Release Date: Jun 3, 2014
Record label: Mom + Pop Music / What's Your Rupture?
Genre(s): Art Rock
Andrew Savage is, above all, a stylist. Before he came to be known as the yawpy mouthpiece co-fronting Brooklyn indie rock outfit Parquet Courts, he was one-half of Denton, Tx. duo Fergus & Geronimo, where he and bandmate Jason Kelly made the type of reference-heavy experimental rock that was practically designed to catch the ears of rock nerds as much as it was bound to confound casual passersby.
There's a ramshackle quality to Parquet Courts' third album. You're never quite sure where it's going to go next. The New York City via (mostly) Texas band get tagged "punk," but it's a non-urgent, spare style in the vein of Television, Suicide and Wire, all of whom were more than just punk, as are Parquet Courts. They mix wordy lyrics and nervy guitars.
The anxiety of influence can weigh heavily on any emerging artist in any artform, but it seems like a bigger burden to bear when it comes indie rock. The genre’s best acts, though, never let you see them sweat it, as is the case with Parquet Courts. It’s that kind of attitude and approach that Parquet Courts share with the bands they most obviously bring to mind, beyond whatever finer-point similarities you want to draw based on their meandering guitars, diffident vocals, and oblique lyrics.
Parquet Courts perfected their guitar clang on 2013's Light Up Gold – if all they wanted to do was make the exact same album again, most of us would have been delighted. But these Brooklyn dudes go even deeper on Sunbathing Animal. They've outgrown the Pavement comparisons – these songs make you wonder if you're hearing early Wire jam with Creedence while Thurston Moore brews the tea.
Parquet Courts’ second album, 2012’s ‘Light Up Gold’, was a success. It represented a pay-off – in terms of popularity, at least – for the four-piece led by Andrew Savage, a hard-working New York-based artist and record-label boss.When ‘Light Up Gold’ cottoned on outside of the band’s Brooklyn zip code, it took Parquet Courts on a tour of the most important new bands festivals – including a powerful set of shows at SXSW, in Savage’s native Texas – and enabled them to come and play to audiences in Europe. However, there remained the suspicion, via the occasional difference of opinion with a journalist, or refusing an NME photoshoot, that this kind of success wasn’t quite in line with Parquet Courts’ punk ideals.
Every once in a while comes a band that perfectly evokes a state of mind of a particular demographic. Whether they stand in defense of the flattery or not, Parquet Courts have shot up in two years time from remiss slacker potheads to the essence of New York City cool. The Texan transplants, with the exception of Boston native Sean Yeaton, seem to unintentionally embody the twenty something Brooklynite American dream, one in which life-changing decisions can be put on hold and drugs can be enjoyed in the intimacy of a shared row house.
Recorded over the course of 2013 and early 2014, a span of time that found them the toast of the indie rock world after their debut Light Up Gold took off, Parquet Courts' second album is both more of the same and quite different. It definitely doesn't fall prey to any sort of sophomore slump, and it won't disappoint anyone who fell for Gold's hyperactive, hooky charms. Sunbathing Animal finds the transplanted Brooklyn quartet with their passion undimmed, their lyric books overflowing with words, and their sound streamlined into the equivalent of a punch in the gut on the fast songs, a sharp right hook to the temple on the slower ones, and a long clinch on the two epic-length tracks that turn the second half of the record into something kind of different for the band.
"They were playing the Parquet Courts' record and I thought it was Pavement," said former Pavement frontman Stephen Malkmus of the Brooklyn trio's second album. This follow-up, an intoxicated, stylistically varied stretch of rigid drum beats, repeated riffs and odes to melancholy, doesn't hide its influences either. Lyrical tales and scrappy guitars on Dear Ramona and Instant Disassembly salute the Velvet Underground, while the title track is a breathless four minutes of wit and punk energy.
With their third full-length, Parquet Courts seemed at a precipice. They'd released a well-received album that had gotten national attention in Light Up Gold, and a blistering EP just a year later. They were known for their snotty, shambling punk songs that somehow seem both virtuosic and stoned, along with a lo-fi approach that suited their dirty hooks.
