In many different genres, from indie and emo to pop punk, lyrical quality can often be an issue. Most of these bands are formed with members in their late teens to early twenties, usually without the emotional maturity and life experience to write songs that carry real meaning. Pop punk bands often get caught up singing about high school, emo lyrics more often than not carry simple, vague themes of heartbreak, and many indie bands write songs that almost seem like genre in-jokes. With Parker Lee, loosely fitting into the genre of lofi indie rock, we have a band that blows the lyricism of most bands in the alternative scene out of the water, showing a lyrical maturity beyond their years.
Originally formed as a solo project by vocalist, guitarist and lyricist Jowan Mead, Parker Lee are gradually transitioning into a full band to produce an EP, set to be mastered by Jake Ewald of Modern Baseball fame. Based out of York, Parker Lee have already performed a few local house shows in addition to Jowan’s solo performances being featured multiple times in sessions on University Radio York (My personal favourite of which you can check out here). Whilst their full band EP is being mixed and mastered, they have released a 4-track acoustic session on their Bandcamp to give a small taster of what’s to come, and Parker Lee manage to pack a lot into a very short space of time.
The session is comprised of 3 original songs, with one cover of the song Civil Twilight featuring as the penultimate track. Whilst this cover of The Weakerthans is fantastic, and pays a great homage to a brilliant band that very obviously influenced Parker Lee, I can honestly say that I believe the other songs here are better. The unplugged guitar on these original tracks draws influence from the aforementioned Weakerthans, along with other bands such as Modern Baseball and, most noticeably, Slaughter Beach, Dog. Transitioning between beautiful picking patterns and simple but catchy chord progressions, accompanied at times by sparse percussion, Parker Lee provide a fantastic musical canvas to showcase their greatest asset: Jowan’s lyricism.
The lyrics on each of these original tracks are phenomenal. Weaving dense, sprawling verses together with beautiful imagery, Jowan doesn’t waste a single syllable in creating a vignette with each track, suspending in time moments of life or states of mind. He then picks these moments apart with a use of language which could easily lead you to believe he was a student of English Literature, rather than on course for a Mathematics degree, but perhaps it is this maths knowledge that helps. Every track seems like a calculated use of sound. I won’t go into too much depth on the exact details of the lyrics, as two of these songs are being remastered into full band pieces for Parker Lee’s upcoming EP which I will also be reviewing. However, I feel like the line “treating your skin like real estate, something to keep the rain away from my head,” from the song Michigan is too good not to specifically mention, showing a slightly darker side by suggesting that he is using someone for his own means, but saying it in such a way that I don’t feel like he can be faulted for it. Jowan doesn’t seem to always be singing from a place of truth to his own life, as he tells us how his “cross continental job’s a bore” on the song Office Hours, but the lyrics have such depth, such a personal touch, that you can’t help but believe what he is saying, much like Dan Campbell’s performances under the character of Aaron West
I have a lot more to say about this band but I feel the need to reserve my gushing for the full EP release in the next month or so. With the magic touch of Jake Ewald, I would imagine that it may sound even better than this acoustic session, and should hopefully reach the larger audience that it deserves to. Check out this acoustic release on Bandcamp below and get as hyped for their new release as I am.
Words by Josef Smith