Parquet Courts’ new single “Walking at a Downtown Pace” opens with A Savage deadpanning, “I’m making plans for the day all of this is through.” It’s a familiar pandemic-era sentiment, and a few breaths later Savage is looking forward to the moment he’ll “return the smile on an unmasked friend.” But the Brooklyn band’s upcoming album Sympathy for Life was already basically in the can when COVID-19 hit. The first widely available single from that record (following June’s physical-only “Plant Life”) offers a breathless escape from the lockdowns we lived in before lockdowns were mandated; they may have been self-imposed, but they were no less socially distanced. Sooner or later, you have to break out, and when you do, the trampled tourists will never know what hit them.
Produced alongside the xx mainstay Rodaidh McDonald, “Walking at a Downtown Pace” is the logical next stride from 2018’s Danger Mouse-helmed Wide Awake!: Following the disco polyrhythms of that album’s title track, this song’s instrumentation is similarly dance-influenced. Madchester has been in the air this year, but where Lorde’s “Solar Power” rides the syncopated grooves of Primal Scream’s “Loaded” to a tranquil utopia, Parquet Courts confess to “feeling lousy” and conflicted about crowds. They’re still well within their post-punk stable, and their guitar hooks and gang choruses are paired with propulsive drums and madly stabbing bass. Because they thrive on contradiction, Parquet Courts can add new wrinkles while still sounding characteristic. Smart-ass and open-hearted, uptight New Yorkers and laid-back Texans, poets of the everyday who understand every day is not like Sunday, they can seem like they know the future only because they are so fully alive in the present.