Parallel Suns is a warm, friendly record with immediate appeal: its mix of psychedelia and folk seems effortless and natural, a creative synthesis of Grateful Dead riffs and Mike Mothersbaugh arrangements. Unfortunately, Samara Lubelski’s tepid voice purrs and wafts over the music like that one balloon at the party that’s losing helium: it’s alternately creepy and annoying and you end up just wanting to pop it and put it out of its misery. I’m not making the case that female vocalists should have cookie cutter voices or that everyone should be able to compete with Aretha Franklin. I only mean to say that I would compare Lubelski’s singing on Parallel Suns to a falsetto, reedy version of Nico. She matches Nico for lack of skill as a vocalist but doesn’t approach her confidence and character. And as any practitioner of karaoke will tell you, confidence and character will compensate for skill any day (also, ask Madonna, Britney Spear and a host of other “singers”). Female vocalists should know that singing is like an orgasm- easy to fake.
Given the fact that adequate singing does in fact take little more than confidence, I find it almost angering to listen to Lubelski wade half-heartedly through her own record. The music demands a better vocal track and for someone as talented as herself it’s almost insulting to have to listen to her waifish moaning, not only in her execution but in the subsequent production, where it seems they tried their hardest to bury her voice in sound.
This last critique points to something else: I’m almost positive that Samara Lubelski is great live. I’ve never seen her perform, but her music reminds me of the kind of loose, jangly folk that I saw at many house shows in Olympia and Eugene. Unfortunately, that energy didn’t translate to this album, and I’d almost go so far to say that if you took out the vocal track completely it would be a great album.