Last year’s Light Up Gold from Brooklyn foursome Parquet Courts made them critics’ darlings, drawing comparisons to Pavement and praise for the band’s own brand of smartass punk storytelling. On the follow-up, the band maintains its split personality. About half the record is reminiscent of Stephen Malkmus and company, down to the deadpan vocal delivery and meandering pace, while the rest is the band’s own brand of clever postmodern punk that never takes itself too seriously.
Sunbathing Animal (What’s Your Rupture?/Mom+Pop Records) is a record that ebbs and flows—sometimes frenetic, other times at a laid-back, stoner amble—while maintaining the band’s consistent lyrical thread, a balance of youthful exuberance and world-weariness. Vocalist Andrew Savage still has plenty to say. In fact, the words sometimes seem barely contained by the music, as on “Ducking & Dodging” when he half-speaks the lyrics, “Waiting by the silent phone, I draft my next apology. Burn my letters once they’re read. ‘Unalloyed joy’ I thrice repeat.” As cerebral as Parquet Courts can be, there’s also powerful simplicity in tracks like “Always Back in Town” or “She’s Rolling” that’s never sloppy, but also never stylized. Even when the music descends into chaos, the band is always cool and in control.
Parquet Courts are clearly prolific songwriters, as these songs seem to flow forth effortlessly. (I feel like it probably took me longer for me to write this review than it did for the band to put together this record.) At every turn, they let listeners in on the joke/secret, as Savage makes wry observations like, “Whoever she might be going to bed with, you can read about that in her Moleskin,” (“Dear Ramona”) and self-aware insights such as, “It seems that you’ve got a spotlight cast on the dark side of me,” (“Instant Disassembly”). It is this sly wit and insouciant vibe that is in fact everything that’s right about Sunbathing Animal and makes it uniquely wonderful.