Parquet Courts are a band that, as NPR eloquently put it, “went from humble Brooklyn warehouse spaces to Late Night With Jimmy Fallon in the span of 12 months,” proving that with relentless touring and the indie hype-machine’s blessing, anything is possible. It’s even true for a band that, at least on Sunbathing Animal, seems immediately unlikable from a musical perspective.
Sure, the modern day rarity of playing actual, real live instruments always entices, and there are definitely some listenable tracks. Still, even after accounting for artistic intention behind their under-produced sound and off-key vocals, finding the appeal is a struggle. In fact, it’s a bit of a struggle just to get through it.
Apparently they’ve toured for over 100,000 miles (like I said, relentless). Whether or not the experiences gained on that dogged schedule made their way into Andrew Savage’s lyrics, the verbosely witty aesthetic their moniker implies certainly has. For instance, the title track’s plight of unmet emotional needs at the hands of a bartending love interest reads like an overwrought Shakespearean tragedy: [LISTEN]
There may not be as many layers as your typical Vampire Weekend track, but the sophisticated air remains. Still, even at this speed, it’s a stretch to call it ‘punk rock’. The tone-deaf solos, like many of the guitar melodies throughout the album, don’t carry the same charm as the countless indie-cute tracks of the past decade or so that use a similar vibe – such as Noah and the Whale’s “Five Years’ Time” or Peter Bjorn and John’s “Young Folks.” It also doesn’t carry the vitality of real punk rock, although it gets reasonably close. Alongside “Ducking & Dodging,” it might be the best track here – save for the sleepy “Instant Disassembly,” a track of pining for a “Mamacita” that goes all in on the aforementioned tone-deaf appeal with satisfactory results.
Maybe it’s a taste bias, and the blame for dislike lies on the listener. Or, maybe after a decent EP and LP got them plenty of Pitchfork love, they slipped into the coveted infallibility from critics that HipsterRunoff.com deemed “indie tenure” semi-ironically once upon a time in 2012. Either way, there’s honestly nothing on Sunbathing Animal that you can’t get from an amateur neighbors’ jam session when they’re super drunk. The neighbors might even be catchier.