12 Plays Of Christmas – Star Parks

I spent most of the summer in my car racing – well, pootling – across the country, mainly because I actually could. Throughout those journeys I was accompanied by the music of Star Parks, a band who sound like they escaped from a theme park co-designed by Brian Wilson and Chris Bell. Their debut album, Don’t Dwell, is the breeze in your hair, the smell of engine oil and candy floss, the hazy lights of arcades bursting into technicolor as the sun sets. It feels like my childhood, with its half-forgotten nostalgia and half-imagined glory.

Fresh out of Austin Texas and signed to the excellent Dublin-based Paper Trail Records (also the home of Beach Moon/Peach Moon) Star Parks make 60’s style chamber pop with a nod to modern americana and a lyrical wit that sneaks up on you. Egotist is a typical example. On the surface a standard ditty about liking a girl that turns out to be much more evil than that:

I can’t help it, I like your girlfriend

I’m gonna do what I can to make her mine

Loose Ends is a wistful piano-driven paean that careens into a wall at the end of each verse, twisting and contorting into a maddening, majestic dreamscape of sound. It sucks you in and then stomps across your reverie. It is a mind finding peace, but only ever briefly, intoxicated as it is by it’s own failings. It wants to go but can’t let go:

The highlight of this album, and a song that I fell in love with at first listen, is Theoretical Girl. It sounds like it accidentally escaped from Jason Pierce’s mind, laying dormant, eternally patient, waiting for a new host to come along. It’s a song about daydreams, about falling in love with someone you’ve never spoken to, about the joy and horror of this daily, obsessive pretence.  It also has the greatest horns on any song I’ve heard this year:

Thanks to modern production techniques, first albums are increasingly slick so it’s no surprise that this is a brilliant engineered album. Where it stands above its peers is in its authority. It’s hard to make pop music that sounds likes it’s from another era without sounding like you want to be from that era.  But Star Parks aren’t trying to sound like anyone else, they’re just true to themselves and that shines through.

You can buy Don’t Dwell from Paper Trail’s bandcamp page. I highly recommend the baby blue vinyl – though not for listening to in the car.

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