Review Summary: If you're going to listen to one new band this year, make it Parades. Foreign Tapes is an album of 2010 contender.
No matter how much one denigrates the music industry and its lack of originality from year to year, there is bound to be at least one act that appears out of nowhere to place a smile on an individuals face and restore his or her faith in this fantastic thing we call music. In 2010, that act is Sydney quartet Parades. It may have taken a great deal of time - they have been playing together throughout their teenage years - but their debut LP 'Foreign Tapes' is finally upon us... And my word, was it worth the wait! One needs only to listen to opener 'Dead Nationale' to realize this. Beginning with almost Latin-sounding guitar chords, incessant drums and smooth as silk vocals, it builds up tensely before electric guitar joins the party for a gratifying crescendo of sound during a jaw-dropping extended jam. 'Hunters' follows, introducing even more elements; the angelic co-lead vocals of Rebecca Shave, glorious piano and a joyous sing-along. Yet, these are not mutually exclusive components at all, since Parades masterfully juxtapose these with thumping drums and killer guitar lines.
Difficult to pigeon-hole, Parades could be broadly defined as being an art-rock band. Elements of multi-faceted indie, ethereal dream-pop soundscapes and even complex post-rock are apparent however, with 'Foreign Tapes' exuding a spontaneous nature to many of its outstanding compositions which lessens predictability. 'Loserspeak In New Tongue' may be the most accessible song here, yet it is far from formulaic... The guitar-work from Daniel Cunningham and Tim Jenkins for instance, moves from gentle to angular to distorted in a matter of moments. Similarly, penultimate track 'Marigold' has a conventional chorus, but is hardly radio material at almost seven minutes in length. Parades show maturity beyond their years in knowing when to hold back and when to come thundering in with a chosen ingredient. One moment it may be horns - see the gorgeous climax of 'Past Lives' - the next it may be those aforementioned electric guitars, which give the album a required grit at just the right times. Closer ‘Vulturehood’ would even make Led Zeppelin proud!
Vocally, 'Foreign Tapes' is resplendent. Benefiting from the fact that the quartet includes two first-class vocalists - guitarist Cunningham and drummer Jonathan Boulet - Parades do not even let that hinder their capabilities, consistently bringing in female vocalist Shave to give them an extra dimension. The inevitable call and response male/female vocals work well on 'Invaders (Review)', a cut which kick-starts the more ambient electronic mid-section which is highlighted by 'Lung Full of Light'. A piece so stunning and expansive that it could easily have fit on both the 'Air' and 'Water' volumes of Thrice's Alchemy Index, Shave is outstanding over lovely piano here. Simply put, 'Foreign Tapes' ebbs and flows brilliantly and naturally, both from track to track and within songs themselves. Again, it is Parades who should take full credit for this since they self-produced the album... Although, one cannot help but get the feeling that wunderkind Boulet may have been in charge since his drums are satisfyingly high in the mix.
Searching for weaknesses on this grand and wonderfully ambitious album is a difficult task. Including what are practically two interludes on a ten track LP could be argued, but they assist the flow so exceptionally and the overall duration is still a pleasing 42 minutes. The biggest weakness could in fact be that this release could have been even better had it included the earthy highlights from Boulet's self-titled LP which was released late last year (What a selfish ba$tard!) That said, even referring to what may have been contained here is doing a disservice to the ten brilliantly crafted and awe-inspiring tracks which do comprise 'Foreign Tapes'. Whether you are an extroverted indie-hipster, introverted post-rocker, or just a good old-fashioned fan of either pop or rock; do yourself a favor and let this triumphant album win you over. If you are going to listen to one new band in 2010, make it Parades since 'Foreign Tapes' is a genuinely exciting album of the year contender.
Recommended Tracks: Marigold, Loserspeak In New Tongue, Dead Nationale, Hunters & Lung Full of Light.