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Album Review: Pictoria Vark — ‘The Parts I Dread’


Nobody sounds like Pictoria Vark. She’s a classic punk balladeer and veritable witch of the North. Her melodies are cool and ethereal. It’s the lyrics that are warm, and when she sings, her voice is naked: wholly unadulterated and unpretentious. Carrie Brownstein would be a fan if she isn’t already.

In fact, there are moments in Pictoria Vark’s latest album, The Parts I Dread, that sound like organic, unprocessed Sleater-Kinney. You can picture her recording instrumental tracks in a garage studio.

Play The Parts I Dread on a cloudy afternoon. As you listen to the opening bars of “Twin” for the first time, feel free to imagine you’re the main character in a ’00s-era indie film. The song seems destined to open a future cult classic, coming-of-age dark comedy drama, as Pictoria Vark effortlessly intones over a classic, understated bass: “Born on the same fateful day in June / I was an hour ahead of you.”

While accessible, the album is highly introspective. The themes evoke reaching out or looking across distances through time and/or space. It’s appropriate that one of the earliest tracks — titled “Wyoming” — slips between easy-going pop-rock and sprawling strings that conjure the image of a strong, independent woman pulling away from a curb because she’s sick of someone’s shit (“A childhood home set on fire”).

Song narrators focus on movement and the strange confidence of the wondering wanderer; that is, striding toward the unknown, sure-footedly unsure. She tells us there’s “more to be than in Demarest / More to live for than I know yet.”

Tracks like “Demarest” and “Out” don’t neglect the corresponding urge to break free; from an ode to escaping New Jersey’s suburban air to the delightfully forthright, “I wanted out / I wanted out / This fucking house / I wanted out.”

The artist’s history of travel and wanderlust is a critical influence. By day, Pictoria Vark is bassist Victoria Park, touring with Squirrel Flower and schooling Twitter (@pictoriavark) on everything from workers’ rights to life on the road. She’s a citizen of the world, having lived in folk aesthetic microcosms like Wyoming (of course) as well as cultural hubs like Paris and NYC. Currently settled in Iowa City, we should enjoy her company while we can. This summer, she’ll tour and promote The Parts I Dread, which arrives on April 8 for streaming and download.

The vinyl release from Get Better Records is available on Aug. 12 — for now; press issues (read: supply chains) have pushed back the release date multiple times. Regardless, it will be worth the wait. This is an album made for vinyl. The rocking guitar that closes out “I Can’t Bike” simply must blast from two giant, wooden speakers.

This article was originally published in Little Village’s April 2022 issue.


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