Parquet Courts – ‘Sympathy for Life’ Album Review

Photo Credit: Ebru Yildiz

On previous albums Parquet Courts have turned out since their inception in New York, they have put out a kind of garage punky jangle-dance that a lot of bands started doing around the same time. They have some bangers for sure, but nothing too memorable. However, Sympathy For Life, the Courts’ seventh album, is most definitely a memorable one. It serves as a soundtrack to a year we’d collectively like to forget. Sometimes you make exactly the right noise for exactly the wrong times.

Sympathy For Life sounds like a 16-year-old you sneaking out of the house to go to a party they weren’t invited to – feeling joyous, hopeful, nervous, and always paranoid. The album serves as a soundtrack to the summer we thought we had better get down while the sun shone before the other shoe was inevitably dropped upon us.

The opener “Walkin At A Downtown Pace”, sounds like the beginning of any fretful big night. In the song’s nearly 5 minutes, you can see the streets of lower Manhattan crowded with outdoor dining structures and milling half-masked people under the influence of everything. “Black Widow Spider” is carried by a dark guitar growl and the lyrics “I’m trying not to think about someone dear, but trying don’t work sometimes” speaks to frustration that we can all, sadly, identify with.

Sometimes art can predict the future. Though the vast majority of Sympathy For Life was written and recorded by March of 2020, the listener engages with it through the lens of riot, attempted coups, and pestilence. The track Just Shadows is a Grateful Dead-y meditation on loneliness, watching the world rise and fall through the bulletproof glass as we isolate and social distance ourselves further into our own minds. “Plant Life” sounds like Television and the Soup Dragons took ecstasy together in a locked and unfinished basement. A reminder of how many of those were self-medicating this past year in an attempt to feel something like joy, or anything at all. “Marathon of Anger”, the only track that was written during the pandemic, is an electro church organ hymn to fear and discontent, the chorus of “Now it’s time everyone’s gone to work’‘ reminds us we all have a responsibility to each other and to making a better future.

This is the end of 2021, a truly heartbreaking and troublesome year for most (for a million reasons). For those of us who need or want a memento of the past twelve months, we have a remedy. At least for that, pick up Sympathy For Life (or stream it or download it or whatever it is you do). And listen to an album that documented a difficult year and the fun we tried to have in between travesties.

Written by: Padraig Mara

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