Larkin Grimm | Parplar | John Kealy

Some CDs beg to be played over and over again.

This is one of those times
when the disc absolutely refuses to go back into its case and demands to go
back in the player. Normally I cannot listen to an album more than once a
day but Larkin Grimm's third album makes for a rare exception. It is
perfectly performed and the recording itself is flawless, this is one of
those rare albums that impresses from every conceivable angle.

Grimm’s music is as oddball (in a good way) as her description on the Young
God Records website makes her out to be (brought up in a cult, tales of the
Alaskan wastes, a shamaness and a vagabond lifestyle either make for a very
interesting person or a highly contrived back story; Grimm seems genuine).
There are no pretensions of weirdness here, just the feeling that she knows
her own path but it does not necessarily cross with the main road. Label
mates Fire On Fire play on the album, as do members of the Angels of Light,
which makes for a familiar mood from the offset but that is not to say that
Grimm’s music is overpowered by the distinctive styles of the many players
here. Her personality and quirks shine through undiminished.

For an album full of energy and life, the opening song “They Were Wrong”
paints a very different picture. It is a quiet and chilling song, Grimm
intones “Who said to you you’re going to be all right/Well they were wrong,
wrong, wrong/In my mind you’re already gone.” With this as my first exposure
to Parplar, I was expecting a soul-wrenching descent into deeper and darker
places. Yet almost immediately after “Ride That Cyclone” brings the album
around full circle in mood (although lyrically it is still dark) and style.
The lurching rhythm is like one of Michael Gira’s (who produces the album)
but like a cyclone the music spins around the listener in a dizzying and
breathtaking manner. Elsewhere on Parplar, cartoonish vocals and distinctly
off-kilter lyrics make for a strange listening experience; songs like
“Dominican Rum” and “Mina Minou” add a surreal vibe to the album and make
Grimm’s musical persona as interesting as her biography sheet.

As refreshing as the odder moments on this album are, thankfully Grimm
balances the weirdness with some exceptionally strong songs in a more
“serious” style. “Anger in Your Liver” and “All the Pleasures” are a pair of
brief but enjoyable songs in the middle of the album that show Grimm in a
more traditional songwriting light. Both songs make it evident that Grimm
does not have to hide behind some absurd mask, she has enough talent to let
the songs speak for themselves when she wants them to.

It is hard to find any fault with Parplar. Granted, the freak folk scene has
been flogged to death and whose corpse has been dragged through the streets
in a macabre mockery of itself but like any style, there is always going to
be someone who can pull something of worth from something that seems
exhausted. Grimm fits this bill and I urge anyone with even a passing
interest in good, honest music to go out and buy this.