Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Artist of the Day: Park

Reunions often make me skeptical. Yes, I’m always upset when a favorite band of mine calls it quits, and any chance to actually see them play again after I thought it was all over is certainly welcomed. But at the same time, the reunions I’ve experienced in my lifetime (Blink-182, Latterman, etc) have usually left something to be desired—like the magic that made the band so great back in the day just can’t return once the members split up. Park, however, has found a way to prove me wrong again and again with their almost yearly reunion shows in Illinois, and now that they’ve announced a new full length, any possible skepticism I could have had has been replaced by unrestrained nostalgic excitement and anticipation. 

I first fell in love with Park late on a Thursday night in October. The days were getting colder and greyer, and my summertime pop punk playlists were slowly becoming inappropriate for the continuously bleaker weather. Through sheer luck, I stumbled upon Park’s second album, It Won’t Snow Where You’re Going, which was the perfect place to start with the band’s three-record back catalogue. At their core, Park is an alternative band, but there is a layer of refinement and subtlety in each members’ playing that elevates them far above the standard emotional band of the week. The interplay of a 3/4 guitar riff and 4/4 drumming during the bridge of “Gasoline Kisses for Everyone,” or the dark, walking bassline in the amazingly powerful “Conversations with Emily” are just two of many gifts from these musicians who grew up listening to punk but obviously went the extra mile to make it better.

One of the biggest draws of the band is the smooth voice of Ladd Mitchell, who has an impressive (and surprisingly powerful) voice accompanying the emotional lyrics. As much as I enjoy Saves the Day, I often just can’t get past Conley’s whiny, high-pitched voice he uses on the newer records, so Mitchell’s straightforward vocals are a welcomed break from the frail, weak deliveries generously employed on many modern emo records. The lyrics are some of the darkest you’ll find, with lines like, “Desperation sets in / Holding me close / Much like you did,” or the extremely unsettling, yet simple final lines the album’s concluding track, “Some days slip.” Much of Mitchell’s writing revolves around loss and suicide, and consequently, the liner notes for It Won’t Snow Where You’re Going contain numbers to numerous suicide hotlines and agencies that exist for the sole purpose of helping others through the darkest times of their lives—something Mitchell seems to understand all too well.

After the release of their innovative third album, Building a Better _____, the band announced it was time for Park to end. Fans have been given numerous treats since then, though, with the common reunion shows and even an EP from one of Mitchell’s new bands, Tiger Tank, which sounded like something Park could have put out in an alternate universe. But now that we’ve got a real album on the horizon, it seems like Park is going to make a strong comeback. There’s something universal about their music, where it can appeal to both an older crowd, accustomed to 90s emo, and the younger generation just getting into these genres, so I expect the band to do quite well in the coming months. Luckily for these Springfield boys, there’s probably a lot of success where they’re going.


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