SLOAN: Parallel Play [Yep Roc]

From Big Star to beard-era Beatles, Sloan’s sprawling Never Hear The End Of It hit all the classic pop touchstones and more over the course of 30 songs. Two years later, the 13-track Parallel Play is a decidedly less ambitious effort, but it’s no less brilliant in its execution. Once again, all four band members have a hand in the songwriting, yet the Nova Scotia group’s ninth album is a surprisingly cohesive display of power pop’s key attributes. Bright vocal harmonies, handclaps, a keyboard squiggle here and there, an occasional Buddy Holly hiccup, razor-sharp guitar hooks—all of the genre ingredients are present in perfect measure. Indeed, if you’re the type who can’t fathom why power pop hasn’t taken over the world, you’ll experience an almost childlike joy within the first few fuzz chords of opener “Believe In Me” that will quickly turn to giddiness from the abundance of hooks deployed on the first three songs alone. There are exceptions to the formula, including skinny-tie punk (“Emergency 911”), Dylan-esque roadhouse blues (“Down In The Basement”) and an ill-advised exercise in white-boy reggae (“Too Many”). Parallel Play joins the likes of Matthew Sweet’s Girlfriend and the Posies’ Frosting On The Beater in the pantheon of power pop. []

—Matt Ryan