Parlor Walls just hits different on Belly Up EP

photo by Michelle LoBianco

There’s a self-described “creative salad” take-out joint where I go to grab lunch sometimes when I’m working my day gig in midtown Manhattan (yes “The Deli” has a desk jockey job…so much for 24 hour rock ‘n’ roll hedonism!) and when I visited the other day and ordered my go-to order with spicy shredded chicken, warm grains, black beans, cotija cheese, avocado, scallions, tortilla chips, and marinated kale topped off with a drizzle of Mexican Goddess dressing I informed the “salad artisan” that while their menu is solid overall, this particular menu item is my fave and he sagely offered, “yeah, it just hits different” and I thought “wow, what an apt phrase for that certain je ne sais quoi that sets certain things apart in some difficult-to-articulate but undeniable manner whether it’s a salad or a sandwich or a song.” 

And so when I listen to the band Parlor Walls they remind me of this salad because their music just hits different in a way that’s hard to pin down—at once dread-inducing and ravishing—with pungent flavor notes like musically-marinated kale with cotija cheese and scallions as heard on their most recent EP Belly Up—an evocative title phrase that can mean either the act of sidling up to something appealing (“let’s belly up to the bar and enjoy a cold brewski”) or being in a state where one is hopelessly ruined or defeated (“my stock portfolio went belly up after the pork belly future market collapsed”) and it’s a paradoxical dynamic that’s perfectly apt for the band.

Belly Up opens up with a tune called “In Knots” (shot off, limb for limb / just another day when / belly up, belly up / eyes are peeking, through your hands / it is in knots, it is in knots) that sounds like a sweater or a mental state or a lifetime of accumulated inhibitions just about to unravel but somehow remaining precariously intact for the durations of three minutes at least, a song that opens (and closes) with a few seconds of mellifluous vocal harmonies before launching into a buzzy sub-bass drone backed by tribal tom-toms and the sound of a smoke alarm with low batteries overlaid with thick gelatinous guitar chords smeared across the song’s surfaces.

So maybe you see what I mean by just hitting differently but if you don’t just keep listening. The next track “Work!” combines an undulating melody line with woozy, seasick textures and the titular exclamation to create an upside-down rewrite of “Whistle While You Work” updated for the neoliberal workplace while “The Lock” is chill-out music for paranoiacs and “Hour After Hour” is the perfect dance soundtrack for those same paranoiacs after ingesting a decent dose of electrolytes and vitamin C and who knows what else. Which are all just my own subjective song interpretations of course because Parlor Walls are likely to hit everyone a little differently you see… (Jason Lee)

For fans of: Guerilla Toss, Spirit of the Beehive, Portishead’s Third

Parlor Walls are: Alyse Lamb: vox, guitar; Chris Mulligan: drums, samples; Andy Kinsey: bass, synth

Belly Up recorded at Marcata Studios & The Brick Theater; engineered and mixed by Kevin McMahon & Ernie Indradat

Upcoming live appearances: 6/23 Our Wicked Lady rooftop show
Live score for Nitehawk Cinema "First Nasty Women Feminist Shorts"