Review Summary: However you say “album rules” in Korean
The differences between Parannoul’s 2021 breakout LP To See The Next Part Of The Dream
and follow-up After The Magic
provide a textbook case of why reducing everything in music discussion down to genre classification is foolhardy. Indeed, both records could be approximated to the same wide styles: shoegaze, bedroom indie, emo, etc. And the similarities don’t end with genre, either - both are ten-song collections with expansive runtimes extremely close to one hour. But in the ways that truly matter, After The Magic
is a transformative reversal of its predecessor’s vibe and feel.
To See The Next Part Of The Dream
rose to prominence through its inherent appeal to overworked, underpaid, and generally disaffected youth, who are (coincidentally) one of the great demographics of staunch music fandom. With angst and depressiveness wrapped up tightly in its set of lo-fi, fuzzed-out, longform guitar jams, what the record lacked in refinement and even consistency was made up for (at least in the eyes of many) by raw emotion and the ability to latch on to the listener in a deeply personal way. All this was enough to grant Parannoul a prime spot in a burgeoning movement boldly claimed as the “5th wave of emo”, a place secured fully with the release of split Downfall Of The Neon Youth
alongside two other paragons of the said wave, a move which brought even more acclaim.
After The Magic
builds off this emerging legacy, yes, with its earnest and gazey tunes, but in most respects it flips the emotional foundation which undergirds Parannoul’s music on its head. No longer are songs drenched in an obvious sense of bleakness and melancholy, but instead in swells of lightness and optimism. The album’s cover is a prelude to this shift, as is so often the case. A gorgeous image of a lonesome figure in a snowy scene, the artwork exudes a feeling of warmth despite its chilly environment, and that same glow manages to suffuse the music without fail.
The first-time listener will catch on immediately. Opener “Polaris” is simply lovely, its early stages built on mild, nearly folk-ish, instrumentation before building into washed-out grandeur which echoes the cover’s feeling of cozy winter-iness (it’s a word, trust me). Follow-up “Insomnia” (a reworked version of a Parannoul track off Downfall Of The Neon Youth
) soars along, also bringing uplifting vibes. Later on, “We Shine At Night” also shines
(got ‘em), riding a silky shimmer into a finale of cathartic yells - notably one of the LP’s rare aggressive moments. Later in the album, “Imagination” is driving and anthemic, with a strong melody, while “Sound Inside Me, Waves Inside You” pulls off a cacophonous climax. The closing title track suitably ends the journey with its sleek and smooth but undeniably beautiful presentation.
To be clear, the predominant emotions aren't the only thing which have shifted. After The Magic
largely eschews the crunchier riffage which set the pace for much of To See The Next Part Of The Dream
, instead leaning heavily on the dreamier side of things. Indeed, many of these songs suggest enhanced influence from some of the gentler bands which populated shoegaze’s golden age, like Slowdive and Lush. This stylistic transition is then bolstered further by sweeping changes in the complexity of the compositions. Here, we find a variety of guest musicians supplying a rich array of instruments, and their playing is backed by electronic elements which make use of the term “indietronica” defensible (“Parade” in particular feels like something The Notwist could’ve crafted). Then, add to this savilly-executed orchestration a wonderful production job which makes every song sound absolutely gorgeous, and you’ve got yourself a release which definitively establishes a new-look Parannoul.
A good chunk of the words written in this review have been devoted to cataloging the vast differences between Parannoul’s last full-length and this one, but it’s all for good reason. This seems like one of those cases in which the vast majority of listeners will prefer either one or other by a significant margin, all coming down to a matter of personal preference. If you favor Parannoul in a more raw, gritty, downcast mood, then To See The Next Part Of The Dream
will remain preeminent. If you can’t resist Parannoul in a more delicate, soothing, and mellow state, then After The Magic
is for you. For myself, this latest rendition was both an unexpected twist for the project and a delightful success, and I’m already curious where Parannoul goes next. Regardless, After The Magic
will stand as an impressive work in its own right, and additionally an ideal entry point for those (like me) who’ve hitherto not become fully engrossed in the “5th wave of emo” scene.