The Plain White T’s new album, “Parallel Universe,” puts forward a rather evolved sound never before heard by the Illinois rock band. Released on August 24th, the album presents an electronic sound that was wildly unexpected due to the group’s previous albums that revolved around 2000s alternative rock.
When I saw The Plain White T’s open for Snow Patrol in 2009, I recall the group’s setlist consisting of upbeat rocks tunes such as “Anything” and “Our Time Now.” The band proved its versatility to the crowd, setting the tone with slower songs including “1, 2, 3, 4” and of course, the band’s most popular 2005 song, “Hey There Delilah.” The band’s 2010 album, “Wonders Of The Younger” reached success with the song “Rhythm Of Love,” however, the band has since remained under the radar.
The band’s 2015 album, American Nights, presented a pop-rock sound that may have left some listeners confused. The T’s floated away from their original punk genre, producing a bland mix of pop songs that often lacked melody and lyricism. Not sure what to expect next, fans were again blindsided by the band’s 2018 album release.
I was eager to listen to ‘Parallel Universe’ considering I hadn’t truly listened to The Plain White T’s since middle school. The first track, “Light Up The Room,” was surprising due to the song’s EDM vibes. Although the band still heavily relies on guitar, the song revolved around pop-influenced bass lines and drops. Personally, this track did not stand out to me. Although produced well, the first couple of songs on the album seemed bland and generic in a hopeful attempt to lift the group’s lacking momentum. Nonetheless, this song sets the tone for the rest of the album.
It was unexpected that the band headed in this “pop” direction, however, I really enjoyed the album’s second track “Call Me.” Although the song’s tempo slows down, the electronic vibrations still ring true as a result of the synth influenced chorus. While the tune reminds me of today’s “top 40” tunes heard on the radio, the track is both melodic and well written by lead singer, Tom Higgenson, and the rest of the T’s. The remaining songs on the album manage to surround themes of romance.
What’s a Plain White T’s album without a handful of love songs? The deepest and most dynamic song on the album,“Your Body,” stuck out as the group transitions over to it’s crossover of authentic rhythmic guitar with modern electronic drum patterns. This is the most heartfelt song on Parallel Universe and truly captures The Plain White T’s attempt to mix their past soft sound with present-day electronic music.
The track “Top Of The World” is reminiscent of The Plain White T’s earlier projects such as their 2006 album, Every Second Counts. The up-tempo guitar riffs offer a nostalgic alternative rock sound that the group achieved in the last decade. My favorite song on the album, “Sick Of Love” puts forward 80’s style production revealed through the band’s groovy bass line and reverb guitar.
Although I wasn’t a big fan of The Plain White T’s attempt in crossing over EDM with rock n roll, I truthfully feel neutral about Parallel Universe. Obviously, rock music is ever-changing in today’s music scene. With that said, the group strived to provide their fans with a new “parallel” style of music including a fresh electronic sound while successfully integrating electric guitar riffs.