Parlour Steps front-man Caleb Stull has this breathy quality to his vocals on opening track “As The World Turned Out” that, when backed by his female vocal counterpart, catches the attention immediately. The Hidden Names opens on an irrefutable high point whose edgy pop/rock clash has an upbeat quality that pushes it even further. It makes for a difficult follow-up for the rest of the album. The good news: Parlour Steps delivers.
“Little Pieces”, with its intricate guitar melody and calming piano, further demonstrates Stull’s songwriting ability and Parlour Steps skill at crafting an optimum accompaniment. In “Soft Lies” horns add a theatric element, while the soft harmony male/female vocals on “Sleeping City” make the song stand out pleasantly amidst the more edgy, bouncy tracks on the album. Following suit is “Bad Math” with a ballad-worthy melody partnered with an intermittent double-time guitar riff.
These are songs easy to enjoy, ones occasionally reminiscent of early The New Pornographers but obviously not overly similar. Parlour Steps have the ability to pump out agile, cohesive songs that are each unique in their own right but contain similarities in the pressing rush of percussion and honest, clever lyrics. And in The Hidden Names they do just that.
Parlour Steps: Little Pieces
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Parlour Steps: Bleeding Hearts [mp3]
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Nine Mile Records [CD, 2009]
1. As The World Turned Out
2. Little Pieces
4. Soft Lies
5. Sleeping City
6. Ring That Bell
7. Bad Math
8. Yesterday’s Tomorrow
10. The Catastrophists
11. Bleeding Hearts
13. Mad Mad Day