It’s been a long time coming, but Traverse City, Michigan wonderkids The Accidentals have finally released a collection of new tunes. Said collection comes in the form of their Parking Lot EP, named after their lead single of the same name—a song written by founding member Katie Larson about the band’s adventures in touring as minors. Even still, it’s hard to believe that the Accs’ journey really just began 5 years back, when Larson had met fellow bandmate Savannah Buist when they had teamed up for a class orchestra project.
From there, it’s history—but what a history it’s been, with a top-notch drummer in the form of Michael Dause having joined their ranks (he also has a killer upper range as a vocalist and is known to dabble in the world of guitar-playing, as well) somewhere along the hundreds upon hundreds of shows across the country that they’ve performed in-between at Ann Arbor’s renowned Ark alongside the likes of Joan Baez, at Texas’s SXSW Festival, and beyond.
In their first work since their Kickstarter-backed sophomore release in 2013, the countless hours spent touring from city-to-city and state-to-state to perform a few sets before getting back on the road again show in spades. The band’s most attractive assets—an affinity for pushing past the boundaries of their general “indie folk” classification to the point that reporters and critics are best acclimated to call them “genre-bending”, paired with their intrinsic capabilities as storytellers—are dialed up that much higher following years of hard work. Basically, they’ve gone from pretty great to even better.
Written especially for their trademark cello and violin to embrace their “orc dork” roots, titular cut and opening track ‘Parking Lot’ does not disappoint in its punchy, hip-hip-oriented verses and intense harmonies. The band proved that they have pushed beyond the sweet-voiced, folksy tendencies of their initial release, Tangled Red and Blue, years ago with Bittersweet, but they’ve altogether blown the doors off of it and have seemingly evolved into a new band bursting with confidence in their stage persona since then. The song broadens into an instrumental bridge full of verve and swagger before building itself back down into the trademark lyric “Get me out of this parking lot,” and it’s a compelling listen from start to finish.
Up next is ‘Sixth Street’, a calmer, more traditionally folk-pop-oriented number from Buist that’s a relaxing earworm and a compelling story altogether. On this more gradually rising acoustic number, the trio’s practiced vocal harmonies can be enjoyed in crystalline fashion amongst crisp, lush instrumentation as Buist twists and turns around her classic means weaving her way through a story in song. This time around, the story is telling about the band’s journey throughout their first time performing at SXSW. Perhaps most notably are these lines: “Oh, the modern day brigade / The loudest silence ever made”, which seem to refer to the myriad of journalists and publications who had covered their performances—like, say, Billboard, who rightfully pegged them down as one of the must-see acts of the entire festival.
Elsewhere, the band rocks their way across the sunny side of life with the optimistic and breezy ‘Epitaphs’, which fans will remember had previously been their most-watched YouTube video of 2014 following a surge on indie subforums on Reddit, among other popular social media outlets. This is followed by the rollicking, Django-inspired gypsy jazz number, ‘The End’, which has become a staple at many of the band’s live shows. For those who have wondered if the playful jive that the Accs encapsulate during these performances at their live shows is successfully captured in their latest studio outputs, they are.
‘Turn the Wheel’ makes a surprise appearance after being drafted by a local business called Hometown Giving to write a song for their official website. Being that Hometown Giving is all about “cycling back” to the local community with nods to charities, non-profits, and small businesses, the whole idea of a turning wheel comes across loud and clear on this uplifting, rockier, funk-edged number. The entire piece is an optimist’s delight that doesn’t feel out of place amongst the overall tone of the album, and feeds further into the band’s deliciously eclectic output with its infectious vibe.
Next up to bat is ‘Michigan and Again’—a song that has seen the Accs through an incredible process from top-to-bottom in regards to exposure, all thanks to a little dab of a love for the Mitten shared amongst its many locals. Though the idea for the song all came as a bit impromptu—and from a friend of the band suggesting the theme to then in an instance that they immediately thought of as a situation in which the obvious had been pointed out to them wherein they were previously blind—it is completely evident that the song holds a special place in the band’s hearts. Not unlike an ‘I and Love and You’ this side of The Avett Brothers, or a ‘The Story’ courtesy of Brandi Carlile, ‘Michigan and Again’ is the song that the band’s most eager audiences keep on edge, eagerly awaiting, and hearing the heartstring-tugging authenticity in the love that they have for their home-state, there is no room left to wonder why upon first listen.
Topping the EP is perhaps the band’s biggest surprise to date—a remixed version of ‘Parking Lot’ featuring rap vocals from fellow Michigan artist Rick Chyme. The Accs bank on the aforementioned hip-hop-edged influence of the titular track and bring that much more fire to the extended ensemble courtesy of Chyme, whose verses come into the arrangement all-too-naturally and offer that much more of an added perspective and depth to the track. This goes without mentioning Chyme’s efforts as a wordsmith and MC to be able to passionately meld himself into the track without missing a beat. This writer predicts many surprise appearances by Chyme to bring his enthusiasm and thoughtfulness to not only future live performances of ‘Parking Lot’, but in, perhaps, other brand new recordings of The Accidentals’ down the road.
So, not only does “FRAP” (folk-rap) work, but it can also be completely compelling with the right fusion of talented individuals involved. The same could be said for the overall EP, which comes across as a grand effort on behalf of the band and all who had been a help in its development process. The Parking Lot EP fully embraces The Accidentals as they are in the now: genre-benders of the highest order on a continuous journey for self-improvement and musical growth. We’re catching them at a compelling—and even inspirational—transitional portion of their careers. Now – time for that third full-length.
Words by: Jonathan Frahm