Parenthetical Girls‘ music pretty much defies a finite description and it is anything but average, it is something of a pop anomaly. The Portland, Oreogon group’s newest album, Privilege (Abridged), which will be officially released on Feb. 19 (Marriage Records/Slender Means Society), is no exception, and that’s precisely what makes it so damn intriguing. The core duo of vocalist/creative mind Zac Pennington and producer/arranger Jherek Bischoff (composer, collaborator with David Byrne, Amanda Palmer, Xiu Xiu) pooled their talents to create an album that is extravagant, indulgent and unafraid to be impulsive at times. Before it was remixed and remastered into a condensed 12-track version, Privilege was originally recorded and self-released as a sequence of five, limited 12″ EPs, interestingly enough, each one hand-numbered in the blood of the group’s members. To me that kind of commitment signifies that the band is giving themselves up rather wholeheartedly to the music, and as an extension of that, the listener too. They have gone with their gut on this album and it shows.
Lead singer Zach Pennington’s vibrato engages right away and rings in your ears throughout almost the entirety of the album. At times I do wish it would take more of a backseat to the music (billowy beats and fanciful synths pave the musical path) but then again it may not be the same Parenthetical Girls we know and love, if that were the case. Zac’s theatrical pulse is highly enchanting and if you’ve ever seen the band live, you know that nothing is left untouched by his presence (peep previous Grimy Goods live review here). Privilege (Abridged) may feel a bit like an acquired taste but whether you dig the album or not, there is no doubt that it will leave a lasting impression.
Three Words to Describe Privileged (Abridged): Passionate Pop Anomaly.
This Album Would Go Well With: Cocktails. Interpretive dance party. Tootsie roll pops (how many licks does it take to get to the center of Parenthetical Girls song?).
Favorite Tracks: “Evelyn McHale” – A swing-and-sway pop serenade that balances a fine line of morbidity and failure, but also forgiveness and inspiration. Fitting for a song named after a woman who committed suicide after jumping off the Empire State Building in 1947, and was photographed shortly after her fall, in a hauntingly serene pose on top of a crushed car, deemed “the Most Beautiful Suicide.”
“Careful Who You Dance With” – One of the catchiest songs on the album—it is a dark, hip-shaking, dance floor number. It follows a little bit more of a traditional song structure but still has a wild and weird streak to it and a tough emotional truth at its center: “Be careful who you dance with, Somebody’s bound to get his head kicked in, This wasn’t how we planned it, And now don’t go asking where we’ve been, we’re all reckless romantics, why fight the function we’ve been furnished with?”
“A Note To Self” – A movin’ on up, feel good, upbeat tune for the down—but not out, complete with zealous harmonies front at center of this musical show ring.
Upcoming Show Dates:
03/06 San Francisco, CA – TBA
03/07 Berkeley, CA – Starry Plough
03/08 Los Angeles, CA – The Smell
03/09 Phoenix, AZ – Trunk Space
03/10 Albuquerque, NM – Low Spirits
03/12 San Antonio, TX – Korova
03/13 – 03/16 Austin, TX – SXSW
03/17 Dallas, TX – Spillover Music Festival
03/19 Birmingham, AL – Bottletree
03/20 Atlanta, GA – The Earl
03/21 Chapel Hill, NC – Local 506
03/22 Washington, DC – TBA
03/23 Philadelphia, PA – PhilaMOCA
03/24 Hamden, CT – Outer Space
03/25 Brooklyn, NY – Glasslands
03/26 NYC, NY – Bowery Electric
03/27 Montreal, QB – Divan Orange
03/28 Toronto, ON – Double Double Land
03/29 Ann Arbor, MI – Arbor Vitae
03/30 Chicago, IL – Empty Bottle
03/31 Minneapolis, MN – TBA
04/02 Denver, CO – Hi Dive
04/03 Salt Lake City, UT – Kilby Court
04/04 Boise, ID – Flying M
04/07 Seattle, WA – Chop Suey
Album Review: Emily Saex