Paper Bag Records, 2016
Review by Kent Manthie
The debut by Star Parks, Don’t Dwell is the perfect soundtrack for a lovely sunny day, lying in the grass,staring up at the sky or something with which to wake up and melt away those tired, just-getting-out-of-bed blues. Packed with nine smooth, mellow tunes, Don’t Dwell is a great debut album by a band of musicians who, before this, were doing things with various other outfits, so they’re not just brand new, as in not experienced; in fact,one of the things, I think, anyway, that makes Star Parks sound so good is their collective experience, represented by a variety of backgrounds, though we’re not talking about wide-ranging, or antithetical to each other, but a group who comes from various other bands and, so, each has, I assume, something to add to the band, something that, one hopes, will infuse several different veterans of other bands together into a new one that results in a great synergy of styles.
Austin, TX-based Star Parks is the brainchild of Andy Bianculli, formerly of The Preservation, who broke up recently, after a tour with Black Joe & The Honeybears and a gig on Austin City Limits.
For Star Parks, Andy called on two friends, Andrew Collberg, from Tucson, AZ and Louisiana’s Chris Stafford. Having the ability to record this album
The song “Hugs” starts out sounding like it could’ve been straight out of Brian Wilson’s vivid, musical genius brain. It doesn’t last throughout the whole song, but that opening, piano-based riff that starts it off, does appear within the song in various parts.
Don’t Dwell was written in the midst of a hot Texas summer, I assume, last summer, of 2015, which, indeed, was a very hot summer. The songs on it were inspired by such works as Harry Nilsson’s Pandemonium Shadow Show, Leonard Cohen’s Death of a Ladies Man and Bill Fay’s Time of the last Persecution.
On this album, there are nine songs of purely exquisite dreamy pop, “spiriting the listener away with gossamer harmonies and celestial arrangements” according to the accompanying write up in the press release. I agree, wholeheartedly, with that statement and, since it’s such a perfectly worded description, I thought that I had to include it.
Besides the three principals I wrote about earlier, Star Parks is rounded out by Ben Burdick on bass, Keith Lough, on drums, Nathaniel Klugman, keyboards and Mauricio Ramos, who plays guitar and adds some vocals too.
The album just slips through your fingers, like so much sparkling beach sand, it’s just such a pleasure to hear,and time always flies when you’re having fun, right? It’s ethereal atmospherics, “piano-heavy”, greatly harmonized vocals all come together to make for a beautiful album, bound to be remembered in 10 years from now – at least. The tunes are clever, fun, timeless, a treat to hear and bound to be a classic. From the opening “Hymn for the Hopeless”, on to “Egotists”, and on through the rest, they all shine, like a precious gem. As I stated previously, “Hugs” is a great Beach Boys-esque, summer love song and then Don’t Dwell ends with a great, nine minute “The High Hopes of Good Fortune”, which is a brilliant work. It goes on for a little over three minutes, where it then seems like it’s ending, but, after a little bit of “dead air”, the music comes back and the rest of the song goes on, but with a touch of melancholy in it, not depressing at all, but, just somewhat deeper, and to fill those nine minutes, a great song has been assembled that does not drag on, or seem too long. On the contrary, it’s quite a pleasing, relaxing, bittersweet song.
This is definitely one of those albums that will not be forgotten and, by the end of the year, it will make my “Best of 2016” list (I know, I know, I didn’t get one out this year. The end of 2015, for me, was just a crazy, busy time and I just couldn’t spare the time, to pick and choose from all the reviews I’d done and, to tell the truth, there just wasn’t – or rather, I should say, I, myself, at least, didn’t get to hear that many great, I mean really great new albums that deserved to be on that “Best of the year” list. This year is different: it’s only March, almost April and already I’ve received some really exceptional albums. I know that of all the albums I’ve received over the last 6 weeks, I have material for that end of the year “Best of” list, Don’t Dwell to be among them. Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself. I only wish they’re current tour dates were bringing them to the San Diego area, because I’d love to see them live, just to enjoy the music, but also, I think it would make for a great review, complete with pictures.
For now, I’ll just have to console myself with being able to listen to this terrific album. Hope that you do the same. If you want to read more about them or purchase it straight from the label, you can go to https://terrorbird.com/albums/don-t-dwell or, check out Paper Bag Records’ website: www.paperbagrecords.com or, to purchase, go to the Soundcloud page: http://papertrailrecords.bandcamp.com/ Enjoy! –KM.