Mic Check — Parenthetical Girls

The first time I heard Parenthetical Girls, I immediately e-mailed their MySpace page to a lady friend of mine, adding, "You'll love this. They sound just like 'Aladdin.'" I guess I stand by that. Androgynous frontman Zac Pennington belts his vocals as wide-grinned as Princess Jasmine, but the backing instruments expose the bleak pragmatism that coats his olde tyme wit.

The first chords of "Evelyn Mchale" evoke Okkervil River's "Lost Coastlines," and I suppose Will Sheff isn't a bad reference point for Pennington. Pennington's less bookish and less idealistic, but he boasts his hyper literacy with the same off-handed, breezy nature as Sheff. Overall, though, Pennington's melodrama adds a theatricality that Sheff whiffed at on The Stand Ins.

Parenthetical Girls' latest venture is an real doozy. They're recording five different EPs, releasing each as it's completed. Each EP will focus the lens of one of the five band members, and the fifth will include a commemorative box with space to hold the preceding four. And what's more—Each EP will see a limited release of 500 mail-order only 12" vinyls, individually numbered with the blood of the corresponding member. Assumedly it will have dried by the time it gets to your door.

The first EP (chapter?), Privilege, suggests this bloodshed is as apparent metaphorically as it is physically (poor writer cop-out alert, sorry). Pennington regresses chatter-pop to antiquity, synthesizing the kinds of minimalist orchestral grandeur that makes the Decemberists look like little more than overzealous slaves to pop glory.

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