New Music Friday: Parquet Courts made it through mental instability to perfect garage pop

Not a series of margarine tubs.
Not a series of margarine tubs.

Parquet Courts are so cool, they have two names. Or rather, two spellings of the same name, one of which, I realized a few hours after reading it, refers to tubs of margarine. I catch on far more quickly most of the time, I promise.

Anyway. Parquet Courts (or Parkay Quarts, with the margarine reference), have been a Brooklyn staple for years. They’ve been highly acclaimed for the past five years, and their highly anticipated new album, Human Performance, is out today via Rough Trade Records.

Human Performance was recorded more than a year, “against a backdrop of personal and mental instability,” according to Rough Trade. I feel like that’s often when the best art is made: when everything else is going a little crazy. Or a lot crazy. My mom, a musician herself, taught me from a young age that people with easy lives often write boring songs.

And bassist Sean Yeaton says that this album attests to this: “The final product of this album is Exhibit A that we made it through the shit, solved the problem, had the chuckle, took the piss, made up with the other guy, and got home in one piece.”

The album is a more pop-centric follow up to 2015’s Monastic Living, which was mostly instrumentals, and was actually recorded at the same time as Human Performance. The band’s newest record is actually the first one that saw all four members of the band (Andrew Savage, Austin Brown, Sean Yeaton and Max Savage) contributing songs.

The album’s title track is one that tackles themes of losing faith: in humanity, in life, in love, in relationships, and in faith itself. Frontman Andrew Savage told NPR:

“Ultimately, the song is about living in the company of one’s own shame. Perhaps it was the years spent as an altar boy that gave me an inclination toward repentance and atonement. I’ve never been a believer, but I can understand the appeal of faith, especially when it includes the promise of unconditional love and forgiveness. ‘Human Performance’ is about the absence of that faith, and how haunting it is.”

And for easily the poppiest song on Parquet Courts’ poppiest album, check out “Berlin Got Blurry.” The track combines the band’s signature garage sound with a rolling guitar riff that sounds like it belongs in a cowboy movie. And this one comes with a great video: Andrew Savage pounds his guitar between riding foreign (I.E., not New York) train cars as he sings contemplative lines like, “feels so effortless to be a stranger/but feelin’ foreign’s such a lonely habit.” It’s something relatable for anyone in a strange place, physically or emotionally. And it’s catchy as hell.

Parquet Courts’ show at The Bell House tonight is sold out, but check their website for tour dates and more exciting news.

For more news on local music and also margarine, follow Lilly on Twitter. And to pitch her for New Music Friday, email lilly [at] brokelyn [dot] com.

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