What passes as a singer-songwriter today is pitiful. The majority of these radio-friendly troubadours are stuck somewhere between quasi-hippie Dave Matthews Band mimics (John Mayer, David Gray), teenage girls who have been given a little major label polish (Michelle Branch, Vanessa Carlton), and Jason Mraz.
Though indie singers like Conor Oberst and Damon Gough (Bright Eyes and Badly Drawn Boy, respectively) prove that the singer-songwriter isn’t dead, few of them have the crossover potential to win over the alt-rock radio market.
But all of a sudden Patrick Park showed up, put out a stellar EP (Under the Unminding Skies) and quickly got snatched up by major Hollywood Records. His first release for Hollywood is Loneliness Knows My Name, an outstanding debut by anyone’s standards, and an impressive leap for a shaggy haired, humble singer in the LA coffeehouse scene.
Unlike his indie peers mentioned above, Park keeps his songs brief and doesn’t weigh them down with superfluous quirky effects. Loneliness begins with “Thunderbolt,” a hearty helping of Americana with plenty of harmonica and acoustic guitar. The album then picks up with “Honest Skrew,” which is as sonically enjoyable as Ryan Adams and Pete Yorn’s best moments, though Park throws the listener for a loop in the chorus by adding some sprightly Zombies-style harpsichord. The end result is a hit single with more substance than any so-called “songwriter” on the Top 40 charts.
Two songs from Park’s debut EP are spruced up a bit here ï¿½ “Nothing’s Wrong” and “Home for Now.” “Nothing’s Wrong,” the tune from which the title of the album is taken, is turned from a simple acoustic ballad to a genuine sounding country song, lap steel and all. “Home For Now,” stays essentially the same, save for larger production values during the chorus. The song’s original electric backing track is replaced with some absurd sounding steel drums, which remove some of the elegance from the original, though it’s still one of the prettiest and catchiest songs to come from the West Coast all year.
Some other songs (“Bullets by the Door,” “Sons of Guns”), whose titular connection to guns may be coincidental, actually rock out more than Park fans may have expected. Distorted slide guitars take over here, transitioning from Tim Buckley-style folk to full-on Bob Seger overdrive. Ordinarily that would be a bad thing, but Park displays a penchant for roots rock in addition to his more sensitive leanings.
Patrick Park is a new talent with high potential for blowing Mayer and Mraz off the charts. And when he does, it’s a safe bet he’ll still look as shaggy and unkempt as he always has.
Ryan Adams – Demolition
Elliott Smith – XO
Nicolai Dunger – Tranquil Isolation
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.