Song debut: Proud Parents, "Saab Story"

The Madison power-pop outfit celebrates its new release on Friday at the High Noon.

Cover art from Sharon Is Karen.

Cover art from Sharon Is Karen.

Proud Parents’ first album, Sharon Is Karen, showcases a band that can sound vulnerable and earnest even when the music itself is at its most playful and scrappy. Singer/guitarists Claire Nelson-Lifson and Tyler Fassnacht drive much of the Madison power-pop outfit’s personality, both as individuals and as collaborators—their duet on “Something To Talk About” evokes the mix of raw oppennes and humor that old friends have with each other, and the two finish the album’s closing track, “Bumfuck Somewhere,” with a sweetly snarling dual-lead-guitar part.

But the band has also grown stronger as a whole, with Alex Seraphin on bass and The Hussy’s Heather Sawyer playing drums rounding out the vocal mix, contributing harmonies on many of the tracks here and taking the lead on “Heather’s Song.” They’ll be celebrating the release of Sharon Is Karen on Friday at the High Noon Saloon in a showcase for Rare Plant Records, the locally focused tape label Nelson-Lifson runs with Erick Fruehling of Dumb Vision, who are also preparing a new release for the occasion.

"As we have improved and written more songs, it has felt less like a side project and more like a ‘band,’” Nelson-Lifson says. (Nelson-Lifson also plays in psych-rock band Disembodied Monks, Fassnacht heads up Fire Retarded, and Seraphin plays in Gonzo Rongs.) "We have all gotten a lot closer as friends [since forming the band], too, which makes playing together so much more rewarding.”

One of the songs Nelson-Lifson wrote, “Saab Story,” exemplifies the band’s ability to combine tenderness with power-pop momentum. In an achey vocal melody that’s just slightly buried in the mix, Nelson-Lifson gives us some unsparingly dark lyrics: "The fog outside fills and corrupts my head / I would do anything to be anywhere else instead.” But that’s paired with jangling chords and a few ringing single-note guitar phrases that catch onto Sawyer’s powerhouse drums.

"'Saab Story' is actually one of the few songs that I wrote all the parts for,” Nelson-Lifson says. A lot of the songs I have written have been very collaborative, but I wrote all the guitar parts, including the solo at the end.” That solo is quick but packs in a lot of melody, pushing the sadness in the song toward something more cathartic. Give the song a listen here.

The Rare Plant showcase will feature Proud Parents and Dumb Vision alongside Tarpaulin, Wood Chickens, The Minotaurs (all three of which put out music on the label last year), and Bobby Hussy’s solo project Cave Curse. The label’s plans for 2016 include late January release from newer Madison trio Pollinators and a series of live tapes from The Hussy.