Kid in the Spotlight

Enigmatic Deerhunter frontman Bradford Cox staked his claim in piercing art-punk in 2007 with the band’s sophomore release Cryptograms. Since then, Cox has progressively turned toward cleaner, more cohesive songwriting. And on Parallax, Cox’s first release since Deerhunter’s stunning Halcyon Digest and third release under his solo moniker Atlas Sound, the focus continues to pay off.

Album opener “The Shakes” wastes little time with its tight, motorik drum rhythm and hypnotic shoegaze chorus. It’s familiar territory, sounding more like a Halcyon b-side than anything from Cox’s ambient-heavy solo catalogue — all while working as a fantastic transition into Atlas Sound’s exploration of sleeker production and vocals.

Cox’s newfound confidence in his vocal range is evident on the album, especially when his crisp, untouched singing lifts, rather than supports, the album’s subtle chord progressions and intricate harmonies.

Take “Te Amo,” which has Cox impressively channeling Bjork’s sweeping wails over delicate, cascading piano loops. It’s a daring move for a songwriter who used to drown himself in distortion — and one of his best vocal performances yet.

On “Mona Lisa,” the most cheerful track on the album, Cox even gets downright poppy. (Well, for him). Upbeat drums are layered over acoustic guitar, as Cox’s Zombies-influenced vocal harmonies effortlessly deliver his signature stream-of-consciousness lyrics.  

Bowie-inspired love ballad “Modern Aquatic Nightsongs” finds Cox at his most vulnerable. “Is your love worth the nausea it could bring / Is your love worth those you left hurting,” he croons. The sentiment is almost juvenile in its simplicity but, more importantly, it is brave and achingly sincere.

Cox is still no showman — he’ll probably always be the guy with his hands in his pockets and eyes turned down towards his Converse — but now he’s at least confident enough to raise his voice.