Five incredibly underrated albums from the 2010s

Five 2010s albums you should still be listening to.

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HUMAN PERFORMANCE – PARQUET COURTS (2016)

Parquet Courts' steady rise up the tiers of post-punk stardom was temporarily halted by a lukewarm reaction to their hastily delivered 4th album Content Nausea in 2014. They remedied that under-produced record with Human Performance two years later. Reunited with the rhythm section that had been largely absent on the previous recording, Andrew Savage and Austin Brown build on the success of earlier albums Light Up Gold and Sunbathing Animal with their most eclectic and mature series of songs.

There are the inevitable Velvet Underground influences on quietly yearning of “Steady on My Mind” or the furious guitar workout that closes out “One Man No City.” And they can still serve up a grinding punk shrieker like “Paraphrased.” But now they are expanding into Beck-territory on “Captive of the Sun,” and a western-tinged Clash on the lovely “Berlin Got Blurry.”

And they can do driving, angry political rock on “Two Dead Cops” or the big emo pop anthem of the title track. And Savage, all of the thirty years old at the time, even references encroaching gray hairs on “Always.” With or without the bonus track “Already Dead,” which comes closest to recalling the early “Stoned and Starving Days,” this is a wide-ranging collection of first-rate songs effortlessly shifting between punk and emo and pop and plenty of the spaces in between.

Renewed after Human Performance, the Brooklyn quartet released the equally strong Wide Awake!  In 2019, which rocked a little harder. 2021’s Sympathy for Life, influenced by Austin Brown’s involvement with The Loft in NYC, veers a bit dancier with drum machines taking a more prominent spot. It’s still pretty good, but I’ll take the genuine quirky energy of Human Performance.