Review: Parralox – Metropolis

We’ve written much about how amazing Australia’s Parralox’s debut album, Electricity was. We chose it as one of the top 20 electronic albums of the decade and rightfully so. They captured the spirit of the golden era of synthpop better than almost anyone else out there with a particular homage to Yazoo and it worked beautifully. Their follow-up, State of Decay, saw a key line-up change and a change of direction and the results were comparably disappointing (with some exceptions like the terrific sleeper “Time”). So, now the prolific duo are back quickly with album number three. Does it lean more toward the exciting verve of album #1 or toward the more mundane, by-the-numbers #2?We’re beyond delighted to say, this one is a solid winner that sees a return to the greatness they showed us in the beginning. It’s early listens yet but it may be as good as Electricity.

There are some significant differences. Particularly the role as co-vocalist by John Von Ahlen, who lends a nice contrast to singer Amii, and he trots out the pipes on a number of tracks bringing a Human League (see: “Ancient Times”) feel to much of the proceedings. And it works. There’s also an even slicker sound than we’ve heard before, something we weren’t sure was humanly (or synthetically) possible. It works too.

The songwriting is whip-smart – catchy, clever, with terrific hooks, evocative synth washes, nice harmonies, and a great use of Amii’s voice who has fully grown into her role and is now a perfectly cast front-woman who is now a solid asset to the band. Song after song delivers in what stands as one of the best electronic albums released this year – as we busily beaver about with the Softsynth Top Ten of 2010 this has quickly become part of the mix.

So many try to create a sound that harks back to the early days synthpop, but few succeed. There is an ethos unique to the era that is almost impossible to achieve in this day and age. As they did with their debut, Parralox have achieved the near-impossible again. Von Ahlen is an electronic music genius who understands exactly what worked about this style of music once upon a time and continues to perfect the art.

Not every track is pure genius. “Love Is Enough”, for example is a strange, derivative dance track that collapses under its own weight, but this is an exception to a pretty-near flawless electropop collection. Those who prefer their electronic music on the edgier or darker side may not find a lot to love here, but those who like their synths crisp, and their beats flowing, and their synthpop vintage but with a modern feel will find few albums better. It’s a real treat and given how prolific Parralox have turned out to be a great sign that there will be continued healthy helpings of genius on tap for some time to come.

Watch: Supermagic


One Response to “Review: Parralox – Metropolis”

  1. I’m going to have to disagree with you on this one. I too loved Electricity, thought it was really exciting. However, the last two have left me cold. I really don’t like the autotuned male vocals on this album in particular. I think in some ways they are hurting themselves by putting out so much material so quickly. A longer gestation/editing time might not be a bad thing for album #4.

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