Parker Millsap “Be Here Instead”

Okrahoma Records, 2021

After five albums and lockdown, Parker Millsap reinvents his sound with excellent results.

Like many, Millsap has moved to Nashville, but this Oklahoma-born artist has travelled further musically than on land. Starting with a traditional gritty Okie sound, Millsap has moved a long way and now, in his fifth album, writing slick pop songs without compromising emotional depth. Millsap used to play high-energy folk with a gritty lo-fi sound, but in isolation, been experimenting with pedals and drum machines. After a three-year gap and a global pandemic later, ‘Be Here Instead‘ feels like a surprisingly easy rebirth. The album was produced by the legend behind Sonic Youth and Dinosaur Junior, John Agnello, so it has a new emphasis on fun fuzzy warmth. ‘Be Here Instead’, impressively, was mostly recorded live with a full band, suggesting they would be one to put in your gig diary sometime.

The album has only one single, ‘The Real Thing’, which has guest vocals by Erin Rae. The song came out during the pandemic and touched the universal nerve regarding frustrating long-distance relationships. “I can’t stand the poor connection, can’t hold your hand through the screen“, he sings, as we all did. He manages to make an upbeat song about something reasonably depressing and make it about excitement rather than disappointment.‘Damnit’ showcases fuzzy guitar sound and warm keyboard drones that are Agnello’s signature. This second video release is an epic song about finding perspective in which Millsap trots out idioms faster than Alanis Morrisette’s ‘Ironic‘.

Millsap pushes his boat out into smooth soul waters in ‘Vulnerable‘.  “Sometimes a weakness isn’t a weakness; sometimes a whisper says it all “, he croons while a heavily distorted guitar wahwahs over a groovy sounding organ. Like many of us did during Lockdown, he has really reinvented himself, moving away considerably from the gritty folk he’d made a name in.
Be Here Instead‘ is twelve enjoyable pop songs with an e-street band vibe that begins with the command “You’ve got to roll with punches” ends with the question “What more are you here for than being alive?” The other ten tracks discuss lockdown thoughts in a vignette we are all too familiar with but with an uplifting spin.


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