Molly Parden

Agent: Chris West
Territory: North America
Label: Tone Tree Music

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Autumn is an auspicious season for nostalgia, and Molly Parden’s new album Sacramented opens with late year sunshine and an invitation to reverie: Wash me in rosemary / you come to me when I sleep / for the last 200 nights / I’ve seen you in every one of my dreams… Across the work, Molly pulls close the memory of love and love lost, but she sings like someone who has made peace with both. If her Rosemary EP (2020) was a tribute to grief in the undertow, Sacramented sees her out past those tumbling breakers, floating on her back.

Molly’s voice is immaculate, as is the production arc of the record, thanks to her producer and mix engineer, Micah Tawlks. The core team of musicians –Tawlks, Dan Burns, and Kevin Dailey– are some of her closest friends in Nashville, in addition to longtime comrades and collaborators Juan Solorzano, Jason Goforth and Ben Kaufman (distinctly heard throughout Rosemary) each making guest appearances, making it feel like another Tuesday night in the small eclectic music town they have inhabited together for the last decade. Their arrangements are generous and unhurried and perhaps constitute a memorial to the end of an era for Parden,her having recently relocated to western Massachusetts.

On Sacramented, Molly holds emotional tension like a master weaver. In “Dandy Blend” she juxtaposes the devastating past with the simple, human present: Thought that I would never get over him / Put a little honey in my Dandy Blend… Adding honey, she seems to be making the best of her days. Maybe things aren’t fully settled, but that’s okay—and she’s okay. The world and thoughts that Molly paints become so immediate that the 60s era piano, tambourine and flute interlude make more sense than anything. (Dandy Blend, don’t sleep on this song.)

After the first couple songs, the tethering to Rosemary loosens and finds us in both lighter and darker parts of the woods. She manages to pay homage to an ended love in “I See Right Now” through syncopated guitar and bass lines over woodwinds and a backbeat, singing: I’ll find the strength to sing it to you one day… / I see right now I’ve always wanted to be with you / And I see all that I’ve always wanted here is you. “Algorithm” with its unresolved arpeggiating lets you know that the haunting is well underway, with its time-melting slowdowns. But in the title track, “Sacramented”, Molly’s unrequited love is en voce alto, singing her way from Careful, the secret / Do you trust me? / Song of the sacred / Can you love me? to an anguished refrain of There are those that I love / And then there's you / The one who I want / Only one that I want / Is you, you, you… In her own words on the song: “When I listen to this song, I see Trinity walking up a steep street in Seattle on a rainy day wearing her long trench coat with jet black wet hair, hungry for Neo.”

To the initiated, it is an open secret that no one harmonizes like Molly. And thankfully, on the back of forlornity, we get her in stacks. As she closes out the soft pleading in “Cigarette”, I miss you and I wanna go back, her voice pulls open a blanket of somber tight harmony for us to rest on … back… back…

The song “The Weakest Link” finds Parden exploring a different theme through the lens of childhood. The world seen through these eyes is one where much is expected of someone so small. Molly seems to implore the ghosts of parents past to show her how to be in the world, and wonders, Will I get the chance to see / Black and white turn to green? This musing leans effortlessly into the great look-back of the album in “Maybe It Will Stay, Maybe It Will Grow” I can feel I’m letting go / Move from shade to shine / When I leave, the green it grows / The roof bursts into life

On the opening track of Rosemary, Molly sang I can see you wanting to let go, and this time she’s the one who’s ready. Through the storytelling of this record, we get a glimpse of hope after the pain, told with a graciousness that can only come from someone who has learned to live after heartbreak. Something no one would wish on dear Molly, but then we’d never have the gift of this album.

The 10-song album comes to a close with a callback. Molly re-recorded “These Are the Times”, the final track from Rosemary, but this time with the wistfulness of the Vince Guaraldi Trio. A self-proclaimed nod to Chet Baker, the new recording is complete with a muted trumpet solo, feathery piano chording, and sweeping brushes. This version offers us a parting gift of nostalgia, but with perhaps equal doses of its sadness and its romantic charm. Molly has given us a new album in perfect season. She proves herself yet again as a songwriter’s songwriter—so intentional in her craft, and so gracious in heartache.