David Pajo is easily one of the most prolific artists in indie rock. Having been a founding member of Slint, performing and recording with The For Carnation and Tortoise, collaborating with Bonnie `Prince’ Billy, releasing a number of solo records under the name Papa M and even briefly playing with Billy Corgan’s Zwan, Pajo has proverbially done it all. And in 2005, after a much-lauded Slint reunion, it’s refreshing to see Pajo back to doing what he does best — pretty acoustic folk music in the vein of his Papa M material, only under a different name.
After all that David Pajo has done, Pajo is the first of his albums to bear his own name. Simpler and more understated than many of the other bands in which he has played, Pajo’s latest is thoroughly enjoyable, though far more subtle. In fact, it’s downright comforting to listen to Pajo’s gentle voice and fingerpicked guitar, not unlike that of Iron & Wine’s Sam Beam, albeit more Leonard Cohen influenced and much less Southern and rustic.
The album’s opener, “Oh No No,” is mainly Pajo and his guitar, augmented by an off-rhythm phasing drum machine, giving the song a trippy feel, though at its core, the song is really quite simple. “High Lonesome Moan” also employs some drum machine beats, but to more straightforward effect. This song shows off Pajo’s deft fingerpicking, as the melody seems to float by effortlessly in spite of his intricate skills. In this song and the follower “Ten More Days,” Pajo even sounds a bit like the late Elliott Smith in his early, four-tracking days.
“War is Dead” starts to show a change in pace and approach, as Pajo plays a bluesier progression over a thudding bass drum beat. On “Baby Please Come Home,” however, everything is turned upside-down. Rather than a simple acoustic song, it’s a multi-layered pop arrangements with skipping electronic drums and a warm ambience. And the a cappella opening of “Mary of the Wild Moor” is far more raw and haunting than much of the album, immediately marking it as unique.
Of all the projects David Pajo has been involved in, none have been as immediately accessible as his folk work. Though none of it isn’t accessible, listening to Pajo or a Papa M record, for instance, brings with it a certain pleasantness and comfort that doesn’t necessarily come with Slint or The For Carnation, for instance. Whatever, at least he’s not in Zwan anymore.
Iron & Wine – The Creek Drank the Cradle
Elliott Smith – Elliott Smith
Papa M – Whatever, Mortal
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.