May 18, 2009

Album Review: Parachutes Losing Sleep

You most likely have no idea what anyone in Parachute looks like or the five members look like, but you already know what they sound like. The Charlottesville, Va.-based quintet has a developing hit on its hands with "She is Love" by virtue of the closest thing we have to a national radio station these days: usage in a ubiquitously-running television commercial. In this case, the lilting ballad can be heard in an advertisement for Nivea Body's Smooth Sensations.

Buoyed by the ad, burgeoning airplay and the song's availability as iTunes single of the week, "She is Love" propelled "Losing Sleep," the album on which its featured, to the No. 1 spot on Itunes' overall album chart days before its May 19 release. (The song is offered twice on "Losing Sleep" in a stripped-down, lovely version with lead singer Will Anderson accompanied only on acoustic guitar, and a full band version.)  

Parachute is cut from the same cloth as the Fray, Maroon 5, John Mayer, Vertical Horizon and Ben Folds. In other words, if you like tame pop rock that's soft around the edges, this will be right in your sweet spot. Parachute's band mates have been playing together since they were high school. That familiarity and comfort with each other, guided by John Shanks (Sheryl Crow, Bon Jovi), who produced most of the album, gives "Losing Sleep" a nice sensation that the band members know what they're doing. They did a lot of the heavy lifting-playing more than 200 east coast shows last year alone-before they got into the studio so there's not the uncertainty or timidity that is often found on a debut CD.

That said, the range of material here runs from A to B:  there's the song where the boy gets the girl, then there's the one where he loses the girl; then to really mix it up, there's the one where the girl has tossed him to the curb and he decides to haunt her like a ghost until he gets her back, there's the one where he realizes the damage he's done to the girl and hopes he can make it right. You get the idea. Yes, love is what makes the world go round and probably 95% of all pop songs are about the above love, but after a while, you're  screaming for a little diversity.

Additionally, musically, too many of the songs fall into two main grooves: Ben Folds-like piano-oriented mid-tempo tunes that don't build to any kind of climax and slightly buoyant, rhythmic pop songs such as the kind made famous by Maroon 5, such as "Back Again" and "She (For Liz)." Unfortunately for Parachute, the problem is both of those artists do that kind of thing better than they do.

But stick with "Losing Sleep" and there it is, a little gem buried way toward the end: Track No. 10, to be exact. On "The New Year," Parachute delivers a peppy little pop nugget. The infectious blast should have shown up sooner. Like the real New Year's, too many listeners may have already fallen asleep before the ball drops.

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