Pia Fraus – Empty Parks

Empty Parks is the latest album from Pia Fraus. The band moves into a slightly different direction with this latest offering, featuring a poppier sound that’s bright and sweet, with scattered hints of melancholy. This album blends dream pop with glowing synths, shoegaze and blissful electronica, with a narrative carried by stacked male-female vocals. I get a kind of floral vibe while listening to the album, Pia Fraus manages to create something that feels deeply in tune with nature despite the heavy use of electronic and synth instruments.

Empty Parks moves just like a dream, and it’s easy to get lost in its 45 min runtime. It’s 11 tracks seemingly congeal into a single narrative. Every track flows seamlessly with subtle differences. “Hidden Parks” relies on heavy use of guitar and strings to engulf you in a cinematic dreamworld. “Love Sports” teeters in and out of rhythm, which adds a dash of hesitation to its bright melody. “Slow Boat Fades Out” is a relaxing cruise that slowly dives into loneliness.

There are a few faster tracks that liven up the pace, but it still carries the same floaty theme. “Mr. Land Freezer” has heavier drums and guitars with a tempo that reminds me of a train ride that moves quickly while its passengers are lounging in place. “Paper Flower Projects” carries the most urgency in this album, a song that pleads in near-desperation with the line: “We must stay together / I don’t want to be alone again”.

Other standouts here are “The New Water” with it’s hazy, washed-up water color feel. The vocals evoke a cool breeze as it asks the question: “Where do you come from? / May I come with you?”. “Nice and Clever” is enveloped in a thicker cloud of synth swells, with the occasional glowing hint of sunshine that just peeks in and out of view. 

While other similar bands use effects and synths as a major selling point, Pia Fraus carefully adds these as little details to elevate the song. Each element blends so well that it’s hard to recognize where one instrument ends and another begins. This is no doubt due to the production and mixing of John McEntire, who is one of the most important figures in the indie scene since the nineties.

Empty Parks is a homecoming of sorts for the band, who reunites with older members in this new album, and it reflects on this record. It evokes the joy of reuniting with an old friend. It’s a positive and comforting companion to have during these trying times. A cup of tea and a warm blanket of sound is something we could all use.

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