Parenthetical Girls' eccentric singer, Zac Pennington, always wanted to live a life that revolved around music. So when writing about music (for The Stranger and others), promoting shows, and starting a record label didn't satisfy him, he opted for the only other option and formed a band. "I'd spent most of my youth with no patience to learn how to play, read, or write [music]," Pennington says. "So I'd always worked to make music my life in other ways." Dinking around in Everett on a four-track recorder with middle-school friend Jeremy Cooper birthed the first EP, a rough Phil Spector–influenced collection of home recordings, from what was then called the Swastika Girls. The inexperienced Pennington immediately knew this was the life he'd been seeking. "When I made music, it was far more satisfying than any other peripheral venue," he says. "I wasn't a musician, but I willed my way into the position."
And willed he has. Things didn't work out with Cooper, and fruitful collaborations with the Dead Science's Jherek Bischoff and Sam Mickens (such as on haunting pop albums like 2006's Safe as Houses) became more difficult when Pennington moving to Portland in 2004. For their newest and greatest album, Entanglements (released last month on Tomlab), Pennington recruited a stable four-piece band.
Parenthetical Girls have never been a simple endeavor, but the intricate care evident on Entanglements, which was recorded over two months between Seattle and Portland with dozens of players, is greater than anything they've done yet. The sheer size and power of its 11 songs is awe inspiring. Each song is a grandiose orchestration of horns, strings, and trotting drums, requiring around one hundred tracks of instrumentation each. The massive symphonic sound contrasts with Pennington's slick, finely tuned vibrato and morbid lyrical content obsessing over death and the human body.
Entanglements is a masterpiece—the album that should finally launch Parenthetical Girls into the brilliant spotlight where they belong. It's going to be difficult to re-create its magical sound live, but if the show is even half as good as the album, then Pennington's Parenthetical Girls will be a must-see at the Vera Project on October 17.
Fri Oct 17: The Globes, Shed, Cyrus Fell Down, Bow + Arrow at Ground Zero, 8 pm, $5.
Fri Oct 17: Kane Hodder, Speaker Speaker, A Pack of Wolves at the Old Fire House, 8 pm, $6.
Fri Oct 17: Parenthetical Girls, Evangelicals, Catfish Haven at Vera Project, 7:30 pm, $9 ($8 w/club card).
Sat Oct 18: D.Black, Bambu, Khings, Kore Ionz at Vera Project, 7:30 pm, $8 ($7 w/club card).