Does Bradford Cox ever sleep? Probably the most insanely prolific songwriter in indie rock, the Atlanta-based musical savant behind both Atlas Sound and Deerhunter has managed to release at least one official full-length every single year since Deerhunter’s 2007 breakout, Cryptograms, not to mention his handful of EPs and extensive demo blog posts. Perhaps it shouldn’t come as much of a shock, then, that an overworked, overbooked Cox suffered a nervous breakdown in a hotel lobby earlier this year.
Parallax, his third LP as Atlas Sound (recorded in his cluttered bedroom months before that paralyzing bout with self-destruction), is vintage Cox—a potent mix of throbbing psychedelia, experimentation, and razor-sharp pop hooks that call to mind an early-’60s teen idol buried in reverb. “Found money and fame, but I found them really late,” he croons over melted sugar strums on “The Shakes,” and that disconnected, paralyzed tone is maintained throughout this album’s 50 minutes. There are some thrilling detours, too: “Te Amo” positively shimmers with color, riding manipulated synth arpeggios and layers of crisp percussion into a 3D universe of cascading waterfalls and wandering unicorns. The album’s second half tends to drift a bit aimlessly, particularly on sleepy-eyed acoustic lullabies like “Flagstaff” and “Terra Incognita,” but even Cox’s throwaways ache with escapism. “We’ll go to sleep/We’ll have such strange dreams,” Cox promises on “Te Amo.” You got that right, big guy.