The Parson Red Heads 2010Popdose’s semi-regular Class of 2009 Updates follow the latest developments with the artists covered in last year’s Parlour to Parlour series.

There’s been quite a lot happening with L.A.’s The Parson Red Heads since we last covered them in this space. Several mini tours brought the band back to my home base of San Francisco a total of three times, and a fourth is about to happen next month as a new tour with Cotton Jones swings up the coast.

And there have been new songs popping up in the band’s set lists as that second full length record they’ve been wrapping up slowly comes together. The band isn’t ready to announce details of the new full-length yet, though chief Parson Evan Way is determined to get it out there, either through a label or via the self-release route.

In the meantime, I’ve learned from Evan that the band will be releasing a four song EP on July 20, which they are calling Early Birds. It’s a subtle departure from the band’s last few releases in that it definitely has a calmer, melancholy, almost road weary feel to it. Granted, the band’s first EP, Field Mouse Carnival, was pretty calm too. But that was due in large part to the sparser, acoustic guitar-based instrumentation. On Early Birds, what you’ll hear is the current electric guitar-based, more rockin’ and jammy version of the Parson Red Heads making music with a chilled out vibe, playing the ideal soundtrack for times when you’re just feeling really beat down and tired, and looking for empathy rather than a boot in the ass.

“Choose” is the new EP’s most up-tempo tune, reminiscent of past rockers like “Raymond” and “Punctual As Usual,” only just a tad more mellow; from here we get to the meat of the collection. The slow sundown of “First Movement,” with its tale of a friend moving away and going along for the ride in a rental car, triggered within me all sorts of memories from last year that indeed kind of made me sad, to paraphrase the song’s quiet hook. But then those alluring “oohs” come in, with a perfectly timed harmony line from Evan, and the sadness instantly becomes something pleasantly insistent, enduring and welcome, just like those old memories that won’t ever leave. This one promises to be a transcendent part of the new live set, as does the slow groove of “I Miss Your Smile,” which showcases the band’s jammy side as it stretches out past the six minute mark.

While Evan does the lion’s share of singing and songwriting in the band, this time it’s Sam Fowles who steals the show with his beautiful solo turn on “Never Ending Road.” He sings this one accompanied chiefly by electric guitar, with a high lonesome steel guitar adding just the right touch of ambiance to one of those songs that is so touching, it doesn’t need much instrumentation to put it across.

In short, Early Birds is a subtle variation on the familiar Parson flavor, one that grows stronger with each listen. Better still, the band is able to spread this new music farther out across the U S of A than they were able to even a year ago. The East coast got a taste of the Parsons earlier this year, and now the Midwest gets their turn, along with the mountain states, good ol’ Tejas, and, of course, the best coast. Talk about an exciting summer!

The Parson Red Heads summer 2010 tour dates:

Jul 21: Plush Inc – Tucson, AZ
Jul 23: Emo’s Austin – Austin, TX
Jul 25: Cactus Club – Milwaukee, WI
Jul 26: Kavarna – Green Bay, WI
Jul 31: Schuba’s (with Cotton Jones) – Chicago, IL
Aug 1: 7th Street Entry (with Cotton Jones and Morning Teleportation) – Minneapolis, MN
Aug 2: The Aquarium (with Cotton Jones and Morning Teleportation) – Fargo, ND
Aug 4: Dornan’s (with Cotton Jones and Roadside Graves) – Moose, WY
Aug 5: Neurolux (with Cotton Jones and Roadside Graves) – Boise, ID
Aug 6: Old St Francis School – Bend, OR
Aug 7: Crystal Ballroom – Portland, OR
Aug 8: Sunset Tavern (with Cotton Jones) – Seattle, WA
Aug 9: The Wild Buffalo (with Cotton Jones) – Bellingham, WA
Aug 10: Media Club (with Cotton Jones) – Vancouver, BC
Aug 11: Northern (with Cotton Jones) – Olympia, WA
Aug 12: Sam Bond’s Garage (with Cotton Jones) – Eugene, OR
Aug 13: Bottom of the Hill (with Cotton Jones and Roadside Graves) – San Francisco, CA
Aug 14: The Crepe Place (with Cotton Jones) – Santa Cruz, CA
Aug 16: Muddy Waters (with Cotton Jones) – Santa Barbara, CA
Aug 17: The Echo (with Cotton Jones and Roadside Graves) – Los Angeles, CA
Aug 19: Kilby Court (with Cotton Jones) – Salt Lake City, UT
Aug 20: Hi Dive (with Fruit Bats and Cotton Jones) – Denver, CO
Aug 21: Jackpot Saloon (with Cotton Jones) – Lawrence, KS
Aug 22: Schlafly Bottleworks (with Cotton Jones) –    Maplewood, MO
Aug 23: The Basement – Nashville, TN
Aug 25: Hailey’s – Denton, TX
Aug 26: Low Spirits –    Albuquerque, NM
Aug 27: Plush Inc – Tucson, AZ

More on the Parson Red Heads @ Popdose: