Montreal three-piece Parlovr (pronounced “parlor”) formed in 2006 as a self-proclaimed reaction to the “multi-instrumental, many-membered orchestral bands” that were hanging around the city at the time. (All signs might point to the six-members-or-higher Broken Social Scene, had the band not been from Toronto.) The trio, comprising Alex Cooper, Louis David Jackson and Jeremy MacCuish, released its first album in 2008, a self-titled LP recorded with Martin Horn of Digital Bird Studios. Too kooky to be garage rock, this album sounded like it was bred in a windowless basement where the band members had gone stir crazy. But beneath the layers of frantic, sloppy surf rock and screaming pop-punk vocals, the band showed signs of melodic goodness. The 2010 EP that followed, Hell/Heaven/Big Love, found the group honing in on those singable phrases. And finally on this year’s Kook Soul, Parlovr has found its footing, with one planted in the sound waves of beach pop and the other in the Jerry Lee Lewis freneticism of early rock ‘n’ roll.
The band reunited with Horn on Kook Soul, recording the album in the winter of 2011. Its bright guitar-based melodies suggest a summertime, or at least a spring, production session. But its lyrical themes of person-to-person troubles betray the gloomy season. As Cooper has explained, Kook Soul is about “pining over relationships,” and he does plenty of it. “Just Marriage” is introduced with a siren-like, tornado-warning wail. “Oh how the nuptials/They only pull the wool over your eyes,” sings Cooper. It’s a rough reality softened by warm, bluesy 4/4 percussion and a teenage-like falsetto that’s reminiscent of the one belonging to OK Go’s Damian Kulash.
Parlovr now sounds less scattered in its playing, and in exercising more restraint, the band is making sharper songs. “You Only Want It ‘Cause You’re Lonely” literally shushes you before it gives out one of the most memorable choruses of the album. It’s one of Kook Soul‘s best, not only because there’s a snap-along backbeat (Who needs the clap when you can have the snap?) but because there’s variation. When a song begins at a speaking level with the line “You’re close enough to know the truth/But you’re too far away to know what to do,” the only way to go is up, and the band does that–in volume and in tough love. The electric guitar kicks in on the chorus as Cooper caws the title: “You only want it ’cause you’re lonely.” Truth hurts, but Parlovr is ready to give it to you under the comforting guise of polished pop.