2012’s Light Up Gold wasn’t Parquet Courts’ first album, but it may as well have been. American Specialties—the Brooklyn band’s debut cassette release—didn’t exactly put its best foot forward. With Andrew Savage simultaneously putting Teenage Cool Kids to rest and relocating to New York, American Specialties couldn’t help but come off as half-cooked. With Light Up Gold, the band buttoned itself up, offering staccato, post-punk machinations that never betrayed Savage’s Texas roots—ones that allowed garage-punk and country influences to seep into Parquet Courts. The 2013 EP Tally All The Things That You Broke saw the four-piece expand, closing with a suitable approximation of the Beastie Boys at their rocking best. That experimentation sets the stage for Sunbathing Animal, the most nuanced and ambitious work the quartet has yet released.
Though it doesn’t completely eschew the nervous jitters found on Light Up Gold, Sunbathing Animal takes strides toward something grander. Pushing two songs past the six-minute mark (“She’s Rolling” and “Instant Disassembly”), Parquet Courts is a band spreading its wings and enjoying the breeze. The former track is a slow-building psych freakout that showcases Max Savage’s drumming at its most varied and patient. While he still specializes in tight 16ths for most of the album, on “She’s Rolling” he loosens his grip, offering room for the band to make the most of this space as harmonica skronks and wandering guitars propel it toward its end. It’s a quiet moment that gives way to the album’s title track, a rambunctious hardcore song that never relents, becoming a suffocating cacophony by the end.
As the album moves toward its close, “Instant Disassembly” and dusty, Southwestern closer “Into The Garden” show Parquet Courts embracing influences previously buried. There are plenty of tracks that pick up where Light Up Gold left off, but Sunbathing Animals’ strengths are found in the balance between post-punk propulsions and slower, moodier experiments. These detours offer a reprieve from the locked-in nature that has become Parquet Courts’ calling card, even if it’s still hitting those marks in new and inventive ways. Sunbathing Animal doesn’t see the band fully give itself to a new identity, but it proves Parquet Courts will avoid being typecast by never attempting to follow any course other than its own.