Parquet Courts - Sunbathing Animal

Parquet Courts utilize classic kinetic sounds amongst new languorous philosophical angst, creating a buzzing and exciting record.

Additional Info

7.5

ALBUM: Sunbathing Animal

ARTIST: Parquet Courts

2014

Alternative

An old-school punk rock sound has been on the rise in recent years with bands like Fidlar, The Black Lips, and, Wavves gaining momentum in the music world, and Parquet Courts with their second full album Sunbathing Animal is amongst these vivacious bands as they are starting to take a front row seat of attention. The band only being about four years old have had many releases over the year; however, their recent Light Up Gold gained a surprising amount of critical acclaim, lending itself to their hyped up new record. The band may be relatively new, but this relentless quartet is making waves with their bashing guitar distortion matched against appealing guitar riffs that clash in harmony to create a perfect American punk consensus. Sunbathing Animal still contains Parquet Courts’ recognizable sound of high intensity and electricity that may be reminiscent of The Ramones or, even The Misfits in some facets, but it also exposes a different light of the band with comfortable repetition and lackadaisical vibes reminding listeners that their sound can vary towards the opposite side of the spectrum of The Velvet Underground and Pavement. However, Sunbathing Animal needs no comparisons as Parquet Courts are expanding their sound to a whole new distinctive level.

Content of songs stretch in many directions, sparking ideas from physical anatomy on “Bodies made of” and “What Color is Blood” to conflicting love interests on “Dear Ramona” and the title track, “Sunbathing Animal”. The imagery that lead-singer and lyricist Andrew Savage illustrates is beautiful, although in some instances it may seem grotesque. The variation of simplicity to complexity creates a nice balance on the album. Some songs such as “Sunbathing Animal” paints an entire wall mural of a picture that tells a detailed and closed story, whereas tracks like “She’s Rolling” are the equivalent to a small newspaper cartoon that’s a bit vaguer and open for interpretation. Moreover, on majority of the tracks, the noise of the songs hinders the clarity of the lyrics, making it less important for the specifics of the content to be revealed, but for the interpretation and connection to be personal for the listener: which can be why an album like this is hard to rate. What is so captivating about this album is that many of the words Savage sings or yells, depending on the song, are expressed as though he is delivering spoken word sometimes, or reading a journal entry or letter. His lyrics are inaccessible in the sense that there is no definitive meaning laid out for the public; there are no hidden footnotes within the songs to decipher what their meaning is. But Savage’s tone and delivery is what draws one in at first, while the interpretation keeps the listener hanging around.

The production of many of the tracks tends to be very simple with some songs only having a few chord progressions to one single chord being played. There seems to be a signature formula in which the Parquet Courts concoct their sound: with jarring guitar strumming in the background, while a catchy guitar riff plays up and down. The drums keep the tempo alive and the bass is more dominant on some songs than others like “Up All Night”. Majority of the songs have a guitar solo to balance out the track, which is an exciting revival of classic rock ‘n’ roll, but in some cases this basic formula seems to be repetitive or hard to differentiate each track from the other. This does not make the album sound bad or make it any less tasteful to the ear, however when comparing song to song, one might start to see the abundant similarities. Overall, production and sound wise, Sunbathing Animal has great energy that either makes you want to mosh, jump around, and maybe wreck something, along with other moments that make you want to contemplate your life and ask questions.

The highlights of the album would be “Instant Disassembly,” “Bodies Made of,” and, “Dear Ramona.” “Instant Disassembly” would be the star of them all, shining in its lulling, depressive brilliance. The song has a sincerity within the lyrics that contrasts heavily against Savage’s brick-like voice. The track does not seem to try as hard as the other slow-paced songs and is a nice little underdog anthem.

Sunbathing Animal is a promising progression for the Parquet Courts in hopes that their popularity will grow without the band burning themselves out too soon. The album is fun and contemplative in many aspects, it wrestles with itself to be defined outside of the easy past rock and punk comparisons. But after a while, Sunbathing Animal gets hard and annoying to categorize within certain definitions of sound, thus killing the spirit of the music itself. The album should stand alone as, what the band calls “American” punk or rock and nothing else. With the band growing and their potential so promising, Sunbathing Animal should only be categorized as that American Parquet Courts sound. - Margaret Farrell

“I guess one thing you should know about me is that I don’t really see any point in defining [lyrics] for people, because part of the joy about being a listener is coming to meaning on your own. That’s an important part of the experience for me.” – Andrew Savage

