Review Summary: you're always down.
Bradford Cox is more comfortable with the lights off. Parallax
is proof of that; on the cover of Logos
he was pictured faceless, but here he’s in the dark. It feels like a big statement to make- here is a man and his microphone, literally clutching to music- but it also seems like a resoundingly ambiguous one: is this image of Cox stepping out of the shadow, shedding the discomfort that’s put weight on songs like “Agoraphobia,” or is he hiding in it?
For all the ambiguity, Parallax
feels like another hiding place. He circulates the happy piano notes of “Te Amo” as some whacky detour from the horrible conversation he is having with himself. Talk about misdirection: “you’re always down.” In a way, “Te Amo” is much like the angriest of Bob Dylan songs, a “Positively Fourth Street” or “Rolling Stone,” in how much of a contradiction it is. Like those songs, it’s practically glowing, the noises moving in a dreamy, euphoric sequence but the lyrics out of step, their delivery chilling and hell, even the distracting album artwork putting the lights out.
The fact that Cox can make a song like this is a testament to how intriguing his career is. Deerhunter could lend themselves Strokes comparisons and little else if it weren’t for the way Cox writes music as conflict. It’s hard to remember Halcyon Digest
, a year on, in the way I thought of it then; thinking it was a ‘celebration’ sums up how easy it is to forget the depth in any of Cox’s Deerhunter songs, no matter how comfortable they feel as pop songs. “Coronado” was another one that glowed, but behind the slick sax solos there was a confused man of so many questions and so few answers. That’s the kind of thing that draws you in to the “catchy” Microcastle
and Halcyon Digest
- the little conflicts- and so how can we not be drawn into the dark spaces in Parallax
And I certainly am drawn to Parallax
. I find it impossible to stop coming back to “Te Amo” and its bittersweet flips of the coin, but at the same time I’m completely intrigued by how impossible Cox makes it to grasp at his intentions on “Modern Aquatic Nightsongs.” The difference, though, is split: “Te Amo” is a working pop song, but I’m not sure Cox wants that so much this time around. Logos
had a melodic bent and exciting features that made every adoring indie fan giddy (Panda Bear, say no more), but Parallax
is made in some sort of endless vacuum of nothing but Cox.
As a result, it might feel more like a proper album, and maybe even the “comfortable” album we’ve been waiting for Cox to make. But this is only an album in how impossible it is to appreciate out of its context. No “Angel is Broken,” no point in the comedown that follows it in “Terra Incognita.” As for the comfort Cox may have finally found in Parallax
, he only finds it in the obscure, the impossible to describe, and the ever-moving. Parallax
never stays in one place for too long, regardless of how pretty it remains throughout its entire run. There is no revealing the world behind “Praying Man” or “Parallax” in the same way “Coronado” revealed more than simply a pop genius. Instead, Parallax
comes with its own set of intentions, and few of them feel for us
And for that reason, that lack of inclusion, there’s no rating I can find to do Parallax
justice. It feels like a wholly unique masterpiece in ways, perhaps because it is simply impossible to shut off- there’s no turning away from this aching, mysterious music, and even the most basic tracks feel justified by the ominous things happening around the corners. But coming off the open Halcyon Digest
, Bradford Cox has turned sharply on his heels for a different type of honesty. And by no means think that because Cox obscures himself he must be disingenuous. That’s never been his problem. But Parallax
, unrealised masterpiece or not, sounds like the man in his bedroom with a thousand songs to leave unexplained.