Parker Millsap’s Other Arrangements shows an evolution in sound and songwriting that’s made all the more interesting by the fact that it was crafted on the road. Faced with the challenge of following up his successful The Very Last Day, and working under less-than-ideal circumstances, he could have played it safe and delivered a similarly folksy Americana record. Instead, he’s created an album that branches out into glam- and theater-inspired sounds. Listeners will immediately recognize Other Arrangements as a Millsap album, but they’ll be pleasantly surprised by the growth and versatility he shows on the record.
Other Arrangements really shines in terms of Millsap’s vocals. He’s deliberately going for new vibes and new sounds, without it feeling like he’s transitioning into karaoke. There are some grand, almost-Broadway-like moments, like “Come Back When You Can’t Stay,” which he performs with Jillette Johnson, the song’s co-writer. The two sweetly sing over Johnson’s piano, creating a positively jazzy haze. “She” is trippy and playful, with a sing-song melody that could also work in a musical.
But that isn’t to say Millsap’s gone Sondheim. There are also songs like “Fine Line,” which are jagged and aggressive, rocking hard but keeping things country with a fantastic violin break (the violin remains a joyful, important, presence on the album, serving as a tether between his Americana past and his poly-genre present). “Some People” has a New York Dolls energy, featuring similarly ridiculously beautiful melodies over percussive guitars. Millsap seamlessly pulls in all kinds of disparate sounds and genres and gets it to mesh into a cohesive album. Even songs that are less successful from a songwriting perspective, like “Gotta Get To You,” which sounds a lot like the Foo Fighters “Best of You,” only with two extra syllables in the chorus, are still interesting and engaging. It’s what happens with an artist is clicking on an album–it just becomes harder for songs to miss.
Other Arrangements could be Millsap describing his production process for the album. Rather than sticking with his successful folk-driven formula, he’s crafted arrangements that let him highlight his vocal talents and deliver songs that build upon his previous successes but also hint at a multitude of new directions he might take. Even more impressively, many of the album’s tracks check-in at around three minutes or less, showing an ability to craft short pop gems that sound expansive, but don’t take too long to listen to. Other Arrangements is devoid of fear and self-doubt. It’s an artist embracing change while also managing to retain the core elements of his sound. Imagine what he’ll be able to do when he’s given proper time and space to write his next album.