Parquet Courts: Sympathy For Life [Album Review]

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Parquet Courts
Sympathy For Life
Rough Trade Records [2021]

For the past 10 years, Parquet Courts have been pushing the limits of indie rock. That is a big statement considering the band from the outside seems to stay below the radar with their overall slacker vibe rock style and almost spoken singing type vocals by A. Savage and Austin Brown that you would never find in choir. But, their music is always unpredictable, a bit angular and always seems to dabble in several genres without ever settling on one form.

That leads us to the new album, Sympathy For Life, which once again pushes Parquet Courts in new directions that now includes more tempo and dare I say “dancey” music. That is right, Parquet Courts find a new groove here that could slide in with other great indies like Primal Scream or Animal Collective while still bringing the guitar with them at times that gives a modern day Clash vibe that replaces the reggae with beats. The first single and track, “Walking At A Downtown Pace,” kicks the party off with its side to side opening drum beats before its catchy as hell riff plays and sticks with you until the song concludes. This track is a defining moment for the band as it really bridges Parquet Courts past with their future. “Black Widow Spider” continues your feet moving with its quick tempo and almost Ramone type vocal delivery as you will hear the shooting spacey keyboard effects in the background. These tracks still maintain the band’s core but when we hear the beeps and bloops on “Marathon Of Anger” you know this is a different record. The almost six minute beat heavy “Plant Life” is another track here that keeps the psych rave going and fills the air with more music than lyrics. At times, the vocals even banter in the background like people conversing on the wall at the club but still reflects back and has nods to the song structure of Talking Heads.

Sympathy For Life is a grower of an album as my first couple listens left me a little cold. The transition here is not subtle but I found with repeat listens the more sonic groove tracks started to connect. The psychedelic pieces also swirl in to find another type of balance while a song like “Homo Sapien” still rocks out like Parquet Courts of the past. I like that this album is different and highlights the depth of the band. It would be really easy for Parquet Courts to make the same album but it is incredibly hard for a group like this to keep throwing in curve balls that work. Sympathy For Life is a curve ball but it will win you over quickly and honestly should even expand their fanbase to an entire new set of listeners!

Key Tracks: “Walking At A Downtown Pace” / “Plant Life” / “Homo Sapien”

Artists With Similar Fire: Animal Collective / The Clash / Primal Scream

Parquet Courts Review History: Wide Awake! (2018) / A. Savage: Thawing Dawn (2017) / Human Performance (2016) / Sunbathing Animal (2014) / Parkay Quarts: Content Nausea (2014) / Light Up Gold (2012)

Parquet Courts Website
Rough Trade

Christopher Anthony
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