Passionate slackers Parquet Courts are from the same crew of Texas-to-Brooklyn transplants responsible for the Zappa-esque genre-bending conceptual weirdness of Fergus & Geronimo as well as the more straightforward basement pop-punk of Teenage Cool Kids. Songwriter Andrew Savage is clearly a prolific and multifaceted character, but with Parquet Courts, he taps into a focus and sense of mood cultivation missing in some of his other projects. Savage and fellow songwriter Austin Brown present a series of observational freeze-frames on debut album Light Up Gold, zeroing in on banal scenes, everyday events, and listless pondering during drifting times. Musically, Parquet Courts draw on some influences not commonly paired, but to great effect. Motoric indie rockers like "Borrowed Thyme" and "Stoned & Starving" call to mind the wandering rock of the Feelies or the inward-looking side of the first phase of the Modern Lovers. Contemporaries like Tyvek can be heard on the shouty poetry of tracks like "Donuts Only" and "Yonder Is Closer to the Heart," while the shadow of '90s staple artists like Pavement and Sonic Youth colors the entire album. All these disparate influences don't show up in a way that feels jarring or derivative, which is perhaps the great strength of Light Up Gold. The album manages to sound like it's learning from its influences rather than stealing directly. Much like Pavement's "Two States" managed to blatantly ape the Fall and somehow still get a pass on its own merits, "Careers in Combat" apes Pavement aping the Fall in the most original way possible, and sounds great in the process. The patchwork of reference points becomes more about the way the band wears them than anything, and Parquet Courts' approach to both melody and always-mutating guitar tones silently elevates them from being mere reflections of their record collections. While still early into the group's existence, the bandmembers dubbed their sound "Americana punk," possibly referring to the open landscapes of their Texan beginnings clashing with their present urban surroundings and the unique sonic results of that juxtaposition. Much more on the mark is a line from an early bio comparing the feel of the band to elements of Sonic Youth, Bob Dylan, and other acts not originally from the big city, but ultimately just as important a part of its musical landscape. Light Up Gold captures some of the excitement and perspective on city life that only transplants could feel, and filters it through a haze of laid-back '90s alt-rock influence. The album is sometimes languid, often jittery and beaming, but mostly an almost subconsciously storytelling collection of moments that would be boring and forgettable if they weren't captured in songs so accidentally perfect.
Light Up Gold Review
by Fred Thomas