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Music Review: Sloan – Parallel Play

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After perhaps overloading things with the 30-track smorgasbord Never Hear the End of It, Sloan has followed up the 2006 giant with a slick, sleek, speedy entry.

Parallel Play is the antithesis of Never Hear the End of It, with songs melding into one another with little more than a breath between cuts and a quick gait that keeps things moving considerably well throughout the record’s 13 tracks.

Parallel Play mines all that is good about the power pop quartet from Halifax, putting melodic and poppy tracks next to one another in quick succession. This is sweet, easy-going music.

Where Never Hear the End of It was expansive and substantial in its scope, Parallel Play is succinct and imaginatively small. The sequence is really the trick here, as Sloan has placed the tunes in perfect order and has streamlined things to an almost absurd degree. The album sounds almost too clean.

One of the knocks on Sloan through the years has been that the members lack distinction. I don’t buy it.

In a day and age of pop stars breaking free from the clay in which they were created to strike out as individuals and formulate half-assed solo albums, it’s refreshing to see a Gang of Four like Sloan hold to their guns and produce music as a cohesive unit. Parallel Play works with that strength and gives equal measure to each member, bringing the most out of the collective.

Everyone gets a shot at lead vocals, giving the album a sense of broadness that few power pop records manage.

Take Peter Pentland’s “Believe in Me,” the album’s lead-off, for instance. Starting the album off on the right foot, the fuzzy riffage that welcomes the listener to is all sorts of rapturous brilliance. Pentland’s ability to lay it down in front of the song and not detract from the swirling organ behind him is part of what makes his vocals so fucking cool.

Sloan switches instruments accordingly when they play live, so everyone gets a shot at blasting out their own songs. While Pentland has been responsible for some of Sloan’s bigger hits, that sure as hell doesn’t take away from the rest.

Jay Ferguson has some of the most interesting tracks under his wing on Parallel Play, including the bouncy “Cheap Champagne” and the beautiful “If I Could Change Your Mind.”

Meanwhile, Chris Murphy gets the pleasure of penning the album’s greatest track, “All I Am Is All You’re Not,” a simply stunning scorcher with bluesy guitar accents and a gorgeous chorus. Murphy’s also at the helm with “Living the Dream” and the autobiographical “I’m Not a Kid Anymore.”

Not to be outdone, Andrew Scott’s tracks are some of the most interesting. The blast of “Emergency 911” is interestingly offset by the psychedelic “The Dogs” and the Dylan-esque “Down in the Basement.”

All in all, Parallel Play is a great record to serve as a companion to Never Hear the End of It. It’s an opus of the highest order, a slick and sleek record worthy of several spins.

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About Jordan Richardson