If being music director at a college radio station has taught me anything these past two years, it's that few things are as grating as another goddamn Brooklyn indie punk band.
Music in the 2000s has been a strange, multi-faceted and constantly shape-shifting beast, but one thing that's remained constant is the never-ending stream of four-pieces whose faceless sound relies entirely on dated guitar riffs that are too twee to which to bang one's head.
And yet somehow, Parquet Courts have seemingly adopted all the sonic traits of their inferior contemporaries while continuing to flourish as a witty, hard-hitting rock band. Last year's Light Up Gold served up a hearty slab of immaculately sequenced post-punk, the kind of effortlessly brainy music Talking Heads pulled off so well on their first two albums. Now with their latest album, Sunbathing Animal, Andrew Savage and company have continued to expand their sound while proving once again that no one does the gang of four sound like they do it.
Moreso than their sophomore album, Sunbathing Animal sees Parquet Courts indulging in their Texas roots, carrying a slower, lackadaisical sound throughout. Light Up Gold standout "N Dakota" seems to have paved the way for this album, with slow jams like "Instant Disassembly" and "Dear Ramona" highlighting how strong the Courts' songwriting is even when the tempo is slowed down and the volume turned low. This countrified sound suits them well — it allows them to maintain their stoned swagger while allowing room for Savage's cunning, bizarre lyrics to deliver the urgency they clearly specialize in.
This doesn't mean there aren't still a handful of well-placed bangers. "Black and White," "Always Back in Town," and the titular track are among the hardest (not to mention catchiest) songs the band has written yet, harking back to punk sounds of the past while always slightly subverting them. This seems to be the pattern Parquet Courts have set up in their short but already fascinating career.
Whenever I strike up a conversation about them with one of my friends, inevitably one of us will mention that initially, they seemed like the kind of band we'd normally write off without a second thought. But Parquet Courts are playing a game of subtlety, and with Sunbathing Animal, they've once again delivered an album that only gets better every time you put it on.
Sam Goldner is the music director at CU-Boulder's Radio 1190. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.