UK Alt-Rock Outfit Parker Lee Release Core-Deep Debut Album
There’s something really special about getting to hear the very first effort from a young band. No matter the content or quality, it automatically has heart, because it’s the first try and the first introduction. For UK indie-rockers Parker Lee, this is especially true, though their content and quality are both quite stirring.
Last month, the quartet released their debut full-length album, if you’re not serious, don’t say it, a selection of eight efforts ranging from lo-fi vulnerability to alternative edge. "if you're not serious, don't say it is the product of over a year of hard graft and uncertainty, a short collection of songs about generalised anxiety, uncertain identity, and dogs wandering the street,” Parker Lee tells The Music Mermaid about their new release. “Our guitarist, former drummer, producer, and resident genius Annie has done a fantastic job tying our songs together with layer after layer of drive and determination, and we couldn't be more proud of what we've put together. It's a nostalgic summary of a wonderful, yet tumultuous, couple of years in our lives.”
if you’re not serious, don’t say it opens with “nazca,” a guitar-driven track blooming and searing even when vocalist Jowan Mead’s voice is a mere croon, though it later evolves into a sort of desperate shout). The album’s lead single “size nines” follows, setting aside its opening rock punches for a tender tune built on crying bass riffs and moments of heart-burst sparkles. “horizontal” is small but, god, is it mighty — at just fifty seconds long, it’s in danger of being forgotten in the rush of the rest of the album, but it isn’t because it’s rich, somehow managing its own fleeting evolution from contemplation to chaos. On “amelia earhart,” Jowan’s vocals are drowned out by power-hungry percussion but there are instances of instrumental comedowns, emotional moments that quiet down before bursting once again into quick-paced rhythms.
The second half of if you’re not serious, don’t say it kicks off with “faded “heroes” sleeve,” one of the most aching tracks on the record. In addition to its low, inching nature, it boasts some of Parker Lee’s best songwriting — the scene is set, every detail is observed, each inexplicable feeling is described, a feat that could only be achieved by this band. Instrumentally, the song moves through layers — for so long it remains a stoic creep but by the end, there’s a welcome explosion. “boston” comes next, a fuzzy garage-rock effort led by incessant plucks and plinks before opening its soundscape to the band’s best vocal and instrumental work on the whole record. There’s a raw quality to it — loose ends left swinging — that gives the song depth and character it wouldn’t have had if the band had opted for a cleaner production style. Thank god they didn’t.
Perhaps the most beautiful song on if you’re not serious, don’t say it is “luna,” soft and steady like a gut-punch lullaby, but touched by searing echoes and a dark, pumping arrangement that moves slowly out of the shadows to join Jowan’s pained voice singing “sometimes i expect the moon to fall out of the sky and crush me while i’m standing next to you,” a matter-of-fact confession drawled like an afterthought, met after by several stunning minutes of synth shimmers and shoegaze scratches. The album ends with “irene hixon whitney,” another fuzzy, gravelly effort sent on waves of pounding percussion and impressive guitar work. There’s something nearly hopeful about it so that our first uptempo, slightly energetic moment is the moment that closes out a record of core-deep vulnerability. On their debut album, Parker Lee deliver a stirring collection of confessions and contemplations embedded in different strands of indie-rock prowess.
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Featured photo of Parker Lee by Krissy Velardi