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prkr - the felt city


I finally decided to buy the CD at the coffee shop counter that was created by one of my everyday baristas at Fremont Coffee. I hoped it didn't suck too badly, because then I'd have to think of something nice to say about it and then never speak of it again. Parker's a sweet-faced guy and I hoped it wasn't so.

Well, thank god it didn't turn out like that. Parker's album (as Prkr), The Felt City, is way better than I expected. Even more impressive is that Prkr made the album in 29 days as a part of the RPM challenge. It could have just been some gentle guitar music, but Parker nests the guitar sounds in his many layers of intricate polyrhythms and crunchy, Matmos-y electronic music.

This mix of real instruments and electronic music, along with themes of human warmth in the face of the coldness of the world, easily reminds me of some Radiohead, including their current and lovely In Rainbows. The other thing The Felt City evokes is The Postal Service, but thankfully Prkr isn't trying to be as completely precious as Ben Gibbons Gibbard. The singing, the lyrics, and the sonic landscapes, are tougher, rougher, and warmer than The Postal Service.

My favorite song is the joyful and clever opener, “G.P.S. Kids.” Of course Prkr wouldn't be the first person to poke fun at these kids today, but you can tell he actually considers himself one of them, liable to "text me your sex / let's see how close we can physically get / and check just how accurate the G.P.S. is".

In “Personnel" and "Intelligensia,” Prkr droningly lists the things you'll encounter as you walk through The Felt City: "Convention centers, escalators, skyscrapers, infiltrators, perpetrators..." among other things. Prkr maps out an impersonal city, darkly referring to plastic flesh and biotech. It's pretty clear that The Felt City is grounded in the real city of Seattle. In the one instrumental track, the throbbing, undulating "Let's Make Out", Parker uses humming, soft choral tones to make his case. Along with “G.P.S. Kids,” Prkr shows that even in the midst of all these skyscrapers there's still room to be sexy and human.

In the song, "Digital Vestiges", Prkr sighingly notices that "When we look close with our microscopes we can see the formulas of life / Does it blow your mind when you find that we are coded in binary / Everything we value so greatly is made the same as machinery." But it's okay... Prkr thinks you should make out anyway.