[By Brian Lee]
“A very intimate and accessible record.”
Accessible and straightforward. That once eerie echoed voice and neo psychedelic melody are becoming more and more of a comfort zone for me. With each subsequent release (either from Deerhunter or Atlas Sound), I think Bradford Cox is trying to move closer to his listeners. Coming a long way since his cross-dressing and fake-blood spewing days, Bradford Cox’s latest outing Parallax still shows his lo-fi core, displaying his precision at lacing multilayered lyrics through beach-like vibe electronic and solo acoustic guitar while shedding the abrasive experimental garage noise Deerhunter is known for. [Read more]This time around, Cox’s vocal is clear and sensible; he decides that the audience shouldn’t be tinkering too much on what he’s trying to say, instead he expects cohesiveness: Let Cox’s spacey and highly nuanced vocal tell you directly that his feelings of isolation and self-deprecation are sincere and he expects the listeners’ sympathy (as he howls, “Your pain is probably equal” on “Parallax”).
At its core, I’d say “Parallax” is a dream pop record. But unlike typical dream pop records which tie in a bunch of half-baked songs with overplayed reverb, “Parallax” sounds thought-out and surprisingly catchy while incorporating many contradicting elements: post-punk, tropicalia, classic rock, rockabilly, and fuzzy synthesizers. “Monalisa” is a shiny jangle pop that could’ve been found in any early 60s Beatles record. “Te Amo” espouses playful bouncy synth and light percussion while Cox delivers his sensible poetry with a wailing vocal ala Jeff Buckley. “Terra Incognita” uses similar approach, using the synths instead of the guitar and Cox’s wider range of vocal remains the ultimate weapon. “Doldrums” is Cox’s return to his plain vanilla atmospheric sound with spacey synth and guitar effects experimentation (done very lightly this time). Overall, I think “Angel is Broken” is the best song in the album; the three-chord progression, catchy hooks, and choir reverb remind me of Interpol circa “Turn on the Bright Lights”.
In terms of overall theme, Parallax is supposed to be a science fiction album. Although the album lacks a singular vision, I think Cox is very successful in creating his own bizarre futuristic landscape. Here I am daydreaming in Cox’s futuristic world and I can’t understand his vision as everything dashed by too fast. Just when a song starts to get interesting, he moves on to the next song. If I have to take a wild guess, I think the longing of “feeling something you’ve never felt” is the main theme here. “The Shakes” is about finding money and fame and the shocking realization that your most valued material possessions are your best friends. According to the Atlanta native, “Mona Lisa” is about being unsatisfied by someone’s inability to become emotionally available. And “Te Amo” is about lovers who are separated by the force of time and space.
Overall I think Parallax is a very intimate and accessible record from a songwriter who has yet to disappoint. Parallax still reflects Cox’s isolation and self-deprecating persona, however, his progression in songwriting and minimum vocal effects make him sound as if he’s more comfortable conveying his emotions. Those looking for an entry point to Cox’s sometimes cryptic outings may have found their answer in this carefully experimented pop album. Sure, it’s those types of albums that require thinking and constant listening (with your headphones) to get the most out of it. My advice is: don’t over think, suspend the disbelief and let yourself daydream into Cox’s futuristic world. Just like Cox croons on “Te Amo”, “We’ll go to sleep and have such strange dreams”. I just can’t wait to go to sleep.
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