Vancouver's Parlour Steps have found themselves in an unusual place on their 2009 album -- good enough if somewhat nondescript at what they do the most, but with better strengths underplayed yet hinted at throughout the album. On the face of it, the quintet is simply yet another early 21st century indie rock band in a field choked with same -- there's a hint of the Decemberists' theatricality, the wiry nervousness of Spoon's efforts, and perhaps inevitably, a little bleedover from acts like the New Pornographers, though to their credit Parlour Steps don't completely clone one band or another at any point. Still, for the most part, things are just that, pleasant power pop for a newer generation that's a little more beholden to keyboards than post-Beatles guitars, and which, more often than not, seems to permanently operate on jaunty/peppy mode, as songs like "Soft Lies" and "Blindness" show. But lead figure Caleb Stull has an often sweet singing voice that suggests the underrated Joe Cassidy of Butterfly Child, and while the band generally doesn't show the complex reach of that performer at his considerable best, more than once the Parlour Steps slow down (or strip down) the performances enough to show suddenly different shades in what they create. Thus "Little Pieces," near the start of the album, lets Stull's singing stand out over a more considered but not lugubrious arrangement, while other songs like "Yesterday's Tomorrows" and "Sleeping City" allow this delicacy to gently thrive. Whether or not this side of the band is pursued more is up to them, but it's the glimmer to keep in mind for the future.
AllMusic Review by Ned Raggett