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Parks & Recreation

By: Christine Richmond

Parks & Recreation open their new album, What Was She Doing on the Shore That Night?, with a hushed, airy ballad about stargazing by the sea. The beach is a fitting place for the Portland, Oregon-based quintet to begin, since they’re clearly influenced by the lush, sunny sounds of ’70s pop. Frontman Michael Johnson, formerly a solo artist who recorded under the name Reclinerland, takes advantage of a full backing band to create what he describes as a “genre-less pastiche of pop trends.”

The heavy mixing begins with the showtune-styled “Break Into Song.” Against a backdrop of sweeping strings, horns, and twinkling percussion, Johnson sings in a quirky, off-key delivery, “Hey this is your life / Loosen your tie / Break into song once in a while.” Later on the album, the band busts out handclaps and organs for the spunky, Merseybeat-inspired “Maybe the Moon Knows Something.”

But it’s not all bubblegum — Johnson also works tension, bitterness, and a little smut into the mix. On “The Perfect Love,” a drum loop and disco-flavored bass line set up his lyrics about AOL chatting and cyber-love. “La La La La La” pairs a singsong chorus with a story about a loveless hookup. And the band hides tales of phone sex and murder beneath jaunty piano chords on “Flat On Her Back.” Parks & Recreation may sound sugary, but they have some venom too.

Parks & Recreation tour dates:

2/17, Portland, OR (The Artistery) 2/24, Bellingham, WA (Bay Street Coffeehouse)2/25, Olympia, WA (Eagles Hall Basement)2/28, Portland, OR (Towne Lounge)3/31, Sacramento, CA (Underground Caf�)4/1, Los Angeles, CA (Ground Zero @ USC)4/2, San Francisco, CA (The Makeout Room)

Parks & Recreation label site