Plain White T’s try out new sound

By Ginger Simons

The Plain White T’s eighth studio album “Parallel Universe” sits at the intersection of heartbreak and catchy synthesized beats. Released Friday by Fearless Records, this album acts as a slight departure from the band’s typical sound.

Where the band’s previous seven albums heavily feature rock songs and pop ballads, this album steers the band into an electronic territory where most instrumentation sounds digital. Trying their hand at a more conventional pop sound, the tracks off this album deliver both angsty songs of failed love and hits fit for a dance party.

While the album takes a turn toward dance pop, the overall sound is mellow, with an undercurrent of emotion. The bass isn’t overwhelming, and many songs like “No Tears” can be described as atmospheric, even trancey. With this album, the Plain White T’s are exploring an interesting contradiction: the marriage of a mainstream pop sound with a dark edge that contemporaries lack.

The album is tied very loosely around the story of a romantic breakup and the aftermath. In the introductory track “Light up the Room,” the lyrics refer to the elated infatuation the narrator feels upon meeting a new woman, even though he suspects she’ll eventually break his heart.

The vocoder used in the track “End of the World” evokes an Electric Light Orchestra-type vibe, and what follows is a groovy but existentially daunting track worth dancing to.

As a counter, “Top of the World” brings the album back down to Earth as the track opens with a guitar riff more reminiscent previous work.

The upbeat sound of songs like “I Should Be Dead” and “Bury Me” mask a darkness as the narrator sings lyrics like, “I’m feeling rich but I got no money; I’m in a ditch but at least it’s sunny.” Presenting an edgier and more mature tone than earlier carefree ballads like “Hey There, Delilah,” this album begs the question: Do the Plain White T’s need a hug?

Overall, the band succeeds in experimenting with a new sound. Although the heavier alternative attitude has been replaced with something resembling conventional electronic pop, the album is not without depth. There is a lot of emotional baggage behind the lyrics to unpack, and the songs tell a story through a developed tone.

The Plain White T’s are performing with opener Like Language at 7 p.m. Sept. 30 at the Egyptian Theatre, 135 N. Second Street. Tickets range from $30 to $50 and can be purchased on the Egyptian Theatre website.