Never having driven an automobile in the city of brotherly love, I cannot say
that I harbor any ill will against its parking authority. I do, however, have
a friend who has lived in Philly for the last few years and has had more than
his share of run-ins with the fascist regime that passes for the Philadelphia
Parking Authority, and is more than willing to hold a grudge. Sean Byrne and Lucas Zaleski, the two
musicians who comprise The Twin Atlas, clearly aren't placing the PPA at the top of
their Christmas card list either.
The Philadelphia Parking Authority Must Die is a gorgeously multi-tiered
homage to classic pop. Throughout the album's 26 songs, Byrne and Zaleski
weave quixotic tales of urban disillusion, loneliness and heartbreak,
augmented with smatterings of shimmering guitars, plucky banjos and heaping
stacks of melody. A decidedly lo-fi album, TPPAMD's scratchiness serves only to enhance the moody dissonance and
subtle nature of the songs. As the album progresses, many of the group's
influences become apparent (Syd Barrett, Elliott Smith and Johnny Marr come
readily to mind). But rather than merely ripping-off or exploiting their
heroes, The Twin Atlas effortlessly integrate these elements into their own sonic storybook.
From the moment after pressing play until the very end of the album,
listeners will be treated to one glistening pop delight after another. At their
most melancholic, as on the downtrodden "Hold the Day" or the mournful
"Moving Pictures", the band is reminiscent of Bryter Layter-era Nick Drake.
At their punchiest ("Glen Drive March" and "Arrow Slit Designs"), the
Twin Atlas recall On the Beach period Neil Young. Elsewhere, glowing rockers
like "Nineteen Lives Back" and "First Train Travels" emit a sophisticatedly
droning Guided by Voices-like vibe. And though not immediately apparent, each
passing song allows a little more of the group's loveliness to seep into
your pores -- and eventually into your heart.
Ultimately, TPPAMD is the sound of two
men trying to find beauty in a world that has been overrun by ugliness, greed and corruption. Mercifully, they have succeeded in their search. Perhaps the Philadelphia Parking Authority will get one of those Christmas cards after all.