Parkland’s debut is a quizzical mix of genres with brooding Americana doing most of the heavy lifting.
The pandemic was an unexpected catalyst for bands forming, breaking up, reconfiguring, and reimagining themselves. Rah Rah’s and Close Talker’s Will Quiring took advantage of the time to think about the course of his life and start a new band, Parkland, with five other western Canadian musicians: Jerms Olson (bass), Janelle Moskalyk (guitar/vocals), Ian Cameron (pedal steel), Jeffrey Romanyk (drums), and Steve Schneider (keyboards/vocals). The mission statement for this project is creating “personal songs that explore themes of travel, geography and memory.”
If there’s a roadmap to this album, it’s torn, spilled on, and crumpled up on the backseat floor somewhere. Mixing several genres on one album seems to be a more and more common approach for younger artists. Experimentation and its rewards aside, it can result in a jarring listening experience and futile wishing that maybe one genre per side/half had been the choice instead. In Parkland’s case, they go from folk, indie rock, a lashing of what could be classified as emo, and swerve into Americana. That’s the rest stop that should have been visited much longer.
Struggling with self-doubt, disappointment, invasive memories, and out-of-sync relationships cast a shadow over lighter moments of joy, the promise of a new love, and the companionship of friends and family. The chugging rhythm of ‘Sundown‘ and Ian Cameron’s pedał steel licks lighten the mood, as does the cozy leisureliness of ‘First Light’ and opening track ‘North Of The Border,’ three of the album’s best songs.
On ‘Good Stuff’ Quiring gently rebuffs the friendly overtures of “the queen of my room” by averring “I’m not that way right now.” There are tantalizing, sometimes foreboding, pieces of stories that are never explained or resolved: “Driving nonstop through Ohio / And my mind is stumbling in the dark / My true love is now my rival / And it’s tearing me apart” (‘Ohio‘), “… why did the dog and I / Watch you cry when you were having lunch?” (‘Trainwreck‘), “And it was never enough / Until It all came crashing down” (‘Abby‘), and all of ‘5th and Munroe.’
Throughout the album’s emotional landscape is the implicit need for personal space and time apart, for deep introspection alone. The band’s name (Parkland as in Aspen parkland) reflects this kind of quiet liminal area, where one can think clearly without distractions. No need for a road map to find that space.