Larkin Grimm - Parplar
Adam McKibbin | The Red Alert
This year's presidential election was a reminder that Americans are suckers for a good story. Whether the point of focus is Hollywood or Washington, whether you're a Hockey Mom or fallen pop idol, narrative always matters.
How does this pertain to a talented, eccentric, folk-fueled singer-songwriter named Larkin Grimm? Well, Grimm's bio reads like the result of a brainstorm session in which an artist, publicist, critic and label exec sat around dreaming up the most compelling and sometimes contradictory twists and turns they could cram into a 27-year span. Of course, this really isn't a lonelygirl15 sort of deal but what a deal it would be. The CliffsNotes: Grimm was born into a religious cult, raised by a commune, lived in poverty in Appalachia, then got whisked off to a boarding school thanks to a scholarship from Coca-Cola, one of the dominant global symbols of the capitalist rat race. That led to Yale, Yale fatigue, world travels, Into the Wild Alaska, a stint in Dirty Projectors and, after an extended game of cat-and-mouse, Yale graduation (guess it wasn't too elitist in the end).
Wanderlust runs wild on Parplar and when Grimm grabs your hand and races off, it's well worth following along. She starts out with the somber, plaintively arranged "They Were Wrong," a pretty tune that probably qualifies as neo-folk or anti-folk or freak-folk or whatever. It's a fake-out, a false lullaby. She next charges off into "Ride That Cyclone" and, a couple songs later, "Dominican Rum," highlighted by brisk finger-picking. There's unmistakable jubilation in the music, like in the boot-stomping Appalachian bluegrass of "Fall On My Knees." But these songs are hardly all about peace and love; there are apocalyptic visions and incisive, unique commentary on femininity in a man's man's man's world. Her vocals are wonderfully emotive and adaptive throughout, whether on the helium-voiced, Eastern-influenced "Mina Minou" or the earthy, softly strummed "Anger In Your Liver."
Grimm and Parplar are certainly a good fit for Young God, which has also given us Devendra Banhart and Akron/Family. Label boss Michael Gira served as co-producer and guidance counselor on the album, helping Grimm choose 15 album tracks out of a batch of around 50. They chose well; there's hardly a misstep, and with such variety and short runtimes (five songs are under
2:00), there's little chance for stagnation. Keeping it all in the family,
Young God up-and-comers Fire On Fire guest on the album, fleshing out the harmonies and adding a variety of instrumentation. With music this interesting, an unusual upbringing or anarchic philosophical tendencies are allowed to play a supplementary role rather than serve as the solitary sales pitch. Long may she run.