Bradford Cox’s third solo effort sees the Deerhunter frontman strike out into unusual territory, with pleasing results. The album artwork shows the Atlanta-based songsmith evoking a bygone age of crooners, posing in silhouette with a vintage microphone, and Parallax lives up to this surprising change of direction. Indeed, the album manages to retain the creative edge which earned Cox his reputation as an experimentalist while also functioning as a nuanced, intelligent pop record.
Perhaps the most startling aspect of Parallax is the impressive balance struck between Cox’s frequently despairing lyrics, possibly influenced by his recent nervous breakdown while touring with Deerhunter, and uplifting melodies. ‘Te Amo’, for example, features the lyrics “when you’re down, you’re always down”, but is lightened by delicate percussion and piano loops. The title track, also issued as the lead single, offsets the refrain “your pain, is probably equal” with bright guitar work. Cox’s vocals, while sometimes lacking in range, complement the music well, particularly on the outstanding ‘Angel is Broken’.
The well-structured album only stumbles when Cox occasionally reverts to the tired piano-and-reverb formula which has enjoyed great popularity of late. Mid-album track ‘Mona Lisa’, an unashamedly simple jangle-pop number, seems a blessed relief after the rather stodgy ‘Modern Aquatic Lovesongs’.
However, Parallax remains a focussed and inventive album in a year when such records seem an increasingly rare commodity. Against a raft of beach-rock clones, the Southern recluse has crafted a wonderfully beguiling and sensitive record. Moreover, Cox’s burgeoning pop sensibilities mean this album works as an ideal introduction to a musician of considerable talent.