Slacker rock, a term synonymous with Parquet Courts’ (possibly) biggest influence, Stephen Malkmus’ Pavement, is now a term constantly thrown at the Brooklyn based quartet – to the point where the band have collected together a bunch of quotes describing their music as ‘slacker’ in a kind of ‘wall of fame’ on their website. Not that they’re keen on it, apparently. And who would be, if the word slacker in any way referred to their work ethic.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. "They were playing the Parquet Courts record and I thought it was Pavement," Stephen Malkmus is quoted as saying, in regard to Light Up Gold, the fragmented second record that catapulted the ramshackle scrum of Brooklyn boys from the murky depths of underground acclaim into bewildering mainstream success. Complimentary or otherwise, he simply summarised what we were all thinking: they do possess that trademark slacker drawl and the agitated, scrappy guitars that Malkmus defined almost singlehandedly, except, even if they can be accused of tastefully imitating, Parquet Courts don't give a shit about hiding it.
Thank the heavens Parquet Courts aren’t another ’80s-aping band recycling shitty synth melodies that weren’t even good the first time around (Neon Trees, we’re looking at you). Instead, this Brooklyn four-piece turns out charmingly chipper lo-fi tunes that make you feel like it’s the ’90s all over again. The ghosts of Pavement and Sebadoh flit through these pithy songs with free-range abandon.
Review Summary: Court is in session once moreThe first question Sunbathing Animal asks of the listener is “Does lightning strike twice?” In this case, the album might not be able to summon a brace of electrical storms, but certainly some heavy rain and high winds. 2013’s Light Up Gold was a vague masterpiece in terms of showing how a really stripped back group can still present some real magic. Given that most of the group are from New York, all of the obvious influences tend be in place; Lou Reed, The Strokes, Ramones, sunglasses indoors, affected detached urban cool.
Parquet Courts find themselves in an enviable position going into their third album. Light Up Gold and the Tally All the Things That You Broke EP laid out a variety of sonic paths for the Brooklyn via Texas crew, yet they opt to stick to a narrow road, continuing to mine 70s proto-, post- and straight up American punk with Andrew Savage's wry observations anchoring the proceedings.There's a same-but-different current that runs through the record. At times, it's hard to tell if the band ran out of ideas or if they've somehow slyly subverted their Modern Lovers/Television hybrid roots as the album oscillates between loose jams and deep grooves, often in the same song.
For four consecutive years, Parquet Courts has released either an LP or a substantial EP, and for four consecutive years, the band has remained itself with a skewed focus and altered perspective. Where punk or post-punk or slacker rock might have described them before, the band seems to embrace its most obvious comparison points on Sunbathing Animal: Lou Reed and Stephen Malkmus. Yeah, these two godfathers have always informed the band’s songwriting, but here they are unveiled muses.
Reviews of the first Parquet Courts record, Light Up Gold, almost universally drew sonic comparisons with American bands of the Nineties; Pavement, in particular, seemed like an almost constant touchpoint. In actual fact, though, that debut full-length from the relocated Texans played like more of a paean to the classical punk ethic than any specific influences; short, snappy songs, abstract-but-angry lyricism and a decidedly laid-back attitude to production and polish characterised an album that burned with a visceral energy. Another key facet of the punk aesthetic that Parquet Courts have, intentionally or otherwise, attempted to adopt as their own is a prolific rate of recorded output; given that Light Up Gold is barely 18 months old and they’ve dropped an EP, Tally All the Things That You Broke, in the meantime, they can check that particular box with conviction, too.
Parquet Courts are lumped in with the like-minded guitar bands that came before them, but it diminishes their creativity to dismiss them as Pavement wannabes or the nu Swell Maps. While the Brooklyn transplants certainly borrow some elements from indie rock’s past, it’s more that they share the ethos — a complacency to play music however they want, free from critical expectations and the overcrowded music industry. But the most intriguing thing about Parquet Courts is that you can hear frontman Andrew Savage actively grappling with this search for self-actualization.
Still riding high on the hype that surrounded their 2012 album, Light Up Gold, and its reissue the following year, Brooklyn four-piece Parquet Courts have returned with their second full-length proper. Another mix of sloppy slacker-pop, warped, indie jangles and insolent post-punk expressionism, Sunbathing Animal nevertheless feels more assured of itself than its acclaimed predecessor. That said, it does contain plenty of the Jonathan Richmanisms that were strewn across that previous record and which garnered the band plentiful comparisons to the iconic Massachusetts songwriter.