1. Bodies Made of
“Bodies made of slugs and guts,” Andrew Savage chants over and over, starting in a monotone voice that progressively gets more aggressive as the song proceeds. It’s a peculiar track that initially paints some grotesque images. But the mixture of the physical image of the body, evolving into something more abstract (“It’s my soul I wanna keep it on the inside) is intriguing. The jarring and simplistic lyrics coupled with the melody create a really cool track. The melody is enchanting and exciting. Starting off with simple guitar melodies that skyrocket into an energy bursting enigma, interchanging between the two tones until, unexpectedly, the track switches to a mellow and slow paced break out of the solo. The song builds back up and then changes into some kind of slow, jazzy interlude before exploding one last time before the conclusion. Half of the song is instrumental without falling into a tedious lull. The solo is simple, medium tempo, and perfect for the overlaying guitar melodies- it pops its head out here and there behind the brash, distorted guitar. With every extra listen this track becomes more and more mesmerizing, manifesting itself into a beautiful and surprising opener.9.5
2. Black and White
This track comes at you a lot faster with the harsh, relentless lead guitar melody. The bass, constructed by Sean Yeaton, is especially intense that creates this electricity that is more visible on their live performances. The song carries this bad ass tone with the guitar distortion and the perfected high-hat hit by Max Savage. The vocals are also much more energy driven, yet Savage still has this ability to sound present but emotionally disconnected, while his lyrics say otherwise with lines like, “I want something more than a new hell in which to fry.” The clap of the melody keeps the song in line, even when midway through all hell breaks loose with a bomb of sound that hits. It makes it sound like trippy punk rock- a new height of sound. Little riffs and noise disturbances here and there make the song stand out without sounding too familiar or boring and the abrupt stop is a good choice that keeps the track from lagging.8.5
3. Dear Ramona
Putting a breaks on all the edge, this next track describes an enticing mystery girl named Ramona who is a, “hypnosis poet and when she speaks her words weep like rain,” and “wears dark sun shades at night.” Her description creeps along with odd tidbits from writing in a moleskin and drinking dark coffee at night. The song sounds lazy in a cool slacker aesthetic as Andrew Savage recites in what sounds like an open letter to this dark vixen. He acts as if he longs for her as Savage starts to get a bit restless with the lyrics, “No she ain’t ever gonna open up.” It seems as if that is the end of the chorus when out of nowhere the mood of the track shifts into this warped angelic beach vibe, because of the single strumming of the guitar harmonies- the song breaks entirely, which makes it feel random and out of place, yet the band transitions back into the familiarity of the verse effortlessly. For some odd reason, the first comparison that comes to mind for this track is the song “Beautiful Girl” from the musical Singing In the Rain. I only mention this, because of the description breaks that Jimmie Thompson goes on sound similar to that of Savage’s. The track is a comforting break from the upbeat, old-school , punk inspired songs that bring a variety to the band’s sound.8.5
4. What Color Is Blood
It seems as though the album at this point is going to have a pattern of obsession with physical body descriptions and existential body pondering, as Savage asks, “What color is blood? Still is what it was? Is it still good for what it does?” The track has a solid guitar melody and rhythm as Savage’s vocals hammer against them. It’s a satisfactory track that seems to fall into the pattern of brash guitar with whiny guitar melodies, but nothing too eye opening.7.5
5. Vienna II
This short lived song is only a minute but packs a punch with the intense tempo and peculiar content. The spiraling guitars sound hysteric like an alien invasion. The track is not really accessible, but it is a fun listen that might make you bewildered. It’s hard to understand the reason for this track, yet Parquet Courts are not a band to really give a fuck.5.0
6. Always Back In Town
This song starts off solid with the appealing guitar riff that spirals over itself over and over again, yet after a while the song becomes daunting and a bit tedious. There’s never a climax or change. It seems to peak and then plateaus right from the beginning. However, this song does not seem to be at its best on record, but could hold strong potential when performed live. It’s vibrant and bouncy, reminiscing about being “back in town,” like an ode to Thin Lizzy.7.0
7. She’s Rolling
