Parades – Foreign Tapes

The first thing that jumped out at me during my initial run-through of Parades’ debut full-length, Foreign Tapes, was the following thought: hey, these guys are good. Cutting-edge analysis and vocabulary, it certainly is not. But, on the other hand, it’s tough to underestimate the importance of first impressions when trying to evaluate a new artist. Underneath our mind’s dissection of the melodies, chord progressions, or percussive patterns a certain song may possess, there’s usually a simpler process going on unconsciously in which we categorize said song into one of two categories: competent or not. For my money, passing the initial “ear test” is the most important element in determining the relative worth of a song or artist.

And Parades certainly passes the “ear test.” These guys are from Sydney, Australia, and are led by something of a wunderkind multi-instrumentalist named Jonathan Boulet who recorded Foreign Tapes in his garage. Rather than producing a lo-fi, gritty rock ‘n roll record that you might expect from such a setting, though, Foreign Tapes is instead buffed with shimmering production quality and impressively varied instrumentation. Really, it’s tough to pigeonhole Parades into a particular label; the closest description I can think of that doesn’t sell them short is poppy progressive rock, somewhat along the lines of what The Dear Hunter or As Tall as Lions are doing these days. There are some constants on Foreign Tapes, however: atmospheric piano lines often provide the backbone of a song, but angular guitar lines and Boulet’s admittedly superb drumming will usually build to a crescendo off that base. As far as vocals are concerned, Boulet and guest vocalist Rebecca Shave sometimes trade off those duties while other times harmonizing together. Boulet has a rich, melodic voice in the Dallas Green Tradition of Pretty Boy Male Vocalists, but Shave probably ends up being more memorable in the final analysis.

The best song on Foreign Tapes, by far, is “Hunters”; it encapsulates all of the band’s strengths (Boulet and Shave’s dual vocals, shifting dynamics between tranquil piano passages and infectious guitar-driven crescendos) and features Boulet’s drumming and Daniel Cunningham’s imaginative guitar riffs at their finest. Elsewhere, Shave’s beautiful vocals elevate piano-driven tracks “Invaders (Review)” and “Lung Full Of Light.” If there’s something to knock about Foreign Tapes, it’s that Boulet & Co. are occasionally earnest to a fault; Boulet’s vocals in particular could use more variance and emotional depth. For a debut record, though, this is pretty top-notch stuff. Foreign Tapes is certainly worth checking out for any alternative or indie fan and marks Parades as a band to keep a close eye on in the future.