Gates - Parallel Lives (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review


Parallel Lives (2016)

Pure Noise

New Jersey's Gates caught me by surprise a couple years ago. Pure Noise was putting out quite a few gems with bands like Troubled Coast and Elder Brother among the few I really got into. Bloom & Breathe turned out to be another of those that really made me stop and take notice. It drove me into their catalog and within a few minutes of skimming, I knew they were worth investigating in-depth. And their work didn't disappoint -- a beautiful mix of post-rock, indie and emo. Parallel Lives follows in the same vein, crafting even more soothing melodies, highly reminiscent of Moving Mountains and Pianos Become The Teeth (as of Keep You). This new album, however, doesn't flesh out and expand Gates' sound as I wanted but it's still worth quite a few listens. A lot of the tracks feel like B-sides to the previous LP which isn't that big a deal -- but again, on the few tracks they cut loose and explore a bit more, you can tell it's time they step out the comfort zone they've created.

First off, the quintet have a knack for cinematic, dramatic, ambient-heavy songs that feel made for indie flicks and trailers. Their strength undoubtedly lies in their instrumentation which is brought to life fully yet again by producers Kevin Dye and Mike Watts -- who've both done remarkable work with bands like As Tall As Lions and The Dear Hunter. Ethan Koozer's guitars play a huge part in this as Gates stress on the complexities of life and intersecting relationships. From the ethereal layers on "Empty Canvas" to the post-rock haze of "Forget" and "Habit", you're stung with how much of an extension this sophomore album is to its predecessor. Dye's vocals (as inspirational and clean as ever) combine with Dan King's guitars add to this lush sound that can best be described as warm and comforting. They've always talked about their unique creative process in the studio and how they create isolated from each other -- and a lot of it is reflected in their songs, more so in the ones whose tempo don't stick to formula.

"Penny" has a Pedro The Lion flair to it while "Shiver" unfolds with a '90s alternative rock presence. But both pale in comparison to the keys and acoustic backdrop of "Fade", further demonstrating how amazing Gates are when they flip the script. One of my friends called them as dynamic and atmospheric as Prawn and honestly, that's a pretty bold statement but one which grew on me because of the ambition they offer in recollecting what made New Brunswick pop for them. "Eyes" stands out the most on a record that could have done with more like it. It has a daunting, tense stance with shades of Deftones and Thrice embedded, especially in its explosive finale. In terms of overall criticism, more of these slow to loud climaxes were needed. The production could have also done with some more muddiness and aggression. That said, Gates do what they do best. But by now, they run the risk of sounding overdone. But for what it's worth, they're as graceful as ever, continuing the road they set out on from their earliest EPs. I'm just eager to see them evolve and I get the feeling they will. I can't wait to see the next step in their journey because when Gates decide to break free of their current modus operandi, I think it'll be a sound that'll leave us begging for a lot more.