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Review: Parcels - 'Day/Night'

As Parcels return with their much-awaited second studio album effort, listeners are offered the full-force of the Australian five-piece’s song-writing.

By Theo Kent, Music Editor

As Parcels return with their much-awaited second studio album effort, listeners are offered the full-force of the Australian five-piece’s song-writing.

It would be difficult to discuss Day/Night without mentioning its place as a second studio album. Not only are sophomore albums usually tricky, but Parcels’ enormous success from their eponymous debut meant that truly great things were expected from this follow-up. Even before their first full album, Parcels had already had their single ‘Overnight’ produced by legendary French duo Daft Punk. By the time they released their first album in 2018, the band had already reached dizzying heights. So, it’s fair to say that a lot was riding on this release.

Did they deliver? Well, it’s not quite as simple as that. The five-piece could have chosen to produce an album which sounded and felt a lot like the last, and this still would have been successful. Instead, the band chose to spread its writer/producer wings in an effort which is as impressive as it is long (almost an hour and a half).

Remi Ferrante Hartman, Sonic PR

From the beginning, the opener ‘LIGHT’ introduces several sounds that pervade throughout the rest of the double album. These being the sweeping, sprawling string section moments which give a movie-soundtrack feel, as well as the efforts to replicate classic funk and disco sounds. The album draws upon the band’s winning formula of immaculately polished disco production with glorious vocal harmonies, punchy bass and catchy guitar chops. However, the sound of this album feels somewhat more organic and natural; less squeaky-clean and more raw.

While Parcels’ more unique sounds can be heard in the album, the production frequently borrows from the past. Day/Night precariously walks the line between pastiche and cliché. For instance, the extended version of ‘Famous’ sees an instrumental funk section that sounds like it originates from 1977, followed by a brief exploratory jazz section which is similarly convincing. These moments are exemplary of the fact that the Parcels outfit are undeniably good at recreating classic-sounding production, but at times you wonder why they need to borrow from musical relics when the band otherwise has its own fantastic signature tone.

The album redeems itself with sensational bangers such as ‘Free’, which is characteristically infectious. A strong piano riff lays the foundation of a track which demonstrates the ability of frontman Jules Crommelin to write vocal lines that are instantly appealing and memorable. The band’s signature tone does make several appearances, though often developed and experimented-with in tracks such as ‘NowIcaresomemore’. This song sees the recognisable guitar chops, irresistible bass lines and rich vocal harmonies that fans are used to, but from a different angle; the sound is more vulnerable and stripped-back, while the heavily auto-tuned vocal refrain is haunting and gorgeous.

Whatever your thoughts on the album’s production and overall sound, it’s hard to ignore the primary thing that lends Parcels their appeal: song-writing immaculacy which is as captivating as it is soulful. ‘Somethinggreater’ stands out as a particularly salient example of this. The band’s vocal harmonies are so effortless and together that they almost sound like an instrument in themselves, while the vocal hook will leave you tapping your feet for days.

Parcels are keen to suggest the dual nature of this double album, with the first tracks of each disc (‘LIGHT’ and ‘SHADOW’) in big capitals in case the concept went over your head, which it may well have done. Yes, the first ‘disc’ is more upbeat and bright than the second more tender, swooning track list, but the concept is not a set rule, and it doesn’t truly matter. You get the impression that a band whose reputation was becoming one for glossy hit singles, wanted to throw aside expectations by writing a proper, grown-up concept album, the type of which belongs in the 70s as much as its production. The result is a combination of the two, but not fully one or the other.

Therefore, it’s better to listen to this album without any expectations. It doesn’t sound too much like the last album, and the simple day-night concept is slightly limp, but despite this, it delivers all you could really ask for: it sounds fantastic.

Featured image: Remi Ferrante Hartman, Sonic PR

What do you think of the new Parcels album?