Headphones: Parquet Courts Find Ways To Flawlessly Combine Rock and Funk Sounds

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New York-based rock group Parquet Courts announced last February the release of their sixth studio album, Wide Awake. The album has been in production since December of 2017, despite not being released until May of this year. Parquet Courts is composed of four members: singer A. Savage, lead guitarist Austin Brown, bass guitarist Sean Yeaton, and drummer Max Savage. The group has steadily been releasing music since they first emerged eight years ago and the collective work of the group shines on their latest project.

The group is primarily labeled under the genre of indie, garage, and post-punk rock. However, they are not your traditional rock group as they continuously experiment with different funky sounds.

A prime example of the album’s diversity in music production is the album’s title track, “Wide Awake”. The sound uses a bumpy and electric guitar progression to coincide with the fast-paced and cymbal-heavy drum beat. The track is also boosted with sounds of chimes and bells that add a funky vibe to the song. With a steady guitar progression, the two Savages take over this track with the percussion extremely prominent and effective for the vocalist to shout the title of the track over and over.

The vocals on the entire album are extremely similar to the past work of the quartet. We commonly hear A. Savage speaking instead of singing in an almost preacher-like manner. His speech throughout each track makes the lyrics clearer and crisp getting the message of the song across to the listener.

The majority of the tracks cover social issues evident in today’s American culture. We hear A. Savage utter lyrics such as “Mind so woke ‘cause my brain never pushed the brakes” on the title track. This essentially captures the whole mindset and message of the album as the four look to push forward a sense of awareness to the problems plaguing the country as has become a norm in today’s music industry.

While Parquet Courts has become known for their work within rock music, Wide Awake shows that the group is capable of much more. Throughout the album we hear funky tones that coincide with the lyrics and make the vibe of the tracks closer to a dance track than a rock song. On “Mardi Gras Beads”, we hear a much more relaxed guitar progression and a simpler percussion beat. While the vocals sound similar to that of other tracks, the tranquil and flowing sound of the guitar are different from what many expect from Parquet Courts. With about 40-45 seconds left in the song, the vocals of Savage cut out and the rest of the track is left to the instrumental talents of the rest of the group.

“Tenderness” is another track in which we hear how Parquet Courts transcends their categorized genres and focus on producing funky and upbeat tunes. The track is carried by a simple yet prominent piano progression, adding a groovier vibe much needed on the album.

Each track seems to flow flawlessly into the next, whether it be by an introduction from A. Savage or just through the transitions creating by the melodies. At the end of “Almost Had to Start a Fight/In and Out of Patience”, the lead vocalist even says, “This next one’s called Freebird II”. Aside from this literal introduction to the next track, each song finds a way to lead into the next with the fading sounds of guitars and drums that are then picked up right away at the beginning of the following song.

“Normalization” is one of the fastest and exciting tracks on the album. It is built around the foundation of quick drum lines and simple bass lines and finally introduces the dance vibe of their sound. The bouncy yet subtle sounds of the instruments allow Savage’s voice to shine as it even sounds as if his voice is dialed to a higher volume than the instruments.

As the main themes surrounding this album involve socio-political issues, it is important to notice the tile of the tracks as they all pertain to the overall message. Looking at tracks such as “Violence”, “Normalization”, “Tenderness”, “Extinction”, and most importantly the album’s title and title track it becomes evident that the group looks to take aim at the socio-political concerns surrounding the United States in 2018. This trend is not a new element to music as rappers have been calling out social issues in the country for the past decade, but it is less common in genres that Parquet Courts and many other artists categorize themselves in.

As we saw on Lord Huron’s Vide Noir, many indie and rock groups have begun experimenting with groovy and funky sounds that stray from the sounds of their normal music. While many groups fail to find and succeed with that new sound, Parquet Courts has been able to do so flawlessly especially on Wide Awake.

Another impressive element to this album is that the group has been able to find and experiment with new sounds while still keeping their lyrics focused on socially and politically important issues not usually seen or heard in their genre of music.

Wide Awake is a fun and eccentric album that highlights American issues through tracks elevated with their expert production and fast-paced drum lines. It is both thought-provoking and groovy, leading to listeners evaluating the socio-political landscape of our country while also weirdly and simultaneously dancing. The group’s consistency in releasing new and exciting music is what has made them one of the most popular indie rock groups in the industry. While they continue to play with new tunes and synths, they still stay true to their traditional indie rock sound. With the group constantly dropping new albums, EPs, and singles their future in the industry is extremely bright and may even change the way other artists of the same genres go about producing their music and focusing their lyrics on issues relevant and controversial in today’s society.