Parallax, the visual phenomenon that affects the perception of objects’ relative positions depending on the viewer’s distance from them, couldn’t be a more apt namesake for Bradford Cox's third officially released Atlas Sound album. Cox plays with distance, motion, and emotion on this set of songs, oscillating between the sparkling pop he does so well with this project as well as Deerhunter and the hazy experiments that are all Atlas Sound. From the start, it’s clear that Parallax will spend as much time with the blurry edges of Cox’s sound as with its catchy center: “The Shakes” starts things with pretty pop that has both feet more or less on the ground, but “Amplifiers” floats off into space instead of delivering the big choruses the verses seem to anticipate. When Cox removes all the fog and filters, the results are glorious pop like “Mona Lisa,” which features MGMT's Andrew VanWyngarden on keyboards and the song’s irresistible hook. However, for most of Parallax he plays with listeners’ expectations, sometimes switching between pop and atmospherics with seamless shifts, sometimes with jarring jump cuts: “Lightworks”’ cheery strumming follows “Flagstaff”’s white-on-white introspection so suddenly it feels like hitting the ground. But most of Parallax's songs sound like they can’t help dissolving into vapor trails, letting Cox's introspection ring out and decay in wide open spaces. “Doldrums” sounds so lost in the stars that past blurs into nothingness. While Cox has always forged a subtle but distinct identity for Atlas Sound apart from his Deerhunter work, it often feels like the melancholy that tinged the end of Halcyon Digest has seeped into Parallax. The album’s spacy shimmer is a will o’ the wisp that leads to the sadness lurking at the bottom of many of these songs. “Terra Incognita”’s dusky introspection -- which inches Cox closer to traditional singer/songwriter territory than ever before -- is set to an acoustic guitar line that curves like a question mark; on “Modern Aquatic Nightsongs,” he wonders, “Is your love worth the nausea it could bring?” over twinkling electronics, holding onto a raw emotionality that prevents its cloudiness from ever seeming indecisive. While Parallax's flyaway nature makes it less accessible than Logos, it’s a quietly satisfying album with a determined fragility that makes it all the more moving.
AllMusic Review by Heather Phares