Pop rock moods….

Ottawa-based outfit Paragon Cause have previously demonstrated an uncanny knack for combining twilight electronics and guitar riffs to craft evocative, bittersweet musical moments.

Consisting of Michelle Opthof and Jay Bonaparte, Paragon Cause’s 2020 album What We Started (see TEC review) featured some standout moments, including the dreampop sensibility of ‘Lost Cause’ and the chugging drive of the euphoric ‘Without You’.

Autopilot represents the duo’s third studio album (here in a special European release care of the AnalogueTrash label). The album features the stunning ‘Making Up For Lost Time’, a song which we previously summed up as “an emotional tidal wave” in our review at the time. The song’s fuzzy layers of guitars gives the entire composition a warm, immersive vibe that’s tough to shake off.

Autopilot’s songs share a loosely connected series of themes, including what the band describe as “a jaded sense of outrage over the uglier aspects of modern life”. Presumably, that includes being dissatisfied with a singular mix of one of the album tracks. There’s no less than five variations of ‘Think I’m Going Crazy Over You’ on Autopilot, which involves the input of collaborators such as Liam Howe (Sneaker Pimps, FKA Twiggs, Lana Del Ray) and Eric Avery (Jane’s Addiction, Nine Inch Nails, Garbage).

“The idea was to take the lyrics and melody for ‘Think I’m Going Crazy Over You’ and create different music to accompany it, changing the meaning of the song each time” suggests Bonaparte. “We wanted to show how an individual can view one single situation from a different point of view” adds Opthof, “depending on the day, their feelings, their point of view.”

It’s an intriguing experiment which produces some wildly different takes on the concept, including the bold, cosmic Jupiter Mix and the stripped-back Brooklyn Mix (both courtesy of Liam Howe). Meanwhile, the Acorn Manor Mix (via Eric Avery) switches things up, delivering a more psychedelic affair.

Opening the album, ‘Two To Play’ has a dirty bass grunge along with some nice synth fills. ‘I’m Not Here’ is a bigger, bolder effort with Opthof’s vocals front and centre (“It’s killing me/Slowly killing me”). Dark synth tones battle with chugging guitars.

The wistful pop of ‘Disconnected’, penned as a statement against the downsides of social media, plays more to Paragon Cause’s strengths: An uplifting exercise which has elements of 60s girl groups weaved into the mix.

There’s a crunchier flavour to the languid ‘Play Me’, while ‘More Than We Can Handle’ employs a slower approach with its spaced-out guitar and Opthof’s haunting vocal refrains.

The album also throws in a Nature Of Wires’ remix of ‘Time To Leave’ (a track that features on the original release of the album). Here, NoW’s taste for bold synth sweeps is a surprisingly good fit against Paragon Cause’s twilight moods, with Opthof’s vocals given a more ethereal quality.

Once again, producer/collaborator Sune Rose Wagner (The Raveonettes) is onboard as the band’s semi-official third member, giving the whole affair a solid veneer. As a result, Autopilot is another example of Paragon Cause’s winning guitar crush approach.

Autopilot is out now on the AnalogueTrash label: