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Parlor Walls - "Opposites" | Album Review

by JP Basileo (@jpbasileo)

Sometimes it’s good to remind ourselves that good art is rooted in a full range of human emotionality. The artist dons a veil that makes us forget that they are first and foremost, human, and, as such, susceptible to feelings, perhaps more so than others, necessitating their translation and interpretation onto the canvas, or, in the case of Parlor Walls, into their music. On their new album, Opposites, singer Alyse Lamb doesn’t so much wear her heart on her sleeve so much as she does throw it on the floor in a blood-spattered mess, piecing it back together with a magnifying glass and a pair of tweezers. It’s not an album for getting out of one’s head or escaping one’s troubles, but rather, it’s for confronting and wrestling with them head-on. From the dream-like trance initiation on opener “Crime Engine Failure,” a general unease is introduced, only to grow increasingly agitated and anxiety-ridden with the progression into the second track, “Cover Me.” Staccato, at times jerky, rhythms reveal an agitated state, offset by Lamb’s desperate lyrical pleading, “Cover me, will you please? Keep me warm, put me at ease.”  

If not in the lyrics themselves, you can hear the trio battling for self-discovery and realization and understanding, through their instruments. Kate Mahonty’s saxophone provides an added texture simultaneously haunting and beautiful and absolutely blood-curdling. Shrill trills and shrieking experimentations add, at times, a curious prod to an already heightened mood, otherwise evoking the full-on voice of a banshee. Both throbbing drums and brooding synth are covered by Chris Mulligan, who impressively is more able to play both seamlessly. The three (four) unique voices range from fear and uncertainty on “Love Again” (“You throw me on the fire, so I can love again”), to anger and melancholy on “Play Opposites” (Is this what you wanted mother, Empty shells to fill your hole? Talk to me just like my father, Is this what it means to be free?”), to joy and self-fulfillment on “Birthday” (“Don’t you know I’m perfect?”), and everything in between. Having perfected an aesthetic chemistry together, Parlor Walls tear down the cover of “artist” and display bare humanity, not only for themselves, but for everyone, everywhere. Opposites begs the question, “What are you afraid of?” and leads by unabashed example never to be afraid of self, nor of feelings, even if it’s too much.