Off Front Street has eight of the most unique songs you’ll hear in 2021. No one can claim Parker Longbough isn’t engaged with life. Finding songwriting inspiration in subjects as varied as a gorilla saving the life of a three year old, champion sledder Dallas Seavey’s dog doping controversy, and time-tested topics like love after divorce testifies to his wide-ranging eye. It has a guitar-centered sound, for the most part, and doesn’t place a high priority on providing listeners with the sort of glossy sonic window dressing common on many modern releases. It has a raw, sometimes divergent sound – instruments up front during one track take a backseat in the next and others boasts jagged immediacy some songs lack. It’s an album impossible to sit on the fence about – you will like it or not, there’s precious little middle ground, if any.
He shows a lot of artistic latitude. He kicks things off with the occasional fiery dissonance heard during the first song, “Off Front Street”. It’s an appropriate musical mood for a song chronicling the improbable story of the Dallas Seavey dog doping scandal. Other people write about Donald Trump, but Longbough serves different muses. He has underrated pop chops heard during the second cut “Wanna Be Johnny”. The song strips away the guitar distortion of the first cut in favor of a bright six-string bounce that cozies up to listeners from the beginning. He may pursue unusual textures in his music, but the songs remain inviting nonetheless.
His sense of melody is his own as well. It owes a great deal to his pop and rock influences and maybe even has a dash of European unease some listeners will identify. “Please Come Over” has more self-assurance than even the other confident songs; I especially like how the drums give a little push to the song at key points along the way and its mid-tempo pace nevertheless generates audible energy. “Photosynthetic” revisits the brisk near New Wave pop influences heard elsewhere throughout Off Front Street. There’s wiry guitar, however, knifing its way through the later portions of the song that brings extra intensity.
There’s some theatrical vocals heard during “Disappear Completely” different from its brethren on Off Front Street. I love Longbough’s damn the torpedoes bravery, he’ll try anything without overstepping, and this penultimate performance packs an atmospheric intro with lean and muscular alternative rock with spectacular effects. The album ends with “We Missed the Exit” – it’s a song that, no matter what, you must hear the ending of. Such audacity; I love it. The closing, likewise, isn’t any sort of gimmick and dovetails well with the album’s overall character.
Parker Longbough’s Off Front Street doesn’t rest on doing one thing well and building an album around it. Instead, this gifted songwriter goes anywhere he likes, tackles any subject that catches his fancy, and makes genuine musical art of it all. He doesn’t pander. He has a vision for his songwriting that he presents to listeners and brings you along with him. We need that more than ever. His new album has a voice, not a checklist for hitting formulaic marks, and you hear it in every song.