Record #23: Atlas Sound – Parallax (2011)

As I’ve progressed through Atlas Sound’s discography, there is a very clear trend; atmospheres become less of a focal point, the vocals are higher in the mix, and the lyrics are more coherent. The album art follows suit—Let The Blind featured a picture he liked, Logos had a picture of his Marfan Syndrome affected torso with his face blurred out with a flash.

Parallax, on the other hand, features a close up picture of his face and a microphone. It’s a trend that suggests that maybe Bradford Cox is getting comfortable with himself, if only in the capacity of a singer and songwriter.

As accessible as Logos is, Parallax makes it look pure left field. The ambience and tape-loops that washed over the previous two records is still here, but they’re pushed aside by a traditional guitar-bass-drums setup and Bradford Cox’s voice, which has a power behind it that makes it sound like he’s renting another person’s set of lungs.

Furthermore, his adventures through pop-classicism have made their way to his lyrical delivery, and the result is a Bradford Cox who croons as much as he whispers (see “Angel Is Broken” for Cox’s emulation of Elvis).

Lyrically, Cox is focusing less on uber-personal themes of his time in hospitals or coming to grips with his body, and his happiness is less fatalist and more…well, happy. There are some real love songs here (“Te Amo”), untainted by the pessimism that rooted around in Logos. Also, he touches on more universal themes for the first time (coherently, anyway) like spirituality and the perfection-striving of artists. It’s a natural change considering, how much more comfortable he seems here being heard as opposed to the mumbled vocalizations that filled Let The Blind.

The thing that has struck me the most about this album is how…normal it can sound. Slapback echoed voice and occasional ethnic instruments aside, some of these songs (see: “Mona Lisa,” the lead single) wouldn’t sound too out of place on a radio station devoted to the pop songs of yesteryear. After flirtations with AM rock on Microcastle and Halcyon Digest with Deerhunter, Parallax finally sees that fascination reach its apex.

But even with the loss of the shoegaze and krautrock flavors (oh, how I love walls of noise…), there’s still plenty of studio noodling and sound-crafting to offer an engaging listen.

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