Wordier & Feelier
Parquet Courts released full-length Monastic Living in November 2015, but are already bringing another disc onto the table. This one is called Human Performance and it dropped less than 5 months from the last release, keeping the media fire burning with so short of a turn around. While Monastic Living was highly experimental, using an array of noises to convey a range of thought-provoking emotions, the new disc keeps a more steady rock underlay, though still allowing some quirks to peek through. The lyrics are at the forefront of this disc, another separating factor from the previous heavily instrumental compilation. However, the instruments aren’t lacking in interesting arrangements this time around, just maybe sitting within more traditional overall rhythms. Another unique aspect to Human Performance is the first track being made available through digital download only.
Entitled “Already Dead,” this particular number has some interesting instrumental nuances, including what sounds like some mandolin strums. There is a relaxing segment in the middle that walks the listener through the sonic experience, encouraging particular thoughts as the soft musical undercurrent continues on. The soothing voice reads, “Instrumental break. With your eyes open or your eyes closed, take a moment to connect with where you are. Feel your feet on the ground without looking at anything at all. Just listen. Rest with a sense of hearing. Experience the show of sound that is happening around you right now. Life in stereo.” This sets the tone.
Things get lively right off the bat with “Dust,” which starts with speedy guitar rhythms that lead into a consistent drone, with lyrics moving over in dark harmonies. “It comes through the window, it comes through the floor, it comes through the roof, it comes through the door. Dust is everywhere. Sweep.” This leads to the sentiment of “Suffocating.” The simplicity in this track leading up to a static-driven panic is a mirror to the monotonous dust particles that are constantly building on top of each other in our daily lives. The ending traffic sounds are a perfect reflection of that monotony. Dust may be a symbol for our cyclical routines that we can’t quite escape. We will suffocate if we can’t get out.
The title track is next with some self-evaluations of existence and life experiences, escaping into a vintage instrumental segment that attests to the never-changing nature of humanity. Though we personally change, the human performance plays on as it always does. “Busy apartment, no room for grieving. Sink full of dishes and no trouble believing that you are leaving.” Sad things happen. We keep busy. Things are left unfinished. People leave. “I Was Just Here” has a cyclical discordant un-melody, with short lyric segments that are laid out in quick blips that still somehow contain full descriptions. “My eyes feel like cigarette burns. I’ll cut my hair but I don’t care.” Those two sentences, though brief, put the listener into a certain feeling and atmosphere: grungy, smoky, dirty.
Things slow down with melodic “Steady on My Mind,” with a tambourine and deep drum kick backdrop. This serves as the love ballad of the disc, with some romantic notions presented in a truly out-of-the-box way. You can’t deny those sweet sentiments, though. “At a loss, I’m overwhelmed, like my memory over time. Just remember that I’ll keep you in the place that I can find.“ “Berlin Got Blurry” is another stand-out track, with rolling guitar, subtle organ hits, and a surfy vocal presentation.
“It’s Gonna Happen” finishes with surprising deep vocals and a slowly building instrumental blend. Separate segments repeat and grow as harmonies enter, and then the vocals fade into an eerie realm of white noise that finishes in a last 10-second stretch of complete silence.