Plain White T’s: Parallel Universe

by Griff Stevens

After a three-year wait, Plain White T’s have released their highly anticipated eighth studio album, Parallel Universe.  The GRAMMY-nominated, multi-platinum alternative-pop band worked with producer Matt Squire (Ariana Grande, Panic! At The Disco) for the new album and is releasing it on Fearless Records on August 24th! The new album follows their 2015 independent release American Nights and marks their return to Fearless after thirteen years. The band, which is made up of: Thomas John “Tom” Higgenson: lead vocals, acoustic guitar and keyboards, Dave Tirio: rhythm guitar and backing vocals, Tim G. Lopez: lead guitar and backing vocals, Mike Retondo: bass guitar and backing vocals, and De’Mar Randell Hamilton: drums, percussion and backing vocals, still have that special ability to write endlessly hummable melodies. The fourteen tracks on Parallel Universe are filled with all the sounds that have made the Plain White T’s so popular, but the band has brought in elements of electronic pop and is strengthened by robust guitar tones and synth lines. The core of their sound is still as strong as ever and that is, intelligent lyrics that tap into real emotion set to catchy melodies and solid song structures.

“Your Body” starts with Higgenson singing a cleaver lyrical melody accompanied only by a clean rhythm guitar part. Higgenson’s vocals are controlled and warm, his delivery is clear and emotional. The second time through the form brings in a subtle drum beat and bass, as the song progresses, more parts float in and out building the track in subtle ways. The interlude before the bridge is a good example of the T’s bringing in elements of electronic pop influences, it works well and flows nicely to the bridge. This is a song the focuses on melody and lyrics, and you will find yourself humming the melody for hours after the tune has ended.

“Bonnie I Want You” showcases the grittier side of Plain White T’s and this is where they shine! With a reggae influenced beat and synth bass doubling the bass line for the electronic effect. The chorus is infectiously catchy and Higgenson’s voice has a nice rasp to it. All through the album there are little sounds and effects from the electronica genre coming in and out, this is effective and brings the band’s sound a modern edge.

Parallel Universe is a melding of rock, pop and electronica and not surprisingly, The Plain White T’s avoid the one-dimension-ness by mixing up the feels and tempos over the course of the fourteen songs. The songwriting is choice, the lyrics capture many emotions and the melodies are constructed beautifully. The album captures you on first listen with catchy melodies and pop-friendly beats, but holds you beyond that with adroit songwriting and a well-developed relationships between instruments and layering.

Tracks to sample first: “Your Body,” “Bonnie I Want You” and “Sick Of Love.” The song to take a chance on is “Light Up The Room.”

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