Death in the Park - Death in the Park (LP) (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Death in the Park

Death in the Park (LP) (2010)

End Sounds

If we trace Andy Jackson and Joseph Ballaro's output back to Hot Rod Circuit's faulty 2004 album (and last for Vagrant Records), Reality's Coming Through, dudes have been, arguably, on a continuous upswing. HRC followed that career low with the considerably solid and increasingly alt-country-infused The Underground Is a Dying Breed in 2007, and when HRC called it quits, Jackson and Ballaro formed Death in the Park and put out an even better EP the next year. Death in the Park's self-titled full-length debut, released in August of last year, follows this line of thought pretty well. (Granted, Jackson's upward trajectory hit a dead end when his other band, Terrible Things, released their iffy debut just one week later, and Ballaro doesn't even seem to be in the band anymore.)

Questionable art direction aside, Death in the Park is really pretty good. It's not unlike Hot Rod Circuit's mid-era output: melodic rock with power-pop influence and a minutia of Midwest emo. But this newer act come across much bolder and more confident, with much bigger and glossier strides to boot. Opening the album, the glassy production spitshines "Pitifully Exposed" and "Fallen", the latter of which Paramore's Hayley Williams (and Williams' now-former guitarist/bandmate Jack Farro) backs nicely on. A recording like this can really strip the song of its dynamics, but the band's songwriting prowess plows through the bustling, monolithic tone, like with Jackson's emotive strains on "Do You Want Me Now".

If the cooing ever gets to be a bit too dainty, it's probably on the midpoint, "Move to the Beat". But even this song's got a fierce chug on its chorus and the synth tone is layered mostly tastefully. It's contrasted by its follower, "The Run Around", too. Despite lyrics that probably seem shady on paper (something about calling a girl on her cell phone and only getting her lies and ringtones), it's delivered more aggressively than anything else here. The big, head-bobbing and muscly power-pop of "Sway" (with the Starting Line/person L's Kenny Vasoli joining) is a pretty memorable second-half highlight too, while the tender "ballad," "Oh You Know" is smooth and surprisingly not overbearing.

Death in the Park's greatest strength is also its greatest weakness: It's just a little much at times. But the long-playing debut overall remains a winning mark for Jackson, an assurance that he still has a number of well-done melodic moments in his canon that are mostly getting better these last few years.

Pitifully Exposed

Do You Want Me Now
Laws of Nature
Move to the Beat