Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Album Review: Parquet Courts' Light Up Gold

Equal parts Pavement, Minutemen, and Replacements, Parquet Courts establish their own slacker, protester, Americana sound out of the stated influences. The kind of music your mom tells you to turn off, Light Up Gold is a sturdy gem. Their lack of effort perfectly sets out the sometimes - when the band feels like giving a shit - starkly abrasive lyrics; lines like "Socrates died in the fucking gutter" really pop in the quasi lo-fi mix. The cover of this record vaguely tells the story of the formerly Texan band relocating to New York City to try their hand at swimming in a  bigger pond: an annotated picture of a ritual often associated with Texas -- that shouldn't seem pejorative toward the band, or simliar bands, especially when they're this good at relocating, advancing their sound.

Balancing the slacker mentality with some of the aggressive political songs is what makes Light Up Gold such a treat. It doesn't dwell on anything too serious for long. The Middle America anti-fight song "Careers in Combat" is followed by the two part cool down tracks titled after the record - it's a rest, letting the band and listener let what previously transpired sink in. So, as hard as anyone tries to draw conclusions about the band sounding too much like one of its aforementioned influences, the album's track listing and composure defends its originality in spades. "N Dakota" and "Stoned and Starving", the album's two best tracks, anchor the middle of the album perfectly; so rarely do people look forward to the meat of an album, often focusing on the openers and closers too closely. The latter track is a perfect example of how the slacker and Americana influences Parquet Courts cite blend so well together, with ease. "No Ideas" feels so lazy that it sounds like the band forgot to tune their guitars, nearly achieving Sonic Youth guitar harmonies.

While many people couldn't get over The Men's recent leanings toward The Replacements, Parquet Courts' Light Up Gold does Open Your Heart a favor in distancing it from those critics, further carving out the niche this brand of music is beginning to inhabit. I can't really see this being an Album of the Year contender, but it could easily fall into the middle of my list. And while it is somewhat original, none of the tracks are going to grab you instantly - it might take a few listens to full appreciate this album. This record is one of the few moving people away from the term "Indie" when describing music, an inappropriately coined genre, though it is inching it further into the "Rock" label, a term that feels stale from too much exposure.

Final Grade: B

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