(Self-released, CD, digital download)
Growing up and moving on with life is hard, especially when “moving on” means moving away from friends, family and memories. This is the source material for Vermont expat Andrew Parker-Renga’s latest effort, Issue 5. Now 30 years old and residing in Amherst, Mass., Parker-Renga is at pains to cultivate his lost Burlington on Issue 5. His wistful yearnings shine through on six tracks that can best be described as some form of adult contemporary. Parker-Renga is a certifiable singer-songwriter, but for this recording he got a little help from his friends: Sean Preece on drums, the Grift’s Peter Day and Clint Bierman on bass and guitar, respectively, and Leon Campos on keyboards.
The most nostalgic song on Issue 5 is the third track, “When You’re There and When I’m Not.” Parker-Renga guides listeners through his faded memories of stumbling around Burlington, like so many other students who still covet the college lifestyle. Now, I consider myself proud of my adoptive city, and yet I cringe when Parker-Renga talks about “shots at Red Square” and “rage at Nectar’s.” The sentiment rings hollow, and it illustrates a larger issue with the album, namely, that Parker-Renga sometimes tries too hard.
Other examples of this are the final two tracks, “Marry Me Darlin’” and “Waiting on the Good Lord,” the latter of which is nonetheless the album’s best song. Musically, both of these quasi-country fables about love lost and found are delightful. Yet, lyrically and vocally, they’re overwrought. That’s because Parker-Renga employs a Southern lilt that sounds a little disingenuous — even if he is an Indiana native.
Otherwise, Issue 5 charts a fairly steady course that rarely deviates from Parker-Renga’s soulful soft rock. “Orbits and Space,” which features Eric Maier on keys, is celestial and ethereal; “Drawing Dead,” which originally appeared on Issue 4: Portraits, is pleasantly subdued. And the production quality of Issue 5 is consistently high.
Andrew Parker-Renga plays a CD-release party for Issue 5 at Burlington’s Jenke Arts on Sunday, November 3, at 7 p.m. The album is available at aprmusic.bandcamp.com.