James Husband – A Parallax I

James Husband – A Parallax I

James Husband – A Parallax I

What makes a band like Of Montreal so good is not just their wide array of styles, their effective punch of showy glamour or even their impeccable knack at writing terrific melodies but that they take all of their influences and bring them up with the best touches. Kevin Barnes has always made sure that we all know just how much he loves The Beatles; even at his most playfully idiosyncratic, there are catchy melodies inside of all of his music.

And it’s especially remarkable just how high his band has risen: before they’d made one of the best albums of 2007, they’d already been making outstanding album after outstanding album of music. A constant in the band’s superb music was multi-instrumentalist, James Huggins. Recruited by Barnes to serve as a tastemaker in Of Montreal, Huggins’ impact was immediately felt as his focus on the gifted potential instruments possessed was something Barnes would surely hone in on.

So it makes perfect sense, now that Of Montreal has such a legion of fans, for Huggins to release his solo album as James Husband, A Parallax I. Music that has been steadily recorded and collected from the last twelve years, the album grows in a chronological order of music that is also heavily influenced by those aforementioned pop kings, The Beatles. With help, once again, from his counterpart in Of Montreal, Dottie Alexander, Huggins deploys music that is innocently smooth but with a mind of its own and he ends up being better because of it.

There isn’t much left to the imagination, Huggins layers his music with acoustic guitars and more often than not, his electronics swoop in to offer some well-suited mechanics. The music benefits from an arch that starts at the beginning and ends with better produced and composed music at the end. At the center of it is “While the Boys Went Down Under,” a Canadian-influenced tune that captures the essence of the album: motivated, adamant and earnest. Amassed in what appears to be the guise of a Carl Newman song, Huggins fluctuates from honest tenderness to a grittier side and there isn’t a problem to be found anywhere.

For many expecting something scattered and lit up like Skeletal Lamping or even The Gay Parade, they came looking in the wrong direction. This is more Cherry Peel-era than anything else and ironically so, that was an album Huggins didn’t even play on. “The Darkestness” begins with a collect call that never connected and Huggins slowly turns it into a hazy trepidation. Strumming his guitar and singing a sad ballad, with only an organ-like synth to back him, Huggins resemble Barnes at his earliest stages, when he was barely learning how to get on. Even the melody on “Grayscale” would be a perfect fit on any of Of Montreal’s albums.

Because even though the keyboard blips at the beginning of “Little Thrills” will surely fool you into thinking this would be an electronic explosion, Huggins comes in moderation with a great flair for melodies. That same song is followed by “A Grave in the Gravel,” where the album’s crunchiest guitar shows up, for ten seconds. And before you know it, you’re back into the smooth jive that Huggins will permeate through the entirety of this, his first proper album. Poised and collected, there isn’t anything noticeably fantastic about A Parallax I but there’s just enough to know and realize that Huggins has potential to build off of it.