A while ago, Lansing band Small Parks released their first EP “Meet Me In Cognito”. Since then, I’d been wanting to see them play and I finally did at Mac’s Bar. Opening for Lemuria at the end of June, they played an energetic set to a great crowd. Here’s a review of their EP, released on Triple Deke Records.

Small Parks is James Radick (vocals, guitar), Josh Talo (guitar), Danny Petrilli (bass, vocals) and Matthew Restorff (drums).

Cover photo by Hayley Lamb and layout by Corey Bickford. Photo courtesy of Small Parks' Bandcamp page.

Slow and dreamy opens up “Undone”, the EP’s first track, but a steady rock beat and chugging power chords take over, laying below Radick’s somber recollection of a failed relationship. “I sank into comfort and I got used to the end,” he sings. Later bassist Petrilli adds shouted, distant backing vocals. Going into overdrive, twinkly guitar lines play over a pounded drum beat and pumping bass. A great start to this record.

“Parallel Thoughts” has such a Gin Blossoms vibe toward the beginning, especially recalling their early 90′s hit “Hey Jealousy”. Talo’s distorted, intricate guitar picking gives the songs another tip-off to emo; noodley and textured like Connecticut’s The World is a Beautiful Place and I am No Longer Afraid to Die or Rockford, Illinois’ Joie De Vivre. Radick shows honesty and sadness in his lyrics: “You’re no longer with me when I sleep but your body still haunts me in my dreams/We could be onto something here/But I’m too afraid of failure to find out” and “yes it is true I once loved you/And at one point I loved myself too”.

Even though Radick’s old band, Howell post rock band Good Weather for Airstrikes has long been gone, I still hear some of the band’s sound carrying over (and hey, maybe it’s just me..I do love that band). During parts on “Shifting Positions” I hear some of the same tones and sound worlds his old band used to occupy. Both bands do have a connection: Radick’s personal and confessional lyrics, at the very least. The obvious difference is the song lengths (I once read on Facebook they posted: “This aren’t post-rock songs. This won’t take nine minutes of your time”…or something like that. I thought that was a funny way to contrast the two bands). Both bands, though, adequately occupy their respective song lengths in sounds and experimentation as well as lyrics too.

My only complaints with this EP are when Radick gets into his more screaming side of his vocal delivery, it does get a little grating at times. Also, and this is a minor nitpick, but this EP might end on a better and higher note if “Retrogression” and its soaring backing vocals, pounding drums and overall epic feel, closed out the EP. The finale in “Everything is Part of It” does have loud, soaring parts too but it’s a little busier with “bop-bop-bop” backing vocals as well as lyrics by Petrilli and Radick running simultaneously. A bit too much going on. Plus, the song moves back to the arpeggiated, spacey guitar lines like the song’s intro at a rather awkward pace and the song just ends. Kind of anti-climactic. The spacey, twinkly lines at the 1:54 mark, though, are super catchy and easy to hum along to.

Overall, this is a great release from this Lansing band. Despite some kinks in the track sequence and some missteps in the songs, they are off ┬áto a great start. They’re playing gigs all the time and, having seen them play once already, I can say they sound confident in their songs and live show and will only continue to improve. Get on board with this band now. Download “Meet Me In Cognito” for a pay-what-you-want price here and check them out live in Lansing on Saturday July 20 at GTG House with Jake Simmons and the Little Ghosts, So Long Naota and Brown Bottle Flu.