Technically, Privilege is not a true new Parenthetical Girls album. Rather, it’s a compilation of songs culled from a string of 5 excellent EP’s released between 2010 and 2012. But since it’s hardly an uncommon practice to build your albums upon various shorter releases, I see no problem with labeling Privilege the band’s third LP. And as such, it is their strongest, most immediate collection of songs ever.
Whether you are able to enjoy Parenthetical Girls’ artsy chamber pop or not, depends to a great extent on your ability to live with Zac Pennington’s vocals. Which might take some time getting used to. Keeping in mind the video of one of the album’s biggest highlights, ‘The Pornographer’, I’d say that the singer sounds like a particularly whimsical Brett Anderson in the process of receiving a blowjob. However, do not be grossed out: reality beats imagining. Zac’s voice has that impressive power to slowly vibrate its was under your skin. It’s disturbing, but in a sort of beguiling, intriguing way.
If you’ve heard all the Privilege EP’s, chances are that you will not be completely satisfied with all of the band’s picks. And while I would agree that they inexplicably left off some great stuff (where the hell is ‘Portrait Of A Reputation’?), there’s little to complain about. The highlights are numerous. Usually, you would need a number of intent listens to start noticing hooks slowly, dreamily oozing out of Parenthetical Girls’ sensual, engrossing, intricately-produced whimsy. This time, though, there are plenty of catchy art-pop classics like the quick-paced waltz of ‘Evelyn McHale’, the dance-y ‘Careful Who You Dance With’ (sounds like a superior track off an 80’s album by Sparks), the above-mentioned ‘The Pornographer’ with a chorus to kill for, the infectious and kaleidoscopic ‘A Note To Self’… Obviously, in between these you get the familiar sticky, dreamy compositions that demand multiple listens. But pretty soon you will inevitably be swooned by the gorgeous, edgy charms of ‘Sympathy For Spastics’ or the title track.
I almost can’t imagine a stronger Parenthetical Girls album and a better starting point with the band. Granted, you won’t be able to stick your teeth into everything on Privilege, but if they got any sharper here – we wouldn’t be talking about Parenthetical Girls in the first place. Brilliant, unconventional album. In fact, I see this one in my 2013’s top 10 already.
Released on 14 February 2013 by Slender Means Society