We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.
If Evan Dando ever lost his looks, he might make the kind of music that Space Needle member Anders Parker makes on the self-titled sophomore effort by his own project, Varnaline. A plain-spoken songwriter with a gentle, scruffy voice, Parker matches introspective, dirty-kneed lyrics with catchy, comfort-food melodies. And he does it all in 10 delicious songs that never stoop to alt-rock convention. A 180-degree revolution from 1996’s Man of Sin, the four-track home recording created entirely by Parker, Varnaline is the work of a full-service band, with brother John and fellow Needler (and former Scarce drummer) Jud Ehrbar lending their considerable talents. With the expansion of his once-solipsistic empire, Parker gets the legs he needs to explore rich musical territory. Occasionally he visits familiar landmarks. “My Time” gleefully pilfers Neil Young’s “Down by the River” bass line, while “Velocity” opens like a dreamy R.E.M. song, plucky guitars layered on top of one another like bedsheets. “Meet Me on the Ledge” has a stick-to-the-roof-of-your-mouthiness, with enough bangy guitars and delicate harmonies to sit comfortably in the buzz bin. Now that Parker and Co. are touring to support their May 6 release, rumor has it that the Mary Jane Girls have come out of retirement to lend some super-freak fuel to Varnaline’s fire.Cathy Alter