Ashley Park’s music is straight out of the ’60s. But whose isn’t nowadays? Town and Country is Ashley Park’s debut album, and it’s filled with pop harmonic pop/rock melody in the style of the Beatles, The Beach Boys, the Kinks and so on.
In other words, it sounds a lot like an Elephant 6 album, but isn’t one. In fact, the most immediately striking aspect of Town and Country is how it alternately sounds like the bands of the ’60s and like the ’90s bands that are heavily influenced by those same bands. Nearly every song sounds like some other song I’ve heard before, even if I can’t always place it. “By the Stereo” is quite reminiscent of the Beatles’ “Fixing a Hole” (off Sgt. Pepper’s…), “In the Country” sounds like the Kinks (or like Blur doing the Kinks), “Everyone Under the Sun” like the High Llamas (who sound almost exactly like the Beach Boys already), “Lucy & the Bourgeoisie” sounds like the pop side of the Olivia Tremor Control, and so on.
This sound of Ashley Park’s music is so familiar that it evokes a sort of quandary for me: whether to pay attention to my brain or just listen. For this CD isn’t just a cheap knockoff of better pop songwriters. Lead singer/songwriter Terry Miles (who previously recorded as Saturnhead) has a knack at writing catchy, friendly melodies, and has a sweet pop voice. A nice musical mood is set and held throughout the CD, with keyboards, vibes, organs and your regular “rock” instruments. I get the feeling that if I was struck with a case of amnesia, Days of Our Lives-style, this CD would be sure to bring a smile to my face. Nothing about this CD is weak or unpleasant. Except for the fact that I’ve heard it all before.
It’s a common problem, one that I’m sure will grow with every passing year. Is it possible to ignore what I know of musical history and just listen? I find it hard. Taken on its own, as a pop album, Town and Country is thoroughly enjoyable. I put it on in the background and find the melodies sinking in, but it’s hard to listen to up close. It’s hard to listen without alarms going off in my head, saying “this part sounds like such and such,” and “that song sounds like a song I know.” I sort of hate myself for doing it, but with music like this, it’s inevitable.