Bradford Cox is a very deep unique man. His presence among his musical contemporaries and critics is surpassed by very few. Whether he’s releasing music through his band Deerhunter, or his solo moniker
Atlas Sound, each release is welcomed with great anticipation and excitement. His latest effort, Atlas Sound’s Parallax, is no different and it does very little to alter Cox’s image as a sensitive, awkward, distant, yet wholly talented individual. Sonically, Parallax is a musical sensation that possesses beautiful melodies, breezy chords, and charming space-like production. Yet it’s lyrical content is another beast. Cox narrates on extreme loneliness, distance, and perspective. Parallax’s musical and lyrical elements form a tragically superb piece of work.
The initial response that Parallax initiates is that of loneliness and a sense of distance from the rest of the world. Cox has made no secret of feeling this way, calling himself “the man who fell to earth” unable to connect with people on an emotional level. This theme is brought to the forefront on very opening track, ‘The Shakes’. It’s a subtly catchy song that tells the story of a lived man who realises material things are his closest friends in the world. The album begins to blissfully drift into a spacy dream with the near cryptic track ‘Amplifiers’, setting the laid back yet heavy mood for the rest of the album.
While Cox does not bring any obvious new sounds to the album from any previous work, ‘Te Amo’ indeed sounds like a direct cut from the end of Deerhunter’s last album, ‘Halcyon Digest’. The repeated piano riff could be an alternative version of Jay Reatard ode, ‘He would of Laughed’. Mid-album, when we start to think the emotional haze of Parallax is just too much, Cox drops an irresistible pop gem: ‘Mona Lisa’. Featuring keys and vocals from MGMT’s Andrew VanWyngarden, ‘Mona Lisa’ brings the listener’s feet back to earth with earthy guitar strums, and what I’d even say are ‘summer’ feel-good vibes. Not only is it an album highlight, but a necessary inclusion on an album that risks suffocating you with emotional outpour and tension. However, it’s short lived and back to business on ‘Doldrums’ where Cox croons of falling behind the rest of the world “Houses that were out of reach for me/Stubborn paths to glory, Always two inches behind, Behind”.
Album stunner and undeniable highlight, ‘Terra Incognita’, brings Parallax to a mesmerizing halt in what feels like an emotional-music-break down playing through your iTunes. As probably the least layered track yet the most powerful, Cox hides behind no ambiguous meanings in his words “I know a place called love, No one bothered me there, no I was all alone”. Instead, he puts himself out in the wide open field in what was surely his most liberating song on the album. Cox himself describes the last three minutes of the song as either utter “nonsense, or complete total emptiness”. Whatever it is, it’s enough to chill warm milk and justify all acclaim Mr. Bradford Cox has ever received in his eccentric career.
Yes at times Parallax is profoundly heavy and lyrically it can prove hard work for the listener. Even the album artwork resonates a feeling of cold loneliness. It takes more than one listen to appreciate the album as a whole. Yet Bradford Cox is smart enough to throw ‘life lines’ into the album in the form of delicate pop pieces that lift the album from being a fragile emotional onslaught to a rewarding listening experience. Cox continues to release new innovative music while keeping elements that have helped him cement his name in critical success, and Parallax is no different and well worth one than one listen.