On November 5th, Parcels dropped their new double album, Day/Night. Though the almost hour and a half runtime might seem long for an album in 2021, the even split between the Day side and the Night side make it a fairly straightforward listen. Though the grooves on this album are far from straightforward.
Right from the beginning, “LIGHT” showcases the complexity with which Parcels attacked this project. The string arrangements – which I will touch on more later – are intricate, the chord changes are precise, and the bass groove is so tight that it holds even through rests. There is nothing quite like this modern disco sound, but that doesn’t mean that Parcels have pushed themselves into a disco box by any means. Though I think a disco box would be pretty fun. I digress.
Even the band has described this new sound of theirs as “new-fangled cowboy disco,” mixing elements of “western folk and classic pop.” Obviously that’s an accurate description of the sound, as it came from the band themselves, but I think there’s more present than just those two genres. “Free” channels classic soul. “Comingback” sounds like it would come from Curtis Mayfield. “NowIcaresomemore” is classic R&B. And this is only covering songs from Day.
What makes Parcels unique is how they piece everything together, but also just the level of musicianship showcased in every instrumental track. The piano, whether electric or grand, is played so precisely that there’s not even a shadow of a doubt that DAW magic was involved… Until you watch videos of the band playing live and you realize “Oh, no, they’re just that good.” The drums on this project are incredible and metronomic, never losing the groove or missing a beat. The guitars are beautifully syncopated at moments and incredibly smooth at others.
However, the main difference between this and previous work from Parcels is the string arrangements. Handled by Owen Pallett (Taylor Swift, Arcade Fire, The Last Shadow Puppets, The Mountain Goats, etc.), they add an extra element that not only brings in the disco feel on tracks like “Famous,” “LordHenry,” and “Somethinggreater,” but also gives a grand, sweeping, cinematic energy to songs like “Neverloved,” “Thefear,” and “Theworstthing,” which you can read our review of here. Bringing Owen Pallett on any project for string arrangements is a genius move, and Parcels brought on not only him, but also James Ford (Arctic Monkeys, The Last Shadow Puppets, Jessie Ware, Gorillaz, etc.), who handled mixing. Which explains why this sounds so perfect.
This record is about so many things, primarily “identity vs anonymity, family vs independence, belonging vs isolation and nostalgia vs independence,” but lesser records have tried to tackle all of these subjects at the same time as well. Why do Parcels succeed where others have failed? Is it the intricacy and complexity of the musical elements? Is it the humanity of the sound? Is it the clean production allowing that humanity to shine through?
Obviously, it’s a mix of all of these elements, but everyone involved worked to make that mix perfect. It isn’t skewed towards one thing or another. It is equal parts intricacy, humanity, and clean production. Bringing in James Ford and Owen Pallett shows that while Parcels have a tremendous amount of fun on stage (deservedly so), they are ruthlessly serious behind the scenes, working to perfect an ever-changing sound.
All that being said, some of the album does feel a bit bloated. Song lengths feel a bit too long in some instances, and that might just be because I grew accustomed to the single lengths, but it was a bit jarring at first. There are certain parts of the album that seem stretched out for dramatic effect, and it doesn’t actually land as well as it could. It’s like when I saw Childish Gambino in Nashville in December of 2018. Some moments don’t need to be dragged on for an extra two or three minutes. Those who know me know I absolutely love Childish Gambino, so the fact that I’m even publicizing this opinion should tell you how seriously I take things.
That’s not anything too egregious, though. Also, Night is a better standalone album than Day, but having both in one package provides a good complement and helps the themes discussed come more to the forefront. The highs on Day/Night are so high, but the lows are so low that it ends up coming out “objectively” even. That’s in quotes because art consumption allows us to be so subjective that the objective doesn’t really matter. And I say that to say:
Day/Night, for all its flaws, is still incredible. The musicality on these tracks is phenomenal, and the production works wonders. Whether or not it’s “objectively” a wash between good and bad doesn’t matter. The incredible elements, to me, outweigh those negatives. I’d be remiss to not mention the negatives, but I think anyone can find something to enjoy about Day/Night.
Be sure to check it out below, and watch some live videos of Parcels. They are absolutely incredible. Let us know what you think as well!