Put it on His Shoulders
Deerhunter’s Bradford Cox is clearly an artist who lives for his art. Marfan syndrome started affecting his body at age 10; he dropped out of high school; his parents divorced as a teenager; he’s been an outspoken sexual outsider, identifying as gay but often times asexual. Music is his solace, his comforting, soothing release, and across five Deerhunter and Atlas Sound albums he’s gotten more powerful and successful. With Parallax, his third studio album as Atlas Sound, he’s made something truly brilliant, full of awe-inspiring lyricism, intoxicating compositions, palpable creativity.
Not only do individual tracks stand out, but the record flows from beginning to end in a continuously hypnotic seamless experience, a gesture that echoes the album’s title and often its thematic concerns. Parallax is a measurement of the position of an object perceived at different lines of sight—in other words, the perception of distance and time based on where you stand and where you’re looking.
“The Shakes” opens things up as a classic, psychedelic pop zinger with a bouncy guitar line backed by hazy percussion before an atmospheric spaceout carries you off. “Amplifiers” takes on a tropicalia tone with swaying rhythms and a slow, steady beat. “Te Amo,” one of the record’s strongest tracks, heats things up with arpeggios, little climbs and falls of electronic collage. Yet what follows, somehow, includes some total stunners.
“Parallax” is a drugged-out, clavinet-heavy freakout with some of the record’s darkest lyrics: “He gave me pain / Gave me bruises,” he sings, before a haunting, hushed chorus: “Your pain is probably equal.” “Mona Lisa” sees a guest spot from MGMT’s Andrew VanWyngarden and some of the LP’s finest pop confections, while “Praying Man” is a fascinating look into Cox’s life with harmonica notes hovering above the guitar fray.
Cox dedicates himself to his work in the face of a perpetually damaged personal life, and as a result he’s created some great songs of anguish and emotional disconnection. Parallax is easily one of the year’s best releases.