GRMLN Empire

Yoodoo Park (aka GRMLN) showed a great deal of promise on his 2012 debut EP, Explore. Across 15 short minutes, the southern California via Kyoto, Japan musician demonstrated a knack for dreamily catchy guitar pop tunes — perfect complements to nice weather, as song titles like "Summer Nights" and "Patio" indicated. None of Explore's seven songs quite made it to the three-minute mark, but they still managed to make a point, suggesting great potential for Park should his ambitions expand beyond the confines of his mother's garage. On Empire, his second release under the GRMLN moniker, Park certainly demonstrates bigger, more sophisticated musical ambitions. Empire's overall sound is clearly much more rock-driven than the more dream-pop-oriented inclinations of Explore. On "Blue Lagoon," Park draws influence from fellow Californian Wavves, although he sounds more youthfully optimistic than intentionally jaded and bratty. The songs on Empire are still short, and while they retain the sunny aesthetic of Explore, they reveal a more motivated and confident Park. Two tracks even manage to surpass the three-minute barrier. On "Cheer Up," Park draws just as much inspiration from '50s surf rock as he does from '90s pop-punk. After a bit more than 20 minutes, the album closes with wistful acoustic number "Dear Fear," which features some of Park's most contemplative songwriting. Like the lazy summer days it represents, Empire ends far too soon. (Carpark)