Review Summary: Soft maturity.
Maturity within music is such a strange concept to me. What exactly constitutes a “mature” release? I see the term thrown around often when a band decides to tone down their sound, opting out for a subtler yet more complex style of music. Coincidentally, Gates’ newest release, Parallel Lives
, is exactly this when compared to their louder, post-rock influenced Bloom and Breathe
release. Yet, I don’t necessarily see this release as a mature release when compared to their previous attempt. Instead, I see it as a slight tweak in sound, for better or worse, and a newfound love for the delicacies within music. Music that is inherently beautiful can be harder to pull off naturally, and with Parallel Lives
, Gates both succeed dramatically and falter slightly.
Perhaps the most successful track on here is 'Left Behind', a seemingly innocuous song at first glance but one that truly blooms when dissected carefully. Gates are best when their powerful moments are both gorgeously arranged and emotionally impactful, both instrumentally and within Kevin Dye’s vocal climaxes. As with 'Left Behind', both are prevalent, especially within the last two minutes of the song where it leads the listener into a seemingly predictable chorus climax, yet a simple key change takes the song to the next level, surprising the listener yet leaving them in awe. Similar tracks like 'Color Worn' and 'Eyes' may not be as interesting from a music theory standpoint, but the post-rock influenced swells that conclude each track makes the simplicity within the music somewhat stunning in a way.
Some tracks are too self-absorbed, however, to truly realize their full potential. While the subtle chord progressions within 'Fade' are interesting, the song doesn’t leave much of anything else for the listener to latch onto. Parallel Lives
is an atmospheric album, no doubt, but the atmosphere produced feels too light and airy at times as Gates seem to be more concerned with making beautiful sounding music rather than giving life to their songs, something that truly makes the listener fully realize the beauty beneath the clouds.
Comparatively to Bloom and Breathe
, this release is not nearly as immediate or gratifying. Their 2014 release leans heavily on the power behind many post-rock bands, crescendos and apexes. Yet, despite its ability to blend post-rock and emo the record felt too much in line with its influences, a borrowed sound. While the loud to soft technique is still common within Parallel Lives
, the sound feels fresh and original, a definitive sound that Gates can call their own. Maybe that’s what maturity means in terms of music, a discovery of a unique sound, something the band can latch onto and experiment with without the fear of imitating another artist too closely. Although this album is a departure from their sound, it is more of an arrival to something even more beautiful: Gates’ sound.