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The Early Years

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Album Review

Sparrow's first album suffers in comparison to the work of Jason Zumpano's former bandmate in Zumpano, Carl Newman (aka "AC"), who went on to form the New Pornographers. Fair enough, most guitar pop bands can't hope to compete with them. Unfortunately, the Sparrow album also suffers from flat vocals, overly linear songwriting, and an overall blah feeling. Incredibly, the band's second album, The Early Years, wipes away all those flaws and manages to succeed on its own terms. Partially it is due to Zumpano's growth as a songwriter, partially it is thanks to more interesting and involved arrangements, and partially it is the presence of the divine Lucy Brain (on loan from fellow Vancouver-ites Young and Sexy) on harmony vocals. Brain gives Zumpano the helping hand he so desperately needed before, and the song she is absent from, "Flower," is the weakest song on the album. The record is also served by a jolt of energy that was sorely lacking on their first album. Tunes like "The Early Years," "This Is How It's Done," and "I'm Just Not There" crackle with tension and excitement. Even the baroque ballads like "I Wouldn't Mind" and "All Two by Two," which are driven by lush cellos and tinkling pianos, sound more alive and passionate. The Early Years is a thoroughly enjoyable album that won't dislodge the New Pornographers from their throne, but it does move Zumpano and Sparrow within shouting range of his former mate.


Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s

Vancouver indie pop group Sparrow began as a solo vehicle for former Zumpano drummer Jason Zumpano. After the breakup of Zumpano and after spending some time playing keyboards for Destroyer, Zumpano decided to go it alone, recruiting a violinist and a cellist to play with him in the Sparrow. After ditching the "The" and adding another refugee from Zumpano, Michael Ledwidge on guitar, as well as Pete Mills on bass and Scott Morgan on drums, Sparrow began playing gigs, most notably the 2002 SXSW conference,...
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The Early Years, Sparrow
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