Posted on April 9th, 2012 (1:29 pm) by Michael Ethen

If you missed their 2011 EP, Welcome To The Garden Party, we recommend you start there, and proceed immediately to Everyone's Looking.

They say variety is the spice of life, and by that measure Everyone's Looking is one spicy album. We mean variety in terms of harmony and meter: they deftly add a dash of minor chords (“Like Things Were Usual”), and sprinkle on a triplet feel to taste (“Window Shoppers”). These subtle but important details mean a great deal for the livelihood of songwriting. They're good cooks, these two, and they keep you coming back to the table. Coming back, because each short track leaves you hungry for more. The title track is probably their best example of how compact songs can send the listener racing to hit “repeat track” before the song ends. (“Grass,” on the other hand, we thought could be longer.) A model for aspiring writers, these two understand the subtleties of setting a text. Take the chorus from “We Got to Get Away,” for example—the word “away” scoops up at the end, just like the diphthong requires. It's the mature musicians of our time who offer austere structures and confident simplicity, knowing all the while when to call it quits.

The sound world of this album is part retrospective, part futuristic. On the retro side, you have Inga's voice and Joel's guitar sounds. Inga recalls the dulcet tones (and, if only slightly, the hairdo) of Tammy Wynette, and Joel's guitar sound is painted with a thick coat of echo effects from the 1950s (hence their self-description, surf-pop). It's not only the instrumental sounds that have us listening back in time, but also the group's lyrics. Let's be honest—how pervasive is the idea of Fred Astaire? It's a bold move at a time when some music fans don't even recognize Sir Paul McCartney when they see him on the Grammys. Then again, it's Fred Astaire, Mr. Debonnaire, and those who care to appreciate the truly good things in life will know what Joel means when he finally takes the mic. Along with this retro-activity, Everyone's Looking is peppered with tasty and futuristic space effects (“We Got to Get Away”) that elicit smiles as they pin the ears back. These musicians are imagining, constructing their bright future while acknowledging a debt to the past.

We all sort of reproduce our environment, and it seems as if The Parlour Suite environment has an awesomely wide array of influences. The lead track, for example, could be evidence of when 10,000 Maniacs met The Go-Go's. “Grass” conjures the best sensibilities of 1970s icons Foreigner and Supertramp, while “Dance” fills your speakers with mechanical “oohs” worthy of Laurie Anderson. It's stunning, really, to hear these different nods—conscious or otherwise—toward popular music of the past, because none of it threatens to collapse the sound world they're creating today. Combined with compact songwriting that tantalizes, these references help define the early sound of The Parlour Suite.

Among the most charming examples of mature arrangement on this album are the well-timed background vocals. From “We Got to Get Away” to “Grass,” these maneuvers decorate the basic song structure in the cutest possible way. Why use background vocals from the beginning, when you can add them later on for another attention-grabbing effect? Why use only one background voice, when you can use two or three? Yet, the big question that remains is how The Palour Suite will pull off these songs in concert—and there's only one way to find that out: go check them out along their West Coast Tour.

Track List:
1. We Got to Get Away
2. Window Shoppers
3. Like Things Were Usual
4. Everyone's Looking
5. Fred Astaire
6. Grass
7. Dance

Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

Our Rating

77 / 100
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