A Smart, Wickedly Tuneful Project from Anders Parker and Kendall Meade
Anders Parker and Kendall Meade had such a good time making Wild Chorus, their album together, they named it after the Knoxville studio where they recorded it. Parker and Meade have a long history working together, going back to the 90s when he fronted Varnaline and shared the stage with Son Volt’s Jay Farrar in Gob Iron while she led the vastly underrated Juicy and then went on to the absolutely brilliant Mascott. All the while, she was being sought out as a collaborator since she has a reputation for elevating every project she touches: this one joins the ranks of Sparklehorse, Helium and the Spinanes, among others. The whole thing is streaming at their Bandcamp page.
What’s interesting about this is that it’s a true collaboration: while the duo trade off on vocals when they aren’t duetting, the album isn’t a case of having “his songs” and “her songs” – the tracks are a showcase for both songwriters’ strengths, Meade bringing a welcome craftsmanship to Parker’s more roughhewn style, Parker adding a haphazard edge to Meade’s polish and sheen. The opening track, We’re on Fire, Babe sets the stage, lingering distorted guitar pairing off against echoey Rhodes piano, swooshy organ and a rhythm section, Meade’s reassuring, reflecting-pool vocals blending with Parker’s twang and polishing down the rusty edges. The nonchalant backbeat acoustic gem City of Greats blends a bit of a vintage C&W feel wth a low-key 80s vibe that evokes Laura Cantrell’s recent work: “What you got isn’t what you would choose, you’re the master of all that you lose,” the duo harmonize with an elegaic matter-of-factness.
Just when it seems that Let’s Get Lost is one of Parker’s gruff tunes, Meade comes in with a knowing coyness and confectionery harmonies. Across the Years layers sweeping slide guitar and gospel-tinged piano and then hits a gently galloping riff before an unpredictable series of interludes that sound like a female-fronted middle-period Wilco. They follow Sleepwalking, a bittersweetly jangly, hypnotically nocturnal ballad with the luscious Dreamers on the Ground, its layers of distorted guitars ringing and clanging artfully against each other in the left and right channels, Parker’s refusal to give in to an eay resolution finding a perfect foil in Meade’s anthemic hooks.
Gettin’ Ready nicks the intro from Joy Division’s Love Will Tear Us Apart but quickly goes in the opposite direction of that song with an optimistic anticipation fueled by nonchalant, distorted guitar. Oh Love hits a bullseye with its quietly torchy Lynchian country-soul vibe, while Play It vamps on a psychedelically-tinged organ loop that reminds of Mike Rimbaud. The album ends with The Sun Will Shine Again Someday, a swaying anthem for the current depression that recalls Son Volt: “Times are hard for dreaming eyes, I’d like to sit and watch it all go by,” Parker muses, “I’d like to see them blown away.” That wish notwithstanding, this is not a particularly edgy album, but it’s not shallow, and much of it is ridiculously catchy. Who is the audience for this? Pretty much anybody with a taste for low-key tunefulness. Let’s hope this isn’t the last collaboration between these two. A big shout out to the folks at Nine Mile Records for the good taste to get behind it.