Park Ranger - Safe Without Sound
Release Date - April 7th 2008
Record Label - Parrot on a Porch Records
Let’s face it; some of the greatest indie rock albums of the past decade have featured ex-members of bands that reached wide recognition and praise, take John Nolan, for instance. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that Sean Hansen, ex bassist/vocalist of The Ataris, has moved on to form a little recognized yet solidly catchy math-rock powerhouse known as Park Ranger. The trio, supported by Keith Bogart (guitar) and Shane Chikeles (drums), evolved from a former effort known as Joshua and have since finally released their first full length album, Safe Without Sound.
From the very beginning of the album Hansen invites you in with his voice, which goes down like smooth whiskey. Just as the intoxicating effects of the opening lyrics begin to shake you from buzz to boredom, the band instantaneously displays its math-rock muscles, splashing out a foot-tapping bass and percussion progression, which sets the tone perfectly for the relaxing yet grooving album that follows. Hansen’s vocals are, in fact, fairly static throughout the thirteen song release, however, he finds a combination between soft melodies and power choruses that keeps the audience more than curious at what will come next. This can be seen most notably in the vast difference in style between “Revolutionary Thinking”, a mellow and vocally driven track, and its successor “National Act”, which is highlighted by an extremely infectious guitar riff and pounding drums.
As the album progresses, so does the depth and intricacy of the songs. “All Wrong, Alright” features a catchy country opening riff, which evolves into a harder Stone’s-esque chord progression and pulsing drum beats accented with just a touch of tambourine, which then digresses again into a mellow Death Cab sort of melody. This technique of cycling tempos and styles within each song creates a unique euphoria, which is at the same time both new and old. There is certainly nothing revolutionary about the album, but there doesn’t have to be, because Hansen and the gang devoted so much solid effort into cranking the catchy-meter to 11 on so many songs.
The beauty in a well written math rock album is in its perfect balance between upbeat and heartbroken, and Park Ranger knows both all too well. What sticks when the last chord of the album drifts away is a sense of complacency and optimism about life, an almost indescribable feeling that the highs and lows of the day to day grind are just that – highs and lows – and the real beauty comes from what’s contained between. In a music industry run rampant with hype and often exaggeration, Park Ranger work to almost underwhelm their audience in a reverse-psychological way, in which all preemptive biases become obsolete. As they write best, “expectancy would be shorter - if you spent a week lookin’ down.”