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Parenthetical Girls

Safe as Houses

(Slender Means Society; US: 27 Jun 2006; UK: Available as import)

Safe as Houses is delicate in approach—dreamy synth-pop is perhaps the genre—and almost shockingly physical in its lyrics. The first line on the album: “There’s blood between my legs / And in the grass outside your house I came.” Zac Pennington’s singing is brittle, broken, and intense, his voice lending a harsh side to the often pretty music, while remaining pretty in its own ugly way. The songs build, in a Radiohead/Sigur Rós sort of way, though less epic, and they build stories of pain, suicide, doomed pregnancies, death by train, abuse, and savagery. These tales are drawn across bodies, within a musical cloak of hazy beauty. Music box, bedtime melodies meet with expressions of horror in uneasy, mysteriously attractive ways, sometimes meeting in a blast that makes the song seem like it will disappear into abstraction. But it never does: this is pop music. Dark, challenging, ugly, pretty pop music.

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Dave Heaton has been writing about music on a regular basis since 1993, first for unofficial college-town newspapers and DIY fanzines and now mostly on the Internet. In 2000, the same year he started writing for PopMatters, he founded the online arts magazine ErasingClouds.com, still around but often in flux. He writes music reviews for the print magazine The Big Takeover. He is a music obsessive through and through. He lives in Kansas City, Missouri.


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