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Review: Atlas Sound – Parallax

By Nick Lovelace

Bradford Cox is one of the most prolific artists in recent memory, having released a total of 14 full-length albums as the front-man of Deerhunter and as Atlas Sound, the moniker of his solo project, since 2005. This isn’t to mention the vast amount of music he’s recorded and shared on his blog. This guy has so many ideas when it comes to music, and it’s amazing that he’s consistently able to sift through his vast body of work to construct a cohesive and thoughtful album. Whether we’re talking about Atlas Sound or Deerhunter, not one of either project’s albums is even remotely a random selection of tracks thrown together from Cox’s enormous archive of original, already recorded material. In fact, almost none of the songs featured on any of Deerhunter or Atlas Sound’s albums were previously recorded or based on previously recorded material. When Bradford Cox writes an album, he’s devoted to making it the best he can possibly make it. Parallax, his most recent album as Atlas Sound, is no exception.

For Atlas Sound fans, Parallax sounds like it couldn’t have been written by anyone but Atlas Sound. Each album has such a signature Atlas Sound… sound. His knack for pop melodies, his affinity for dreamy, ambient textures and his 90’s-shoegaze-inspired sound, which serves as the back-bone for his creative process, presents the listener with a truly unique experience.   Parallax not only strengthens his identity as Atlas Sound, but also further shapes his image as one of the most creative and talented musicians of the past decade.

Atlas Sound’s calling cards are all here, but his ambient sound makes way for a more guitar-driven pop sound that more resembles his band, Deerhunter, than either of his past albums. The first track, “The Shakes,” may be Atlas Sound’s most straight-forward song yet. Its driving rhythm and catchy guitar make for a very inviting opener to the album.  Its sloppy, jagged guitar competing with Cox’s timid-yet-arresting voice wouldn’t sound out of place had Deerhunter released it, which can’t really be said about any of of the songs from his prior albums. The same goes for album closer and highlight, “Lightworks,” an unabashedly bitter-sweet pop gem that sounds at once both old and new, taking cues from his pop idols of the past while making it his own, which is something that Cox can do just as well as anyone nowadays. The confidence he portrays in these songs is a new thing for Atlas Sound. As the front-man of Deerhunter, Cox is bold and charismatic, though his solo work paints a portrait of a self-conscious introvert. The confidence Cox shows on his new album seems to fade the line between the duality of his two projects.

Each album has progressively strayed from his primarily ambient/electronic beginnings to a more straight-forward pop sound. This is a welcome change, though. Each of his albums has gotten less cluttered with ambient fuzz to give his brilliant pop melodies and song structures more room to breathe. The gorgeous, other-worldly sounds he’s able to achieve from his bedroom are still here, but they’re just understated or condensed and are used when necessary to give certain moments of the album more of an impact. “Terra Incognita,” a standout from the album, starts off slow and soft with Cox’s somber, yet playful voice over-top acoustic guitar, piano, and a clever, octave-jumping base line. About halfway through, the song speaks up and is revealed to be something larger than life as it becomes engulfed by a lush, vibrant soundscape.

I think it’s safe to assume that Bradford Cox devotes the vast majority of his time to his music. The amount of work he’s produced in the last few years is astonishing, though what’s even more astonishing is how effortlessly he’s able to consistently produce thoughtful, worthwhile material. When asked about his personal life, Cox, a self proclaimed asexual, doesn’t seem to have much to say. “I sit at home and play gui­tar, making demos. I do our (Deerhunter’s) graphic design and typog­raphy for our releases. I devote my life to all of these little details, so there’s not really any room for me to develop a social life,” He confessed in a recent interview. “I don’t have a private life to speak of, really. Everything is out there in the music.” Bradford Cox is one of the most talented and creative musicians out there today. Parallax, the brilliantly gorgeous and triumphant third album of Cox’s solo project, Atlas Sound, is the definitive product of a devoted musician who’s madly in love with his music.

Atlas Sound – Lightworks by DCH101