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

Death in the Park

Death in the Park (EP) (2008)

End Sounds

Andy Jackson and Joe Ballaro have been on an upward climb since Reality's Coming Through. That album, released in 2004 by their former band, Hot Rod Circuit, espoused a new down-home, alt-country flair, but it wasn't what made Reality suffer -- it was the awful inconsistency of it. Tracks ranged from thoroughly realized to seriously snoozeworthy, but the band found a solid flow with the followup, 2007's The Underground Is a Dying Breed. It progressed the twangy feel while offering a more engaging album from front to back. With the pair's newest endeavor, Death in the Park, they strip away the twang completely while continuing to write stronger collections of simply good-to-great songs.

With Jackson at the helm, Death in the Park sounds quite a bit like Hot Rod Circuit. It's unescapable, really. But we're talking good-era Hot Rod Circuit. Like, Sorry About Tomorrow, where they found the perfect way of funneling infectious pop melodies into `90s emo rock. This is what Death in the Park seems to be all about.

Opener "Pitifully Exposed" has some excellent mini-half-time changes, chiming guitars and speckles of grit to offset the melody. It's as subtly dynamic as possible, and easily the best full-band effort here.

There's a few questionable elements on the EP, but it happens -- namely, "Walk Away"'s somewhat cheesy keyboard and the too-precious "ooo-oooo" cooing in acoustic closer "Fallen."

Speaking of "Fallen," because of the guest appearance from Paramore's Hayley Williams, dueting with Jackson, it probably takes an unabashed and unironic enjoyment of at least a few Riot! tracks to appreciate it. But if you've got the prerequisites, the chorus is seriously a jam and a half. It's impossible not to sing along with Williams' earnest declaration, as she yelps, "Don't chase you into the dark / with such grace, it's never been this ha-aa-ard. / I've never fallen, / I've never fallen faster."

Since this is a teaser EP, I'm hoping the followup full-length is a little more lean and mean á la "Pitifully Exposed." Either way, it could be some great stuff and the best work from Jackson and Ballaro in seven years. I mean, this little effort already is.

Pitifully Exposed