Songs In a Northern Key, Varnoline Artemis Records

Paul Wong
Courtesy of Knopf

There is a fine line between the beautiful and the unremarkable and Anders Parker falls into the realm of the latter. Anders Parker”s selfbrewed concoction Varnoline and his new album Song In a Northern Key, putters along softly amongst psychedelic dissonance and plush soundscapes courtesy of mandolins, banjos and pump organs. The disc starts off with “Still Dream,” featuring a guitar part which echoes Fleetwood Mac”s “Landslide” and vocals that suggest Neil Young”s vocal chords have found a new home in Parker”s throat. Most of the disc suffers from this type of catatonic passivity. Parker sings thinly “Too far gone/how can you go on?,” on “Indian Summer Takedown,” track three, unfortunately by this point the listener is asking the same thing of Parker.

Songs retreads familiar territory song after song. “Blackbird Fields” sounds like a sequel to “Still Dream.” There are a few instances where Parker emerges from his comatose musicality. Songs “Song” and “Anything From Now”” rock with a Foo Fighter”s rock/pop sensibility.

The background is beautiful but the foreground is nonexistent. The album would work best as the music for a commercial. When VW was looking for a trance-like folk-y song to put behind their add for their Cabrio they could have used something off of “Songs In a Northern Key” but since they went with Nick Drake”s “Pink Moon” this CD will never serve a purpose, unless you want to listen to 15 covers of “Pink Moon” with different titles by a different artist. Too bad Parker”s spider sense didn”t go off when he was considering releasing this album. If you are arty, ostentatious, a big Neil Young fan or a girl this CD has a place in your collection otherwise leave room for it in the trash.

Grade: D

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