There is an internal logic to the dance song that I will never understand. Something with the ever ascending chord progressions, relentless back beat, an infinite upwards spiral of un-arced energy that I can never keep up with. Something about having an unwound internal clock and subsequent lack of rhythm, a born-with immunity to calculated and controlled kinetic release that has vexed me. With that said, Toronto’s Parallels defy my genetic predisposition to swim in safe waters of rhythm-less ambience and face-flattening blast beats and unlock the side of me that always wanted to be a dancer. All mesh tank-tops, Jehri curl, and fingerless gloves.
Parallels is the brain-child of ex-Crystal Castles drummer Cameron Findlay and Toronto muse Holly Dodson, who participated in a Postal Service type musical relationship before circumstances led Findlay to team up with Dodson to unleash their uncompromising take on 80’s synth-pop. Where their contemporaries sometimes experience an identity crisis in making tongue-in-cheek nods to synth heavy pop groups while at the same time try to update a musical style most fondly remembered as nostalgia, Parallels rarely run into this wall, placing all their eggs in the basket of Dodson’s chartreuse-like Madonna, Tiffany, Lauper mall-pop voice and Findlay’s fine balance between monotone synth pad rhythms and soaring lazer beam synth lines. There is no coy wink in these songs, they hopped in that Deloreon and are broadcasting live and direct from the gilded age of excess. The occasional use of the vocoder on Dodson’s voice, while used conservatively, is a cheesy effect that nevertheless stops me dead in my track. The ghostly remnant of a twin-tracked, pitch-shifted voice gives the more subdued tracks of “All We’ll Ever Know”, “Magnetics” and “Dry Blood” a haunting sense of emotional weight that is hinted at across the whole album. This isn’t “Material World” Madonna, this is True Blue era Madonna when she had something to say. This is by far the best synth-pop album I have heard this year, and I have heard a surprisingly large number of them. For how much my wife loves the sticky sweet pop of modern hip-hop radio and for the platinum blond excess of the eighties, this has quickly climbed to the number one most requested album in the house. Move over Usher.