Who is Parker McCollum? These days social media is almost as important a place to understand what your favourite artists are trying to say as a new record itself. If you’re looking for a simple answer then Parker’s Instagram might not solve many mysteries, and neither will his sophomore record, Never Enough.
In an age of orderly, easily digestible and marketable aesthetics, this is no bad thing. He and the record are equal parts surf rock, gold-chained, road trip summer romance; and quiffed, smooth-voiced, baby-faced crooner. It proves a unique and intriguing combination that stands out amongst Nashville’s saturated market of gruff, shaggy-haired, check-shirted male solo artists – something that Parker is likely to be happy with, given his proud Texan roots.
The lyrics on Never Enough occasionally get lost amongst the languor with which Parker sings them, though they deserve their plaudits. On songs like ‘Speed’, a heartland rock anthem that was made for open roads and windows, Parker describes a love who “came in slow and easy, falling like a feather / Her blue eyes felt like an old handwritten letter”, whilst on the toe-tapping ‘Handle On You’ he sings “I tell myself that I should quit but I don’t listen to drunks”.
It’s not always clear whether the muffle on his vocals is deliberate fuzz or the natural constraints of his voice, which finds an unlikely comparison in someone like Cory Monteith – yes, the star of Glee. It’s not an inconceivable link, given that show and Parker’s apparently mutual affections for the lo-fi, anthemic sounds of bands like Journey. The ‘00s references don’t stop there. Parker himself has compared the guitar riff on opener ‘Hurricane’ to the Friends theme tune. Once you make the link, you won’t be able to unhear it.
Songs like ‘Burn It Down’ might be a hit, but its reliance on vibes over lyrical substance means it gets lost amongst finer selections. Where Parker really shines is where he sings as though direct to camera, accompanied by a piano on tracks like ‘Have Your Heart Again’, with its truly gorgeous falsetto, and the nostalgic and confessional ‘Things I Never Told You’, where he sings “I was hungover as hell most of them third pew Sunday mornings / I had a Playboy stashed in a Jonny Cash LP sleeve in my room”, or the mellow, woozy strings on ‘Lessons From An Old Man’.
He’s similarly honest and vulnerable on ‘Stoned’, where he confesses “I cry when it’s raining, I cry when it’s dark / I feel like the whole world won’t ever understand my heart”.
So what’s it all about? Parker perhaps sums it up best on album closer ‘Wheel’ where he sings “well I’m a wheel, I keep on rollin’ / I just go from town to town, once that gravel gets to throwin’, good luck slowin’ me down”. The wheel may appear to roll at random, but Parker McCollum’s trick is in rolling it in diverse enough directions that the view from the window remains fresh.