The charming harmonica gone rabid and slothful guitar melody build a South Western tone, that of which brings the image of rolling down a hill perfectly. The bass takes charge and leads the song even as it gets lost behind the piercing guitar. “She’s rolling down a hill and I can still see her when I close my eyes” and “She racing through the dark and I can feel it burning in the back of my mind,” are the words Savage sings over and over. The lyrics are cryptic, almost a bit creepy, leaving the listener wondering about any context of the song. Did she leave him? Did he leave her? Was there a fight? What is this track even about? The mystery is omnipresent and leaves a curious stench that stains the track with endless curiosities, but that is exactly what keeps the track from standing still. The lyrics are simple. The production is a bit chaotic at times, but also simplistic. Thus the little bit of questions that hang above its head are what make the track a stand out.7.0
8. Sunbathing Animal
Radiating of electric old-school punk of likes of The Sex Pistols with relentless and unnerving tempo that gets the heart pumping and the head banging. The monotonous guitar never gets tired, but seems as though it never stops until a lazy guitar solo comes running up next to it. The drums are pounding. The distortion gets louder. Savage comes back in, yelling the title of track until the song is finally terminated. The production of the song is much simpler in comparison to the lyric content. The song discusses a poisonous ex-girlfriend who he cannot resist, he “wants to flee but [he] can only stare.” She is a “fang-tooth woman foaming at the mouth as she addressed,” him. He alludes to this woman stealing his innocence as he “does not miss the child you stole/ frying and abiding, I’m in your control/ like a sunbathing animal.” He is lazy and helpless as he lies in the light-emitting wake of his ex. The way in which Andrew Savage spits out his lyrics with breathless ease and fire is admirable and exciting that keeps the song heavy and interesting. The lyrics are like a sad story as Savage pours out his aching past for the listener to devour.7.5
9. Up All Night
This short track is a small instrumental break that conjures a barrier between the heavy metal energy of “Sunbathing Animal” and the slacker vibes of “Instant Disassembly”. It does not seem to fit between the two songs as it meets in the middle between the two, but does not flow into the next track. Although it is a pleasant interlude with the rumbling bass and distant guitar as it echoes.6.5
10. Instant Disassembly
It is, ironically, an exciting change for the band. The song is composed of only a few chords, strummed dully with a basic and melodic guitar riff that elevates the song. It’s the kind of song that is nice to jam out while watching the rainfall, or on a long night drive with no destination. The track holds a tone of nostalgia or sadness that is satisfyingly addicting with lyrics like, “It seems that you’ve got a spotlight on the dark side of me/ I feel a pain so acute like I’m being impaled and I can’t breathe, it’s hard to inhale.” Andrew Savage’s voice is emotionally raw, yet comforting, creating a solid rock jam. The song seems hollow as Savage goes on about his stresses, but his rawness is comforting and realistic, not seeming forced as some of the other tracks on the album. Also the use of the word “mamacita” is very lovely to hear. It seems to be the strongest track on the album, and gem to hear on repeat.10.0
11. Duckin and Dodgin
The abrupt and jarring energy of this track is key. It has an old Green Day meets Ramones vibe. The bass is a bit old-school jazzy, which creates an interesting combination. It conjures the image of greasers with slicked back hair and leather jackets snapping their fingers and tapping their feet as they crowd in the corner of a bar- it’s kind of badass sounding. The solo is a refreshing break from the lower sounding tone of the track, but almost sounds a bit forced. The combination of the main lyrics, “Duckin and Dodgin,” also sounds a bit old-school, which is cool. Savage switches between spewing out words to delicately laying them out for the listener. The lyrics do tend to get a bit repetitive at times, while Savage seems to try and out do himself, however the track holds good energy and might be a hidden crowd pleaser.7.0
12. Raw Milk
The chorus on this track is the first time on the album that Andrew Savage’s voice is soft and light. No aggression or hostility. The backup vocals coupled with Savage sound great. The track has the same formula as many others on the album, but its slow tempo sets it apart slightly. It ends nicely, leading into the concluding song. Its laidback and easy, taking a break from all the momentum of “Duckin and Dodgin.”7.0
13. Into the Garden
A surprising outro for the album. Half of the song is build up until the clear, naked guitar chimes in and Savages vocals lull around for the next minute and a half. The guitar is raw with a piano to back it up. “Till you’re not the fool you took yourself for,” Savage sings as the emotional energy of the song seems to be weighed down within those words. The theme of self-reflection seems to be a big one this album, whether physical or mental, constructive to the self or just a form of recognition and Sunbathing Animal seems to end on a somber note with no electricity left in sight.6.0
Written by Margaret Farrell
Margaret Farrell is a writer from outside Chicago. She is currently a student at New York University, studying journalism and creative writing.



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