In 2014, a band known as Gates marked their formal entry into the scene with their debut album, Bloom & Breathe. The album stood out for two major reasons; one being that it was released under Pure Noise Records, a predominantly pop-punk label. The second reason is that it was a 13-track album that displayed a carefully crafted, detailed sound of soaring atmospheric soundscapes utilizing a peculiar mix of post-rock, emo and post hardcore; elements that aren’t typically combined together. Yet again, here we are almost 18 months later and the quintet is back at it with their sophomore release, Parallel Lives. The album name was inspired by the thought of seeing different people on the streets and never knowing who they really are; the idea of two lines (or lives) always meeting, but never crossing. With that idea set in stone, the band set out to overcome any potential sophomore slump and improve on where they failed before.
The album starts off with what Gates knows best, the harmonious sounds of synths. Utilizing these, there’s a brief solitude in sound before drums and a somber piano join along. Capitalizing on the atmosphere, airy vocals enter the fray and show off the fully-encompassed sound the band has become known for. While they are showcasing their signature style within the first few tracks, Parallel Lives shows a side the band hadn’t quite explored with their previous work. Going beyond their initial comfort zone, there’s richer sounds due to the utilization of a variety of instruments and shorter runtimes giving the tracks a much more impactful and longer lasting feeling. From the slower, piano led “Fade” to the more upbeat “Penny”, there’s an exemplary amount of uniqueness to each piece of music that makes up the overall album while still retaining semblances of the subdued atmosphere from the debut.
While some releases tend to live on the edge of a few singles and a large majority of fillers, Parallel Lives strays away from that as best as possible. For those who are looking for standout tracks to showcase Gates best, “Shiver” is the recommended go to song. This is due to having one of the more, shiver inducing moments on the album as the song’s bridge is elevated through a barrage of synths and desperate proclamations from vocalist Kevin Dye. These kind of cathartic moments are found in abundance throughout the full runtime of the album and truly showcase the band’s desire to elevate their lush atmospheric sound to another level while being able to deliver hard-hitting, emotional moments. The title track, “Parallel Lives” serves as the album’s closer and brings the album’s theme full circle as pulsating digital drums and guitars build up to the line ‘’All we seem to be are parallel lives caught crossing’’. This simplistic lyric assuredly holds a special place within the band’s core, since the five members were complete strangers, living in distant states in the US before their lives somehow intertwined and formed the band.
With Parallel Lives, we see Gates not only build off of what they created with Bloom & Breathe, but wholeheartedly expand on it. Featuring new ideas, new sounds and a progressive push forward while maintaining the semblance for who they are at the deepest levels, the album showcases the next logical step forward for the band.
With Parallel Lives, Gates manages to improve on the sound explored in Bloom & Breathe and continue to move forward as a band, exploring new ideas & sounds to deliver a worthy follow-up and a great addition to their discography.