The name Bradford Cox chose for his latest Atlas Sound release perfectly captures the connection between his two main musical outlets. Parallax is the term for the differences that become apparent when looking at the same thing from different vantages, and on his album of that name Cox continues to dissolve the distinct features that once separated the looping bedroom ambience of his solo work as Atlas Sound releases and the psyched up rock he worked up with Deerhunter. “Earthquake!” and “Helicopters” were among the highlights of his band’s recent Halcyon Digest, and they could have easily fit on the excellent Logos, Cox’s previous Atlas Sound effort. So it’s a fitting turn that on Parallax Cox includes fleshed out rock numbers “Nightworks” and “The Shakes” both of which could both slip nicely into a Deerhunter concert. It’s clear that Cox has a broad musical vision and he’s comfortable exploring any side of it whether working on his own, or with the friends in his band.
As an album Parallax can be a bit of a stylistic muddle, but through the shifting sounds it’s clear everything is springing from the same patently focused mind. Those hoping to see Cox build on the diversions he took in working with Panda Bear and Stereolab’s Laetitia Sadier on Logos might be a bit disappointed, but they shouldn’t be surprised. Like every subsequent release in Cox’s impressive catalog, Parallax avoids locking into past successes, instead uses them as springboards to carry him toward his next destination. On this leg of his travels Cox is once again doing it all himself, hanging close to his guitar and showing an significant confidence in his voice and songwriting even while singing with the lonesome vulnerability he expresses so well. Pop rock elements guide close to half the songs, but crackling loops and drifting tones find their places too, sometimes as the center around which songs revolve and others as delightful rewards for headphone listeners. When those elements are the focus, Cox knows how to use them. “Te Amo” brings a stream of tones to play with clear and strong vocals, and “Terra Incognita” builds up from delicate words and gentle strums to become a forceful drift of noise. Of course the rocker “Mona Lisa” is easily one of the catchiest things he’s ever done with clean cut sounds and pair of indomitable hooks. There’s always something a bit fresh to the way Cox decides to articulate his musical notions, and this album shows that regardless of the ways his influences and ideas phase around each other, the impressions he presents are among the most appealing to be found.