Since its earliest releases, Atlanta’s Deerhunter has been subject to incredible scrutiny, critical and otherwise; at one point, guitarist Colin Mee quit partially over “receiving (and creating) too much press.” But the noise-rock experimenters have been equally fenced in by their increasing popularity, with frontman Bradford Cox spending interviews bemoaning the creative limitations of success. No wonder, then, that Cox side-project Atlas Sound, with its bedroom genesis and intimate intent, has always felt like his refuge. Parallax, Cox’s third Atlas full-length, is as attentively produced as 2009’s superbly spacey Logos, but the songs shed some of his usual studio trickery in favor of broad melodies and open chords. Throughout, Cox’s guitars shake off country-western dust and his vocals hide behind Sun Records slapback: given Cox’s post-punk roots, it makes for an oddly American-sounding record, like Elvis jamming on Richard Branson’s next Space X flight.
Parallax refers to the difference between two lines of sight, but here, it’s less about charting the stars than the divide between human perceptions. In “Te Amo,” Cox and a lover can only share “such weird dreams,” while when he sings, “Your pain is probably equal,” in the title track, it’s more guess than acknowledgement. Religion offers no better answers: in “Praying Man,” he sputters, “Will you dip me in the water, will you baptize me?” like a person drowning. Yet the songs are sublimely tuneful, pushing the pop footsteps of Deerhunter’s 2010 release Halcyon Digest into a joyous sprint. There are no blasts of noise here, no eruptions of dissonance; moments of reverb-cocooned atmosphere exist only to better resolve into triumphant hooks. It’s a brilliant feat: to make a record about distance, Cox has written the most effortlessly approachable music of his career.