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Indie rockers’ latest is “a breath of fresh air”

MOVE reviews Parquet Courts’ “Sunbathing Animal”

By Blake Beck | June 16, 2014

Tags: Music Reviews

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In a time when first-rate rock ‘n’ roll bands are at a premium, Brooklyn’s Parquet Courts are a breath of fresh air. Thrusting into the indie spotlight with their auspicious 2012 release “Light Up Gold,” the quartet combines the sardonic wit of underground auteurs like Stephen Malkmus and the minimalism of the seminal avant-garde outfit the Velvet Underground.

Though their sound is a bit derivative, Parquet Courts are much more than a glorified cover band, and their latest effort, “Sunbathing Animal,” is a testament to their supreme songsmanship. Picking up where they left off on “Light Up Gold,” the group continues to channel the spirits of their forefathers to a higher degree. They brilliantly capture the high-octane post-punk of early Wire on “Black and White,” and on the album’s sprawling centerpiece, “Instant Disassembly,” they evoke a timeless Stones-ian drawl to a tee.

Admittedly, there’s nothing too innovative or unconventional in the way of sound on “Sunbathing Animal.” In fact, the music of Parquet Courts may be head-scratchingly simple to some — it’s modest and effortless rock ‘n’ roll that refuses to flirt with self-aggrandizement. But detractors will be quick to blindly ask, “Okay, where’s the catch?”

The catch is in the lyrics of Andrew Savage and Austin Brown, who both show off some lyrical ingenuity as they trade off vocal duties. Savage lathers each song with tremendous wordplay and breathtaking introspection — “What’s sharp as a knife / Follows me all my life / Waits, never rests / ‘Til it eats me alive” — while Brown shows off some impressive storytelling chops. For example, on the saccharine “Dear Ramona,” Brown half-sings, “Whoever she might be going to bed with / You can read about that in her Moleskine.” Who or what Ramona is isn’t certain, but the co-frontman’s whimsical narrative is as gripping as it is vague.

Even with its lyrical prowess, what really makes “Sunbathing Animal” a treat to listen to is the noticeable maturation of Parquet Courts. Compared to “Light Up Gold,” and even last year’s EP “Tally All the Things That You Broke,” the album is expertly paced and crisply executed — telltale signs of an ideal music group. Savage makes it clear on “Instant Disassembly” that the last classic rock band has already released their last solid record, but in my opinion, they’re just getting started.

MOVE gives “Sunbathing Animal” 4.5 out of 5 stars

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