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Parenthetical Girls - Entanglements

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Artist: Parenthetical Girls

Album: Entanglements

Label: Tomlab

Review date: Sep. 5, 2008

Answering the question, “How much ornate, edgeless indie-rock can you take?” will give you an idea of whether or not you’ll appreciate Parenthetical Girls’ Entanglements. Its vaguely experimental ambitions and occasionally interesting musical flourishes don’t do much to separate it from the mass of baroque indie already circulating, amassing often unwarranted critical acclaim.

“Four Words” begins with an instrumental tune-up that gives way to an orchestral assault that mimics the bombastic rises and falls of a Merry Melodies cartoon. Over this, singer/front-man Zac Pennington warbles like a college senior majoring in musical theater, so drunk on his own creative vision that he’s unaware that such an overblown delivery might sound a little silly.

The lugubrious moans, impassioned trills and howls continue along through the melodramatic “Avenue of Trees.” The circus-like orchestration, of “Unmentionables” offers a painful flirtation with showtunes. Unlike Stephin Merritt or Marc Almond, Pennington and his backing band simply don’t have what it takes to pull this off, and once again sound like artists obsessed with their own capability for drama, rather than artists from which drama naturally flows.

The entirety of Entanglementsis hopelessly in love with itself, leaping from orchestral surge to overblown orchestral surge with absolutely no sense of irony. The fact that it’s in the same neighborhood as self-consciously pompous acts like the Dirty Projectors might garner it some positive press, but when it comes down to it, this whole trend of masturbatory orchestral pop hasn’t produced much that hopes to remain enduringly memorable. Entanglementsis no exception.

By Matthew A. Stern

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