Sloan play together, separately
★★★★ Sloan (Yep Roc Records)
Just when we were ready to write them off as being past their songwriting prime, Sloan has returned with one of the band’s best albums in a decade.
Parallel Play has 13 short, punchy, and melodic songs that segue seamlessly from one to another in 37 minutes — so much so that you need to check to know you’re listening to the next track.
Still very much a musical democracy, the Halifax outfit named its ninth studio album after the child development phase where kids in the same room play with their toys independently beside one another. Sometimes that dynamic has been to the band’s detriment, as there are stronger songwriters amongst the quartet, and maybe that’s why Parallel Play is another inconsistent record.
The highlights come fast. Opener Believe In Me is classic Sloan, setting the tone in three minutes with a catchy guitar riff, harmonized vocal chorus and a great jam outro that you can imagine extended for live play. All I Am Is All You’re Not finds Chris Murphy singing over a warm, ’ 60s piano-and-guitar groove, while the Spoon-like Living The Dream drifts beautifully into the spacey, anthemic The Other Side.
Sloan probably won’t ever replicate the brilliant one-two- three-punch that was 1992’s Smeared, 1994’s Twice Removed and 1998’s Navy Blues, but Parallel Play will give you more to look forward to in their already great live shows.