Theresa Andersson’s Street Parade is not Galactic’s Carnivale Electricos. The latter is a high-energy, hot-blooded celebration of Carnival while Street Parade’s mood is complicated. The title track/album opener gives listeners a reason to hear the album as melancholy when a mournful trombone glide just seconds into the song sets a blue tone, but the song is not that simple. “I’m not alone,” she sings. “I’m all alone.”
Those mixed emotions run throughout the album and give it power. Life rarely offers us events that prompt simple emotional responses, and Andersson embraces her in-between and contradictory feelings. Instead of highlighting the party and giddiness of Mardi Gras, Andersson and lyricist Jessica Faust evoke it as a way of dramatizing the poignant anticipation, isolation, uncertainty and connection that occur on the margins of a dramatic public incident. There are no rah-rah songs, but they all surge with moments of great beauty and barely controlled energy that refute the notion that Street Parade’s a downer. Lyrics routinely sound notes of excitement, compassion and love, even if the music doesn’t circle them with hearts and flowers. “Take my hand in yours,” she sings. “I’ll be your flambeau through the sleepless night.”
Apropos of the album title, horns and drums play key roles here, but the most human instrument—her voice—defines Street Parade. The technology behind the album can be heard, but she anchors it with her voice, which sings syllables to establish melodic and rhythmic counterpoint in addition to the lead vocal. She makes it clear that the machinery serves her and not vice versa.
The mixed emotions seem natural considering the changes in her life—the success of Hummingbird, Go!, her pregnancy, and the subsequent birth to her daughter. On Street Parade, she reflects on her last few years without a hint of confession; instead, she makes personal and relentlessly engaging music that is fully emotionally present.