Parquet Courts made a name for themselves as the snotty but talented punk quartet who turned heads with their 2013 breakthrough album Light Up Gold, and two years on, they still sound miffed. Packed with three-minute songs characterised by fast-paced, twitchy garage rock and introverted lyrics from Austin Brown and Andrew Savage, Sunbathing Animal presents a litany of marginalised characters scribbling in Moleskines (Dear Ramona) and struggling to cope with smalltown myopia (Black and White). It's a world that starts to feel repetitive after a while; and so when they do try something different, it pays off: Always Back in Town shoves you in the chest and breaks the malaise halfway through the record, while the palate-cleansing minute-long instrumental Up All Night is followed by the meandering, seven-minute Instant Disassembly – even if they do revert to type as the album draws to a close.
Parquet Courts Sunbathing Animal (What's Your Rupture/Mom + Pop) Even heard through the inflated expectations wrought by 2013 jolt Light Up Gold, Parquet Courts' sophomore follow-up rates an unqualified success. Building on its penchant for whimsical wordplay, the NYC art-punk quartet taps the fresh-cut immediacy of Tom Verlaine and Richard Hell to richen their urban narrative on Sunbathing Animal. "Black and White" summons the post-punk faithful with a rooftop spiel of self-excoriation, caffeinated hand-claps, and a televisual guitar crackup, while "Dear Ramona" glides on tongue-in-cheek tenderness until the composite turns acerbic with a backhand endorsement of Moleskine notebooks.
If pop music often shows us how the other half lives — spoiler alert, it's fancy — the punk rock of Parquet Courts details how many of us simply survive. Desperation and fast guitars have long gone hand in hand, but the hurried observational scrawls of anchor Andrew Savage dart among urban landscapes, creating the effect of exuberantly peering in and out of city windows to offer literate sketches of the emotionally stunted. More so than on earlier works from this Brooklyn via Texas quartet, the blues hound the subway-connected corridors of this third album.
2012’s Light Up Gold wasn’t Parquet Courts’ first album, but it may as well have been. American Specialties—the Brooklyn band’s debut cassette release—didn’t exactly put its best foot forward. With Andrew Savage simultaneously putting Teenage Cool Kids to rest and relocating to New York, American Specialties couldn’t help but come off as half-cooked.
With the rocket ride of their last 14 months, and over 100,000 miles of touring in their rearview mirror, propelled with fawning admiration from both fans and critics, these Texas escapees return with their sophomore slab, (following last fall’s EP) and hitting trifection. Having studied at the grimy, sneakered feet of the punk masters in their salad days, they’ve done them proud by keenly adapting, reflecting and reinterpreting that classic grittiness. While the band despises the over-used ‘slacker-rock’ label so eagerly pinned on them by dozens of critics, one would certainly be remiss in overlooking those influences in their music.
Parquet Courts — Sunbathing Animal (What’s Your Rupture?/Mom+Pop)Parquet Courts’ Andrew Savage is a poet of the half-heard phrase, spitting and drawling and barking. His rapid-fire lyrics might spool out on paper into surreal paragraphs, but on record jut out awkwardly from staccato strumming or disappear entirely into hedgerows of guitar aggression. The single “Sunbathing Animal,” released on Record Store Day as — yes — sheet music.
opinion byBRENDAN FRANK “I didn't come here to dream or teach the world things/Define paradigms or curate no livin’ days”. So went the mission statement, or lack thereof, on the first track on Parquet Courts’ first wide-release album, Light Up Gold. The Brooklyn quartet weren’t out to stir the pot; they were just normal dudes with normal problems.
It's probably not a very popular opinion round these parts, but I have to admit I enjoyed the first Parquet Courts album. There was a cosiness to them, a bit like when you notice ripped jeans are back on the streets for the first time in a while. Parquet Courts' brand of raggedy button-down garage rock recalled something largely absent from the rest of the day's musical landscape.
The first song on this sophomore album, Bodies, coalesces and explodes out with little of the jitters expected of this band who made “post-punk” a gamier proposition when they jutted out of the Brooklyn scene in 2010. But what made them feel like a fresh breath was the way they did not inhabit the usual indie post-punk uniform of ubiquitous thrift keyboards and reliance on layers of pointless fuzz. And, their hyper live show should’ve quelled persistant neo-slaker rock comparisons.