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Album Review: Wildflower by The National Parks

This record strikes a perfect balance between expressing the discomfort of uncertainty and inspiring hope that we are strong enough to thrive regardless.

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By Grant Fry

The National Parks is an absolute gem in the Utah music scene. The band consists of members Brady Parks (guitar, lead vocals), Megan Parks (violin), Sydney Macfarlane (keys, vocals), and Cam Brannelly (drums). The National Parks exploded onto the scene with their debut album Young in 2013, which charted in the Top 15 on iTunes upon release. Wildflower is TNP’s fourth album, and it feels like an evolution in the band’s sound and aesthetic. 

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Wildflower is tied together by the concept of wildflowers not being intentionally planted, but rather blossoming wherever they find themselves growing. The album has infectious optimism and encourages listeners to follow this example and blossom wherever life has placed them. The wildflower concept can be seen in every element of the songwriting and production on the album. While each track still carries that quintessential TNP spirit, the band did a lot of experimenting with instrumentation. From the crunchy rock sounds of the titular track, “Wildflower,” to the electronic beat in “Mother Nature,” each track shows the band blooming in a new area or genre.

Keyboardist Sydney Macfarlane

“Mother Nature,” which features Sydney Macfarlane as the sole vocalist on the song, is a great example of the artistic themes of Wildflower. She sings over an electronic drum loop and washed-out, reverbed guitars for most of the track. Right in the middle however, an interlude section features more of the folk instruments TNP fans are accustomed to hearing. Songwriter Brady Parks embraced the theme of the album perfectly by allowing himself to break out of his usual comfort zone and do things like write to electronic loops. He seamlessly fused this new sound with the folk roots in which TNP got its start. 

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While it’s hard to choose a favorite track, mine might have to be “Daze.” Brady’s melancholic lyrics about thinking you’ve hit rock bottom, only to feel like you are still falling, are all too relatable. Paired with Brady’s vocal performance, this track perfectly captures that feeling of knowing that you’re about to lose control; of having to lean into the fall and accept the ride that life is taking you on. The floating harmonies in the chorus bring that emotion home even further.

Another favorite moment from the album is the optimism expressed in this line from “Time:” 

This lone neon cactus was a prominent image in Wildflower’s promotional art. It reaffirms the idea that you can grow wherever you end up.

Sometimes there are shadows growing in my mind,
Like a sundial in the nighttime.
But if I close my eyes, I think I still see it;
The sunlight coming through.

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Brady’s lyrics here are a great reminder to be patient through hard times and to keep holding on to both good memories and better times to come. 

Wildflower is a musical masterpiece that delivers wholeheartedly on the artistic vision it set out to achieve. It found a perfect balance between expressing the discomfort of uncertainty and inspiring hope that we are strong enough to thrive regardless. Each member of the band demonstrates their ability to venture into unfamiliar territory while holding true to their origins. I can’t wait to see what emerges the next time The National Parks’ artistry blooms.

Make sure to follow The National Parks on Instagram. You can listen to “Daze” below.

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