Ashley Park The American Scene

There's no going back for Vancouver's Terry Miles. His Guided By Voices-influenced days as Saturnhead are but a distant memory for anyone who has heard his work as Ashley Park. He started to record classic pop songs that could have come out any time in the past four decades. His first release, Town And Country, won many fans but his planned follow-up was left on the shelf because he had something else in mind, something more ambitious. The second full-length album from Ashley Park, The American Scene, on the surface isn't a terribly different record from its predecessor, but if you spend a little bit more time with it, more subtleties are revealed and it turns out to be a more accomplished achievement. It feels like a more complete album this time round - even the instrumentals have a part to play. The most obvious shift stylistically is the country influence, which rears its head from time to time, but it is the Mojave 3 school of country that the band subscribes to, with laid-back songs and a steel guitar, and it isn't really a surprise that the Neil Young song they choose to cover ("Tell Me Why") is from After The Gold Rush. Still, for the most part, The American Scene follows the formula that has worked so successfully for Ashley Park before: gently strummed pop songs with rich orchestration. I don't think I've heard anyone pull off this kind of thing so successfully since their last album, so I find myself falling for them all over again. (Darling)