your favorite midwest emo band is finally coming to vinyl. an album consisting of wonderfully rerecorded songs and some new songs as well
Nick Stutsman may be one of the most polarizing people in the modern emo scene for a slew of reasons (some positive, some negative). This is pretty impressive considering he hasn’t really been a part of it, by his own preference, in a few years. In the immediate aftermath of Park Jefferson’s final break up, many fans were left wondering when the merch and highly-anticipated PJ full-length they were once seemingly promised would arrive to them. Well, the years have rolled by and, though I can’t say I’ve kept up with Park Jefferson’s posthumous merch sales/refund program, I had always held out for one more release. Needless to say, when I woke up this morning to find such a thing in actual existence, an array of emotions were stirred up inside me. Initially, I was really excited; then, really confused. Six of the ten songs are rerecordings, which would make sense if this was their first, even their second release ever; plenty of bands re-record earlier, rough cuts of tracks. Such is not the expectation for a band’s posthumous full-length, their last hurrah so to speak.
Whatever doubts I had about the “legitimacy” of this record, though, were erased about fifteen seconds into the opening track, Classy Milani. The crisp quality of the production works so perfectly to highlight just how talented the musicians of Park Jefferson really are, and it seems as if every track works to further affirm that notion. The drums on Classy Milani are even more intense than the original, while the twinkly guitars and bass meld together to create a bouncy pallet for the impassioned vocals to squirm almost breathlessly about on. The second track, Macmailman, is the first new Park Jefferson track we’ve gotten to hear in a while. Ringing with the bitter frankness of Weekdays and the lighter, more understated production of earlier releases like Childhood, this track doesn’t jump out as anything as interesting as the tracks it’s sandwiched between (Classy Milani and Better Boy), but goddamn if it isn’t just refreshing to hear a new PJ song!
Monuments, aka that one song with the glorious twinkle part, is a bit different from when it first appeared on Weekdays. The aforementioned twinkle part is sadly now buried within the production fuzz, though there are some added guitar parts that are really rad. The best part about this re-recording is the change up on the chorus as well as the the last verse, which makes the song feel more like a Park Jefferson song than the original did. Really, all of the re-recorded tracks on this LP are better, truer versions of the originals. Every aspect – instrumentally, lyrically, vocally- has Park Jefferson sounding sharper than ever. Because of the less than abundant crop of newer songs, it’s hard to really say anything that hasn’t already been said about most of these tracks. Dead or Dying is an acoustic track that takes on the sound of his solo projects more than anything else. With a very ambient buzz floating around as a sort-of sonic-backdrop, this very much feels like a Canadian Wedding song with just a bit less echo-effect. The closing track, Merrifield Park, continues the Canadian Wedding similarities. The spacious, echoed atmosphere and frittering guitar snippets that float around this song definitely lend an airiness to it, and though it feels a bit light to be closing out a fairly loud and in-your-face record, it somehow fits the context of everything that this record is about. Being better, deserving better, and hating yourself in the midwest are all themes of not just this song, but most of the songs on this record. These idea have often found their way into Nick Stutsman’s music, as those who self-loath often romanticize a world with rewind and fast-forward buttons. It may not settle in sonically with the rest of the record, but it gets the job done as far as punctuating the strangely bracing experience of Park Jefferson.
After the long wait, this album delivered in an oddly satisfying way. Despite being comprised mostly of songs that the majority of us know the lyrics to by now, it felt fresh. Initially, I felt a little duped. “That’s it?! I know these songs. I know the words, I know the loud moments and soft moments and the moments that make me stomp my feet and twitch my hands and wiggle my fingers and all that shit. That’s really all I get for the wait?!” Yes, I did know most of those songs, but I never knew them like this. Never before had I really wanted to shout along to the group vocals and be a part of the music the way I did when I heard the re-recordings of Better Boy and A Homemade Portland. Truth be told, the strength of this album lies more in the production and enhanced quality of the songs, whether they be new or old. To expect a different sound or to expect a sound that mimics earlier releases is foolish and a little naieve. As Nick stated in a recent interview with the awesome Kelly Doherty, “The album wasn’t made to get any more popular as a band, or to tour on, or to get “new fans”, or to have anyone judge it. It is literally only for people that have been waiting for it and that have been wanting it.” Well Nick, as somebody that’s been waiting and wanting this album for a long time, I gotta say: Thank you.