Parquet Courts – Sunbathing Animal Parquet Courts – Sunbathing Animal

Parquet Courts – Sunbathing Animal

Parquet Courts – Sunbathing Animal

The obvious comparison is, of course, Pavement, so I’ll get that out of the way. That same slacker-rock vibe, the meandering guitar lines and disregard for noise, the occasional talk-singing in the vocals. Plus they’re both named after ground coverings. That influence is certainly present on Sunbathing Animal, but a variety of other stylistic muses shine through clearly as well: the rambling lyrical ranting of Bob Dylan (see: “Ducking & Dodging”, “Raw Milk”), a bit of Velvet Underground here and there, furious bass lines and driving rhythms drawn from punk and hardcore.

This deft balance extends to the tracking as well. After pushing the tempo on “Black And White”, we get the story of the inscrutable “Dear Ramona”. One of the two longest songs on the album, the languid “She’s Rolling”, is followed up by the title track, which begins with a line ending “I cannot slow the pace at which I yearn”. The song is indeed frantic, and only picks up speed as Savage shouts of his slavish devotion to the object of his devotion, the sun in which he basks. “Instant Disassembly” and “Ducking & Dodging” are a similar pair — the former’s laid back, south-of-the-border groove chugs along for over seven minutes, before giving way to the latter’s tight, crisp, 4/4 tempo.

In addition to aiding the flow of the album, all of this tension and release mirrors the lyrical themes: confinement versus freedom, wildness versus domesticity. It’s interesting to note that the songs where the band seems to let loose the most are the ones whose lyrics speak of restrictions. “Black And White”, “Sunbathing Animal”, and “Ducking and Dodging” all fit this model, the last featuring the telling lines “Stripes and bars will lock you in / Lock you in or camouflage you”. The creative approach on this album is in a way fueled by restriction, so this paradox makes sense. It’s proof that self-imposed confinement can provide some beneficial focus, rather than stifling creativity.

All of that said, Sunbathing Animal is a step forward for Parquet Courts, moving beyond Light Up Gold toward a more unique voice. It’s a little less raucous, and in many ways more mature — but the biggest change is the clear presence of intention. Thought was put into this record: everything from the distortion and feedback on “What Color Is Blood?” to the track order has purpose. There’s no excess, and nothing is unnecessary. The result is a record that is, while maybe not minimal, considerably less claustrophobic than their earlier output.

Like the tiger on its cover, Sunbathing Animal is sleek and lean, happy to lie in the sun but still capable of ferocity.

Parquet Courts – Sunbathing Animal, reviewed by Caroline Mills on 2014-06-20T13:47:02-07:00 rating 4.0 out of 5

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