Indie folk quartet The National Parks has returned with their fifth full length album “8th Wonder,” which picks apart love against the backdrop of the outdoors. The group is no stranger to this, with much of their brand surrounding an extremely outdoorsy-style chock full of natural imagery, often the mountains and landscapes of the American West, which the Utah-based group originates from.
We see this well in songs like “Angels,” likely a reference to Angel’s Landing, a popular hiking spot referenced in the lyrics. It then paints a sweet picture of love against the canyon walls of Zion National Park and a night swim in a river, finishing off this image with the lyric, “Imma tell our kids about this someday.”
This idea is furthered in songs like “History Channel” as well, which uses geological and seismological motifs to explain the feeling of falling in love. This is seen in the lyrics of the chorus: “You’re shifting all my tectonic plates / My world was like the plains and then you came / And it changed into a beautiful mountain range.”
However, some songs from the album place a greater emphasis on nature than on anything else, letting the outdoors take center stage. This is seen in songs like “Let’s Go Outside,” which is simply a song about returning to the outdoors and unplugging from the world. The modern world is exhausting and burns you out, and the return to the natural world eases that, which the song explains beautifully.
“Great Sky” does something similar in letting nature sit at the forefront, only this takes a more existential approach. The narrator stares up at the sky, questioning his place in the world and the reasoning for the universe. However, he doesn’t find anxiety in this. Rather he finds peace in it, finally slowing down to think and find himself okay with something as morbid as death, as it means that he will once and for all be able to get all of his questions about the universe answered by God.
However, what really shines the most is the instrumental styles of the album. Songs like the aforementioned “History Channel” embrace an approach akin to indie rock, with a twist added through the usage of a violin. Along with that, songs like “Sunshine” do this as well, though it feels less like rock-oriented and more pop-oriented. “Desert Creatures” does this as well, using a combination of a synthesizer alongside traditional instruments like drums and guitars to create a bright, poppy sound.
Others such as “Garden” feel more homey and less polished. Listeners can hear the band talking and joking around in the background throughout the song, and very few instruments are used. The only instruments that are audibly heard are violin, piano and guitar. This gives it a very humane feeling and makes the listener feel like a fly on the wall in the recording booth, listening to the song being recorded.
Overall, “8th Wonder” is musically versatile yet consistent in lyricism surrounding love and nature and serves as a fantastic backdrop for adventure, be it in love or in the outdoors.