The new EP Valdosta finds Mayday Parade in acoustic mode. Clocking in at twenty-three minutes, the six-track release opens and closes with brand new songs, “Amber Lynn” and “Terrible Things.” Sandwiched in between are four re-recordings of earlier Mayday Parade songs, including two originally recorded with former frontman Jason Lancaster.
Valdosta bridges the gap between the group’s successful 2009 sophomore album, Anywhere But Here (peaking at #31 on the Billboard 200 and #8 on Billboard’s Alternative Album charts) and their as-yet-untitled third album (due summer 2011). Perhaps some fans will see this release as two sides of a single, fleshed out with inessential reworkings. Some may cry foul at the inclusion of songs previously recorded during the Lancaster era. That said, the two new songs are excellent while each of the older songs work fairly well with new, quieter arrangements.
The emphasis here is clearly on melody and sensitively delivered lyrics, with expressive singing by Derek Sanders. In fact, they save the best for last with “Terrible Things.” Beginning as a piano ballad, the song builds slowly to a full band climax that finds the other group members crashing in for the final minute. Alex Garcia’s lead guitar soars as the backing vocals swell under the main melody. “Amber Lynn,” the other new song, is almost as good – a rustic, jangly mid-tempo track with fine vocals.
The EP’s oldest tune, Jason Lancaster’s “Your Song,” dates back to the band’s first release, 2006’s EP Tales Told By Dead Friends. Recast as a piano-and-strings ballad, the new version doesn’t have the buzz-saw energy of the original. Faring much better after the acoustic conversion is “Jamie All Over,” the other Lancaster song. The remaining cuts first appeared on Anywhere But Here, “Bruised and Scarred” and “Kids In Love.” The former brings the melody nicely to the fore, while the latter suffers a bit from an overly whiney vocal.