Tally All the Things That You Broke EP
(What's Your Rupture?; 2013)
By Maura McAndrew | 30 October 2013
Parquet Courts’ new five-song effort, Tally All the Things That You Broke, has me considering the question: how much importance to place on an EP? In the halcyon days of the record industry, an EP was usually attached to a single, a type of release tailored for already-solid fans, and featuring leftovers, B-sides, and goof-offs. But in the Internet age of short memories, it seems that every indie band—particularly those prepping a sophomore album—are inclined to release an EP as a reminder that they exist, a statement of where they’ve been and where they’re going. Gone are the days when an EP was expected to be silly and slight; now it’s an opportunity to demonstrate that an impressive debut wasn’t just a one-off and that a band can, and will, do more.
Tally All the Things That You Broke is a perfectly calibrated example of this phenomenon. After releasing their debut Light Up Gold to positive reviews in January, the band has been steadily touring and gathering steam, to the point where Tally seems to be getting more attention, not necessarily on its own merits but on the shoulders of what came before it. It’s a nice little EP, but it’s mainly a token, a placeholder—it’s an attempt to save their seat at the cool table in the ever-fickle cafeteria of indie rock.
The first half of Tally rattles off its strongest material, particularly single “You’ve Got Me Wonderin’ Now” and the frantic “The More it Works,” which starts as a bark and stretches out into more of a yawn. These songs are both rendered undeniably catchy thanks to the sync of Andrew Savage’s vocals and Austin Brown’s lead guitar on its punchy chorus, a strategy quickly becoming the band’s trademark. The lyrics are not as memorable as on the band’s debut—particularly missing is the sense of place that Light Up Gold (2012) captured so nicely on songs like “Stoned and Starving,” “N. Dakota,” and “Donuts Only.” But there are still some off-kilter gems, most memorably the series of questions Savage flings in “The More it Works”: “Could it be your teeth? / Could it be your eyes? / Could it be your mouth / Could it be your spleen?”
Tally, like Light Up Gold before it, starts out tightly wound and then unspools at the end, starting midway through “The More It Works” and especially on closer “He’s Seein’ Paths.” What’s missing here is a consistent groove threading it all together—Tally feels more like a haphazard collection. It’s far from thrown together, however, despite filler like “Fall on Yr Face,” and the band maintains their familiar ’90s indie rock/‘80s post-punk hybrid sound (one so Pavement-y that I keep confusing the titles Light Up Gold and Brighten the Corners  in my head) while branching out slightly into Folk Implosion/early Beck territory on the hip-hop infused “He’s Seein’ Paths.” While Parquet Courts don’t seem to flinch at the ’90s namedropping they seem to inspire, “He’s Seein’ Paths” is a rare example of them perhaps getting lost a bit in their influences. There’s little about this track that will say “Parquet Courts” to fans of Light Up Gold, which would be fine if it was taking a bold new direction. As it stands, it just sounds like a lost cut from the Kids soundtrack (1995).
Basically, Tally All the Things That You Broke is very much an EP. It wavers back and forth between showcasing the band’s strengths and having fun in the moment, more like a live show than a unified statement. So given that, of course it doesn’t nearly match the kind of material they’ve proven capable of (like the near-perfect groove that is “Stoned and Starving”). The best thing about Tally, in this listener’s opinion, is that it reminds me to revisit Light Up Gold, a record that deserves more listens and will hold up nicely months, even years, after its moment.