran

PAUL ROCHA, Apophenia

The first thing you’ll wonder as you glide through Paul Rocha's quirky, eclectic but deeply heartfelt and emotional roll through adventurous fields of wit, hilarity, wisdom, heartache, soulful reflections, sorrow, hope, fantasies, romance, cabaret cool and lush retro, Beatlesque vibes and trippy harmonies is: what does the album title Apophenia mean and how does it connect to these relentlessly compelling ten tunes?

Coined in 1958 by German neurologist Klaus Conrad, it refers to the human tendency to see patterns and meaning in random information. Perhaps Rocha’s referring to his official biography, which finds him high fiving Abbie Hoffman in a bar, rooting for the Red Sox, working as a bagel maker and machinist and skincare executive and doing crosswords and jigsaws. A fascinating musical cat who has lived and endless swirl of different lives (including exploring his solo artistry since the release of his 2012 debut album Crayons), Rocha is one of those rare gems who gets us to deeply feel his pain and confusion deeply one minute, then sing along like it’s time to party even as his heart’s breaking.

And that’s just the first song, the soulful and new wavey “The Other Side,” where he’s on the “tip of his toes on a razor blade” and mourning his brother while inviting us to join in a rousing round of “I do and I don’t and I do and I don’t wanna be alone.” Which is it? Does it matter? Not to the guy who looks sweetly and romantically at the brighter side of a failing relationship (“Like Lavender Rain”), shares his fantasy of saving a messed up women (the easy rolling “Sister Silhouette”), sings randomly and whimsically about doomed New England slave traders with cool Spanish names (“Echoes of Never”) and takes us to the tender emotional core of the album with the dreamy, wistful mid-tempo vocal harmony driven reflection “The Day That I Fall,” about the prospect of someday losing his mother (yet hopefully reuniting on the other side).

Rocha saves his most spirited whimsey for three songs that best showcase the cleverness of his eclectic freewheeling artistry: “Under the Influence,” which explores the ups and downs of alcohol consumption, shifting quickly from gentle reflection to a bouncy, New Orleans flavored dance midway through; the light-swinging pop/rocker “Klondike,” which equates the generic phone numbers of old movies with feeling invisible (so it’s playful and a touch melancholy at the same time); and the stunningly hilarious novelty jam “They’re All Dead,” a piano pounding rocker illuminating a diversity of the dearly departed (from “Every Grateful Dead keyboard player” to the “learned fathers of the atom bomb.”

A longtime former fixture on the Northampton, MA music scene for over 25 years, Rocha knows that Klondike anonymity well – but more shimmering, adventurous bomb ass albums like this and he’ll never have to have a 555 number again.


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