ALBUM REVIEW: Parker Millsap Ponders Connection on ‘Wilderness Within You’
The adage “stop and smell the roses” is a reminder to slow down and enjoy life and the wonders nature provides. But in a society more likely to take an Instagram-ready picture of the rose, does the adage still apply? On Wilderness Within You, Parker Millsap advocates a return to those rose-sniffing days while bringing some technological gadgets to his own rootsy performances.
The biggest genre leap from Millsap comes from single “So Far Apart.” With tape loops and electronic beats, Millsap channels New Wave to muse on the technologies and divisions that separate us from nature and from our fellow man. “Getting out of my house / all my neighbors are strangers / Getting off of my phone / it fills me with anger” Millsap intones in a The Cars-esque drawl.
Another musing on separation is separation from the means of production on “Half a World Away.” Here Millsap experiments with Krautrock flourishes, with a guitar and drum machines backing an almost staccato Kraftwerk-style delivery. “Who grows the food I eat? / Who sews the clothes I wear? / Who murders for my meat? / Who gets it here from there?” Millsap wonders before bringing guitars crashing in for the chorus.
But it’s not all technology and doom on Wilderness Within You. The ambling “Front Porchin” is the album’s most compelling argument for a stripped-down lifestyle. It’s a song about doing nothing at all, a la “(Sittin’ on) the Dock of the Bay.” But even here, Millsap takes a moment wonder at the usefulness of technology’s fast pace. “Laughing at the cars that pass / got no reason to go that fast / wish they’d slow down and sit / on the front porch for a bit.”
[From 2021: SPOTLIGHT: Parker Millsap Finds New Tools and New Mindset for Creating Music]
There’s plenty more to recommend on Wilderness Within You. The title track gets an excellent vocal assist from Gillian Welch. “Greetings and Thanks” is a ballad celebrating nature and its beauty, ending with “now we are one.” “Finding Out” twists the phrase “fuck around and find out” to mean “meander along and see what’s around you.”
Wilderness Within You continues the musical evolution Parker Millsap has displayed on each album since his 2012 debut Palisade. When listening, it’s easy to see why he got name-checked by none other than Sir Elton John a few years back. His music is so mature, it’s hard to remember that Millsap is still in his 20s with a lifetime of music ahead of him to evolve even further.
Parker Millsap’s Wilderness Within You is out May 12 on Okrahoma Records.