Artist: Parquet Courts
Album: Sunbathing Animal
Release Date: June 3, 2014 (What’s Your Rupture?)
Buzz Factor: 4.2/5.0
In their freshest LP, Sunbathing Animal, Parquet Courts make comfortable strides forward while utilizing the strengths of previous releases. Whereas 2012’s Light Up Gold was frantic and unsteady, Sunbathing Animal is confident and relaxed exposing Parquet Courts newfound ability to groove (“She’s Rolling,” “Instant Disassembly”). Counter-balanced with their more well-established anxiety (“Always Back in Town,” “Sunbathing Animal,” “Ducking & Dodging”), the lounged coolness of these grooves are refreshing and serve to better pace the album. Most tracks find themselves in some gradient in between, but only add to the unwavering flow throughout Sunbathing Animal.
Along with the pacing, the production of Parquet Courts latest is also a much welcome improvement over Light Up Gold. It’s not to say that Light Up Gold’s production was poor or ill-conceived, but that it seems merely transitional when compared to that of Sunbathing Animal. Sunbathing Animal taps into a sort of inexplicable warmth that wraps the audience up and provides for a smooth listen from beginning to end. There’s also a sense of unravelling ever-present in the album; the guitars are clumsy and the vocals are blunt, but in a humanizing way. Parquet Courts feel less like a rock band and more like a group of friends making music for the hell of it, and this is where Sunbathing Animal draws most of its charm. This approach is reminiscent of 90’s indie rock bands Silver Jews and Pavement, and as such evokes feelings of nostalgia in the listener.
The most Pavement-esque track on the album, “Dear Ramona,” glides seamlessly between light-hearted chugging of bass and guitar to the pensive ringing of sorrowful chords. Andrew Savage’s brazen vocal delivery lays perfectly over the top, as he sings one of the catchiest melodies on the album. The strength in the songwriting is the simplicity. There are few chords and the structure is common, but each element is executed with a meticulous care.
“Instant Disassembly” is a prime example of Parquet Courts expansion into a more versatile outfit. Well over the typical four minutes (7:12) and much slower too, “Instant Disassembly” grooves like no other track on the album while keeping the attention of the audience throughout. Much like on “Dear Ramona,” the key here is the simplicity. The layers of easygoing instrumentation are pleasant to the ear, and the straightforward guitar riff hooks listener’s once the first distorted notes hit. As uncomplicated as the song may be, it never gets stale – a testament to stellar songwriting.
On the opposite end of the spectrum (but following directly after) there’s “Ducking and Dodging,” a fast-paced romp that demonstrates Parquet Courts aggressiveness. The band’s staccato lends the song a strong forward momentum, while Savage’s vocals hammer into the listener’s ears. An enjoyable head-bobber that reinforces that Parquet Courts have not lost their energy, but now know exactly when to employ it.
Sunbathing Animal is an apt title for Parquet Courts third iteration; there’s a feeling of wild instinctiveness present throughout, but coexisting simultaneously with a relaxed easiness. All of the grit of past releases coupled with a new sense of control makes Sunbathing Animal Parquet Courts best yet.