Album Title
Artist IconPaul Simon
Artist Icon Stranger to Stranger
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First Released

Calendar Icon 2016


Genre Icon Folk


Mood Icon Moody


Style Icon Rock/Pop


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Speed Icon Medium

Release Format

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Record Label Release

Speed Icon Concord Records

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Album Description
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Stranger to Stranger is the thirteenth solo studio album by American folk rock singer-songwriter Paul Simon. Produced by Andy Smith and Roy Halee, it was released on June 3, 2016 through Concord Records. Simon wrote the material over a period of several years, perfecting it and rewriting it to his liking. Its music is experimental, making use of custom-made instruments by music theorist Harry Partch. Many songs on the album are a collaboration with Italian electronic artist Clap! Clap!.

His first release in over five years, Stranger to Stranger received wide critical acclaim.

Simon began writing new material shortly after releasing his twelfth studio album, So Beautiful or So What, in April 2011. Simon collaborates with the Italian electronic dance music artist Clap! Clap! on three songs—"The Werewolf", "Street Angel", and "Wristband". Simon was introduced to him by his son, Adrian, who was a fan of his work. The two met up in July 2011 when Simon was touring behind So Beautiful or So What in Milan, Italy. He and Clap! Clap! worked together via email over the course of making the album. Simon also worked with longtime friend Roy Halee, who is listed as co-producer on the album. Halee, who had since retired, was mostly recruited to advise on how to create natural echo. He was unfamiliar with ProTools, so Simon helped him with it. "I always liked working with him more than anyone else," Simon noted.

Andy Greene of Rolling Stone dubbed Stranger to Stranger an "experimental album heavy on echo and rhythm that fuses electronic beats with African woodwind instruments, Peruvian drums, a gospel music quartet, horns and synthesizers." The album makes usage of custom-made instruments, such as the Cloud-Chamber Bowls and the Chromelodeon, which were created by music theorist Harry Partch in the mid-twentieth century. Simon briefly moved the sessions to Montclair State University, where the instruments are stored, in 2013 in order to employ them on the album. "Parch said there were 43 tones to an octave and not 12," Simon remarked in Rolling Stone. "He had a totally different approach to what music is and had to build his own instruments so he could compose on a microtonal scale. That microtonal thinking pervades this album."

"The Werewolf" centers around a werewolf, also an angel of death, who is looking for victims. The song's origins came from Simon and his band experimenting with slowing down the tempo of a recording they made of the Peruvian percussion instrument Cajón, the Indian instrument gopichand, and hand claps. "Wristband" creates a narrative around a rock musician unable to gain entry into his own concert because he lacks the wristband required. "The Riverbank" was inspired by a teacher that Simon personally knew who was slain in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in December 2012. It also takes root in a visit Simon made to wounded veterans at Walter Reed Hospital. "Proof of Love" and "In the Garden of Edie", meanwhile, stand as tributes to Simon's wife, musician Edie Brickell. The album also has continuity, with characters reappearing in songs. "The idea of finishing one song and having the character appear in another song appeals to me. I don't see why characters shouldn't appear more than once," said Simon. The instrumentals "The Clock" and "In the Garden of Edie" function as interludes, designed to give listeners "space." The two tracks were originally composed for John Patrick Shanley's play Prodigal Son, but went unused.
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