Though doled out tastefully and not continuously, the first thing that stands out about the sound of New York City's Parlour Tricks is the tight, three-part female vocal harmonies reminiscent of the swing era. The second thing, and not far behind, is lead vocalist Lily Cato's inviting, luxurious tone that's at least as distinctive, if not quite as attention-grabbing, for a passive listener. Third is the catchy indie pop songwriting and danceable rhythms that together provide a vessel to make it all go down like a turn on the water slide. Originally called Lily & the Parlour Tricks but rebranded before their debut, the six-piece rely on vocals for most of the heavy lifting on their first full-length album, Broken Hearts/Bones. With a standard guitar/synth/bass/drums configuration running under its singers, there is a handful of notable instrumental moments on the album -- such as the bass action on "Gone" and the agile drum and guitar rhythms of "When the Stars Went Out" -- however, they are fleeting as the record delivers mostly simple hooks and dance rhythms in service of richer vocal and melodic offerings. An early single from the album, "Lovesongs," is representative of Broken Hearts/Bones, with efficient, syncopated rhythm section work, subtle synths and guitar, and those harmonies, alternating with often-sparsely accompanied solo vocals, eventually building to a disco-y climax at the end. Most of the album is similarly dance-friendly without being clubby. As is fair to assume by the record's title, the lyrics deal mainly in loss, reminiscing, and yearning, though rarely with a gloomy delivery. The few ballads include the atmospheric but urgent title track ("Hope to die and cross my heart"), the pensive "When the Stars Went Out" ("She could have loved you if you let her"), and the melodically gorgeous vocals in "Walk in the Park" ("Oh, baby's all alone/Lock up what you own/It's just like a walk in the park"). Vocals are strong throughout the album even without the noted harmonies; Cato is capable of a nuanced, jazzy delivery, such as on the quirky "Bukowski." The end result is an elegant and affable debut, not always memorable but warm and, at times, delicious.
Broken Hearts/Bones Review
by Marcy Donelson