Album Reviews 4.12.16: Parquet Courts, Black Mountain + more
Parquet Courts — Human Performance
Parquet Courts are one of those critical darling bands that make most reviewers use their albums as a springboard to talk record collector and band knowledge lingo, adjectives about things that matter little to the layman. I will not do that, but I will agree and state profusely that this album lives up to and surpasses the hype. This is not because of any other reason than the Parquet Courts fucking murdered this one. Whether one can find a better second song than “Human Performance” on any album is truly doubtful. The album is in fact (well, I can’t say for a fact) about what Erving Goffman referred to as the “The Presentation Of Self In Everyday Life” — the actions of living the life: life from the loves we lost (“Steady On My Mind“) to our observations as we move through it (“Outside, I Was Just Here“) to the politics that shape our existence (“Two Dead Cops“). If one were to wonder how to top the excellence of their previous albums, the answer is clearly just to move on. For all the critical waxing this band has received, if this album was the first you had heard of the band you would still believe this band to be excellent. Like the finest Talking Heads albums, the album uses the city, its inhabitants and annoyances, its mundanities and architectures, the aspects of life from heartbreaks to empty ashtrays and hunger to paint the picture of life and living in and amongst. Musically, it touches on many histories, but shapes a sound all its own, and although parentage is evident, clearly the child is its own person, but he does have his mother’s eyes. “One Man. No City” is biography and rejection, it is what we all hope to be, from there but not of there, over funk and Verlaine. As Goffman states, “In our own Anglo-American culture there seems to be two common sense models according to which we form our behavior: the real, sincere or honest performance…” (Parquet Courts will have an actual human performance at Fitzgerald’s on May 2).
Howard — Please Recycle
Please Recycle EP from Brooklyn-based Howard and the ‘recycle’ angle comes from the fact that these songs were based off of some songs reconfigured from their debut LP, Religion. I, however, have not heard that release, so let’s speak about these songs as an introduction to the band and its sound (all apologies indoctrinated Howard fans). The EP is beat driven, it is of the piece together sort of blip-hop of bands like Autechre, so there were points when I checked the speaker to see if it was connected properly, but this was not a distraction. A somewhat short affair, highlights include “Glass,” a mellow rhythm rich affair, and “Paper” struck a nerve in my in groove bone. As I don’t know much of this band, I would say that I did not leave this affair disappointed, and although I did wish it was longer, maybe its purpose was to direct me back to an earlier album or create anticipation of a future release so, in that sense, mission accomplished.
Moderat — III
Moderat beautifully create music that produces and accentuates mood. Mood is environment, tone and temperament of a moment; tension is the thermometer of life and love keeping it interesting in its ebb and flow. These songs benefit from an openness of applicability, specific enough to evoke human experience, but vague enough to clothe situations of the heart and/or psyche. Throughout the album, it’s the progression and build that creates and maintains the resonance of the occasion. “Finder” is a perfect example: an instrumental piece, but emotional nonetheless and a wonderful precursor to “Ghostmother,” which is as haunting as it is bumping. “The ghosts that haunt, are in there with me / But I walk to the edge and fall if you left me” — a plea to emotion and a call for help, the fear and the security of love. “The Fool” is another ray of light, as is the album opener, “Eating Hooks.” Moderat balance emotion and head nod vibe, something many try to do but few do this well.
Black Mountain — IV
To be a rock band in 2016 is a brave thing, especially a band making an album that encompasses all that is associated with great classic rock in album form. IV is ambitious, huge, earnest and benefits greatly from stereo speakers. While the term “classic” invokes antiquity, I would not associate this album with that idea. However, I’m inclined to think that its conception was of the motivation of timelessness while also definitely reminiscent of a specific time. “Defector” is a great rock song — in all perceptions of that word — and you can see the flashing lights and smell the joint burning in the distance. The organs, the guitars, the vocals, the drums are all big, the gestures are grand in scope and action. “(Over and Over) The Chain” is pscyh rock and metal, monstrous and sweeping. Even calmer moments, such as “Constellations,” are still equally majestic, with the light that shone from the heavens, the paradise in the distance, beautifully luminescent. By the album closer, “Space to Bakersfield,” you’re transported to a place, on the hood of that car staring into the starry distance, questioning life and/or extraterrestrial existence and all the petty worries of the world have been at bay. Go to this world. Swim in this ocean.
Bibio — A Mineral Love
I struggle with the the term “pretty.” Is it derogatory? Is there something wrong with things that are intentionally pleasant? In this context, I would lean towards no, so let’s follow my belief that A Mineral Love, the latest by Bibio, is packed with songs that are intentionally pleasant, just like Christopher Cross’ “Sailing” or Hall and Oates’ “Sara Smile” conjures feelings of warmth and peace. The track “A Mineral Love” is lemonade if your ears had a mouth. “Town & Country” is funky and smooth like Al Jarreau — and I dig Al Jarreau — and it makes me smile when I hear it. It’s the “leave it behind” empowerment kind of jam: instead of making a scene about something, you just walk by, hop on the next bus, go to the park and feed a pigeon. “C’est La Vie” is another banger. It makes me reevaluate yelling at my disobedient child — which I actually disregard and do sometimes — and then for the remainder of the song I question my parenting style eventually forgiving myself since there’s no manual for that kind of thing. Enjoy this album, seek it out and find solace in the moments of reflection. Revel in the affection of a loved one, attempt that culinary dish you’ve been meaning to cook, you deserve it, it’s a beautiful day, open the curtains and let the sun in.
Bombino — Azel
Omara “Bombino” Moctar is a brilliant guitarist from Agadez, Niger. His latest album, Azel — produced by The Dirty Projectors’ frontman Dave Longstreth — is one of the finest guitar albums you will hear this year. The album captures all that is great about guitar music, the layering of the guitars, the rhythm of the strumming, the grooves that carry the guitar lines are all superb. “Iwaranagh (We Must)” is a fine example of the aesthetic that carries the album, a mix of rock and reggae, with a touch of blues, it is all magnificent. While vocals are present, the most vocal element of the music is the guitar, however on the brilliant “Inar (You Know The Degree of My Love For You)” you will find yourself humming the tune regardless of your knowledge of tongue it is sung in. Longstreth does a great job of recording the clean tones of the guitar, while some songs have a bit of distortion, the intricacies of the picking, the interplay between that and the rhythm section all elevate the flow and cadence of the album. “Naqqim Dagh Timshar (We Are Left In This Abandoned Place)” is pure gold. I highly recommend this album because this shit is phenomenal. That’s my endorsement: this shit is phenomenal.