Andrea Wolper says the album’s title reflects her refusal to be restricted in her musical excavation, exploring all genres that strike her fancy. True enough. But, in considering Parallel Lives’ dozen selections and her interpretations of them, there seems an alternate meaning. Refusing, in utterly refreshing ways, to follow each song’s furrowed emotive path, she instead opens them up to wider examination, demonstrating that for each yin there is a yang. So an expectedly sunny tune like Lionel Bart’s “Who Will Buy?” is purposefully clouded, and the sweet virtuousness of Richard Rodgers’ “Something Good” is underscored with a delicious hint of larceny.
Some of her choices intrinsically champion such dualism, particularly two Joni Mitchell cuts—“Song to a Seagull,” with its tug-of-war between freedom and limitations, dreams and disappointments, and “Be Cool,” with its balance of fire and ice—and, from Spring Awakening, Steven Sater and Duncan Sheik’s “Blue Wind,” a dark swath through summer’s brightness. But the album’s finest evocation of dichotomous sentiments is Wolper’s own “The Girls in Their Dresses,” where the arrogance of youthful infallibility crashes against the reality of fear, disillusion and underachievement. Of course, such cunning isn’t accomplished alone, and Wolper’s trusted bandmates—pianist Kris Davis, guitarist Michael Howell, bassist Ken Filiano and drummer Michael T.A. Thompson—are integral to all the clever finessing.